Brazilian footballing legend Pele, always an outspoken man in his post-playing career, has recently made claims that his homeland is not yet ready to host the 2014 World Cup.
If ever there was an unwelcome indictment of a nation's preparedness in regards to a high-profile event such as the World Cup, this critique from Brazil's most famous citizen and the world's most-cherished footballer has to rank high among them.
Speaking with ESPN Soccernet, Pele voiced his worry over the current state of affairs concerning Brazil's readiness for the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil is not ready. Not yet, it is not ready. With the team we have no problem, it is easy.
The biggest problem, I think, is the organisation, that is a big problem, so too is the communications. I am now working directly with the President of Brazil to get it working and she is doing her best to help out with the organisation.
Not only will Brazil host the next edition of the FIFA World Cup, but will also serve as host nation for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The two major events have both run into issues regarding corruption and turbulence within the Brazilian government. These events have taken the focus away from the high-profile competitions themselves. Instead they have spotlighted the perceived underhanded dealings that may have taken place in the preparations for them.
There had been apprehension over the progress of the preparation for the World Cup already, but the inclusion of Pele's voice adds further credibility to the concerns. As a prominent face of the sport's glorious past, a member of FIFA Task Force Football 2014, and an honorary ambassador for the '14 World Cup, Pele's opinion carries special significance within the footballing community.
His opinion, however, is not the sole reason for growing concern over Brazil's readiness for the massive tournament.
On the same day that Pele spoke out on the issues facing the World Cup preparations, Orlando Silva, Brazil's governmental sports minister, resigned after being accused of corrupt practices involved in the buildup of the events.
Silva's resignation follows those of fellow Brazilian government officials who, amid allegations of widespread corruption, have presided over their respective ministries in tourism, transport, defense and agriculture.
Concern has even been voiced from FIFA itself. FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke is not convinced that Brazil is yet prepared for an event of this magnitude.
When speaking at the Inside World Football Forum in Moscow in June, Valcke said:
There is a lot of work to deliver. We don't have stadiums, we don't have airports, we don't have a national transportation system in place and we are one month away from the preliminary draw.
The Maracana is definitely not currently a World Cup stadium and that's why it's closed. It will be ready at the last minute, a few months maybe, even a few weeks before the tournament if they don't speed up the process.
In Sao Paulo, the main city in Brazil, they will not even be able to play the Confederations Cup in 2013 because the stadium will not be ready.
In South Africa the main goal was to show the world that Africa could organise a World Cup. In Brazil, in a way the main issue is to win it. Otherwise they will talk about failure.
With such influential personalities voicing their concern over the preparations leading up to football's flagship event, perhaps the need for greater attention to these issues is required. If the situation is as dire as Valcke suggests, Brazil must hasten its efforts to ready the various aspects of concern.
Another football legend, Romario, 1994 World Cup winner and current Brazilian congressman, voiced his criticism as well, citing political wrangling as a major impediment to the progress. Speaking with the governmental news agency, Agencia Brasil, Romario said,
Maybe because of politics, work which was supposed to be halfway done hasn't even started.
Pele for his part, though he voiced worry at this stage, does not feel that the slow pace will prevent Brazil from putting on a splendid World Cup. In the same interview, he was quoted as saying that "things will run smoothly" when the time for the tournament arrives.
Though it may seem like October 2011 is a long way from June 2014, the type of issues we are discussing are not simply remedied overnight. If it is true that the cities expected to host matches for the World Cup lack proper stadiums, airports and transportation systems, as Valcke suggested in his address in Moscow, then there is justifiable concern over Brazil's readiness at this stage.
While there is still time to address the issues and fix them ahead of the world's largest sporting event, the time is now to wade through the political turmoil and show the world that Brazil, five-time world champions, is indeed ready to host the illustrious tournament for the first time since 1950.