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SAO PAULO: FIFA is under pressure to allow sales of a native Brazilian sandwich in stadiums at the 2014 World Cup amid allegations that the governing body is bowing to corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s.
The row centers on acaraje, an iconic black-eyed pea fritter from the northeastern state of Bahia, and a FIFA regulation that bars street vendors within a two-kilometer (1.2 mile) radius of World Cup venues.
A petition circulated by the Association of Bahian female acaraje vendors (ABAM) is demanding that FIFA guarantees space inside stadiums for its members.
Acaraje, a fritter which is split and stuffed with caramelized onions and shrimp, was declared a cultural heritage of Brazil in 2005.
ABAM and its supporters say the restrictions were imposed to protect the interests and hamburger sales of McDonald’s, one of the World Cup’s main sponsors, and argue that it would be outrageous to bar acaraje, particularly in the Fonte Nova stadium of the Bahian state capital Salvador.
ABAM president Rita Santos sent the petition to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Brazilian Sport Minister Aldo Rebelo, and national team hero Ronaldo, a member of the World Cup’s Local Organizing Committee (LOC).
“Clearly security, hygiene and healthy food must be of concern to organizers of such a major event, but this must not be influenced by the interests of sponsors such as McDonald’s,” it said.
“We want Bahian women vendors and acarajes at the 2014 World Cup.”
FIFA, however, insisted the restrictions were put in place for security and safety reasons and have nothing to do with McDonald’s.
The petition specifically urges Ronaldo, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, to intervene on the issue and secure a conciliatory pledge from FIFA.
In a statement sent to AFP on Saturday, FIFA said it was important “the food and beverage offerings in the stadia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup incorporate a local Brazilian flavor,” noting that it was in the process of appointing a food and beverage concessionaire to implement the event’s menu.
“Once appointed we will together assess the possibilities of including local food choices for each host city, taking into account the requirements of the local people and the international audience,” the statement said.
“The sale of acaraje in Salvador will be part of these discussions.”
FIFA said it was in talks with Salvador and the other 11 Brazilian host cities to ensure the interests of these informal sellers are taken into account and that “regulated opportunities to benefit from the World Cup are offered to this group to the greatest extent possible.” -- AFP