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FIFA defends kickoff times at 2014 World Cup

Associated Press Modified: September 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm •  Published: September 28, 2012

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 — 6 p.m. in prime family viewing time in central Europe.

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.

Kickoff slots in the early stages of the month-long tournament are 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., meaning the latest matches start at midnight in central Europe. Starting the first match later would have pushed the third match further into the night in Europe, which has 13 of the 32 teams taking part.

Valcke said broadcasters would only be happy with good football. FIFA's financial report last year showed that European networks paid a combined $1.29 billion for rights to the 2010 World Cup — around 30 percent of FIFA's total income for the four-year financial cycle.

FIFA had also consulted its medical committee before agreeing the match schedule, Valcke said.

Natal, Recife and Salvador, on the northeast coast, can expect temperatures around 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) in June.

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