ZURICH (AP) — Players' health in Brazil has not been jeopardized to please European broadcasters, FIFA's top 2014 World Cup official said Friday after some matches were scheduled in early afternoon heat.
"The health of the player and the quality of the game is on the top of the list before any other consideration — and definitely no commercial consideration," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.
FIFA detailed group-stage kickoff times Thursday with tropical cities Natal, Recife and Salvador each hosting two matches at 1 p.m. local time — noon EDT and 6 p.m. in prime family viewing time in central Europe. Those cities on the northeast coast can expect temperatures around 90 degrees in June.
Pressed by Brazilian reporters at a news conference, Valcke made a passionate defense of the FIFA-approved schedule.
"I can't even imagine why and how you could think that we are making decisions thinking about the television," he said.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter recalled that the World Cups of 1970 and 1986 in Mexico scheduled matches at "high noon" in hotter temperatures than Brazil and at altitude.
Most kickoff slots in the early stages of the month-long tournament are at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. (noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. EDT), meaning the latest matches start at midnight in central Europe — other than a June 14 game in Manaus that begins at 3 a.m. in Europe (9 p.m. EDT). Starting the first match later would have pushed the third match of each day into late-night air times in Europe, which has 13 of the 32 teams taking part.
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