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The legendary Maracana stadium was modernised at a cost of more than 1 billion reais and now boasts room for 78,838 fans.
A massive press area was set up for the Confederations Cup and thousands of journalists covered the FIFA-organised final between Spain and Brazil in June
But now that the running of the stadium has been turned over to Rio authorities they are unable to find room to house the few hundred local and international reporters who want to cover the Brazilian Cup Final.
Several foreign correspondents have been refused permission to cover the game. The new Maracana’s press box “isn’t big enough for big matches,” admitted Eraldo Leite, Acerj’s president.
So, the biggest stadium in Rio and the most emblematic of all Brazilian grounds hasn’t built a press box big enough to handle press for big games. That forethought. That’s planning.
I came to Recife last year and took a public bus to the Ilha do Retiro to see the Sport-Ponte Preta game.
The ride was more memorable than the game. Passengers were thrown to one side and another as the driver careened round corners. People were quite literally shrieking with fear and begging him to slow down.
I took a taxi home as there was little public transport still running at midnight when the game ended.
On Sunday, I came to Recife’s sparkling new Arena Pernambuco to see Spain play Uruguay in the Confederations Cup. I was taken here and dropped off by an air-conditioned FIFA shuttle bus and got a nice seat in a beautiful stadium.
The two trips were both to see football matches in Recife but the only thing they had in common is 22 players, a ball and the trip along appalling roads filled with pot holes the size of televisions.
Much of the protests that erupted across Brazil last night are not against the World Cup per se. They are directed at the double standard of beautiful new stadiums being built for FIFA at a rush (and huge cost) while the government neglects much more necessary investment in hospitals, schools and sanitation.
This video was made by a friend and that sentiment is summed up by one girl around the 2:40 mark.
“We don’t have health, we don’t have education, we don’t have anything dignified,” she said. “The only thing that they gave us was a stadium. If our child is sick we don’t want to take him to a stadium. We want education for our children and decent health. We don’t have this in Brazil.”
Two of the worlds most powerful teams are warming up for the Confederations Cup with games against Haiti.
Spain beat them 2-1 on Sunday in Miami and the Haitians acquitted themselves well. Tonight they play Italy in Rio de Janeiro in a rematch of what was one of the most memorable World Cup games ever.
In 1974, Italy were among the favourites to win the World Cup and Haiti were playing in the tournament for the first and only time. Italy had gone two years without losing and famed goalkeeper Dino Zoff had not conceded a goal in 1142 minutes, then a world record.
Then Emmanuel Sanon came along and scored one of the greatest goals in the tournament’s history:
Twenty years later I lived in Haiti in 1994 and one of the highlights of the year was the World Cup.
When I arrived in Port-au-Prince in 1993 we got around six to eight hours of electricity a day, usually from around midnight to sunrise.
Then, at the start of 1994 the supply dried up. In some weeks we got just three hours, just enough to charge a car battery we used to power our laptops.
When the World Cup started we realised why. The military dictators had been rationing electricity in order to ensure there was enough during the World Cup. For a whole month we got 24 hours of electricity a day.
The reasoning was this: Haitians will put up with a coup and indescribable hardships. But they won’t put up with missing the World Cup.
Things have changed in Haiti and not always for the better. But one thing that hasn’t altered is reverence for the late Emannuel Sanon. Or memories of that amazing day in Germany.
The Confederations Cup is less than a week away and preparations have been fraught, to say the least.
Only two of the stadiums were delivered on time and some of the others are still less than finished. The delivery of tickets has been chaotic. And huge question marks remain over airports and public transport.
“I’d give us a nine (out of 10),” Rebelo said on a conference call with foreign media yesterday. “We’ve been able to deliver all the stadiums but we could have delivered them sooner to allow for the realisation of more test events.
“Apart from that, all the requirements were executed in accordance with expectations.”
Lord knows what mark he’d give himself for World Cup planning. Time will tell….
Both Ronaldinho and Kaka have been left out, with the former omission particularly surprising given that he has been in sparkling form with his club Atletico Mineiro.
I think he’s right to leave him out because Ronaldinho has failed to show not just his club form in a yellow jersey, but also failed to show the same appetite for the game. However, if Brazil don’t do well, the screams for his return will become deafening.
The big surprise is the inclusion of Bernard, another Atletico Mineiro player. The tiny attacking midfielder has been one of the stars of Atletico’s Libertadores campaign.
I think his inclusion is as much about preparing him for the World Cup than it is about the Confederations competition. Felipao pointedly stated that he wants to give Bernard the experience of a big tournament before next year.
Lucas, now of Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea’s Oscar, are two other youngsters called up.
Among the other brave decisions are the exclusion of Ramires, which I think is a mistake, and the inclusion of Leandro Damiao. The internacional striker has lost some of his gloss recently but Felipao likes an old style No. 9 and Leandro Damiao fits that bill.
Brazil still look weak at the full back positions, especially if Marcelo and Daniel Alves get injured. I don’t rate either of them too highly and Marcelo is always liable to lose the rag.
Brazil play England in a friendly at the Maracana on June 2 and then face France in Porto Alegre a week later. The Confederations Cup kicks off on June 15.
The full squad, from the CBF home page:
Julio Cesar – Queens P. Rangers
Diego Cavlaieri – Fluminense
Jefferson – Botafogo
Thiago Silva – Paris Saint Germain
Rever – Atlético Mineiro
David Luiz – Chelsea
Dante – Bayern de Munique
Daniel Alves – Barcelona
Jean – Fluminense
Marcelo – Real Madrid
Filipe Luís – Atlético de Madrid
Fernando – Grêmio
Hernanes – Lazio
Luiz Gustavo – Bayern de Munique
Paulinho – Corinthians
Jadson – São Paulo
Oscar – Chelsea
Lucas – Paris Saint Germain
Hulk – Zenit
Bernard – Atlético Mineiro
Leandro Damião – Internacional
Fred – Fluminense
Neymar – Santos
One of three men organizing the 2014 World Cup and June’s Confederations Cup warm up competition, he leaves at an inopportune time.
Stadiums are late, infrastructure isn’t being built fast enough and the budget is rising.
“Our problem is cultural. We leave everything to the last minute,” the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan striker told O Globo last week. “We’ve had since 2007 to get organized.”
And yet they haven’t. Why Ronaldo, who is one of those charged with making sure the tournament runs smoothly, is taking leave of his position right now makes no sense to me.
FIFA says he is an unpaid volunteer and that he will be returning to Brazil whenever his presence is needed at events.
The fact is, however, it is one more sign of Brazil’s lack of seriousness.
If you assume a position organising a major tournament like the World Cup, you should devote yourself to the task, not do it when it suits you.
Ronaldo’s departure on the eve of the Confederations Cup, with stadiums still not ready four months past the initial deadline, and public transportation projects so far behind schedule they probably won’t happen before June 2014, sends a clear signal to the world.
The signal is that Brazil isn’t taking this seriously.
As Brazil prepare to play Italy in Felipao’s second friendly match on Thursday night, here’s a reminder of why such games are taking place in Geneva, a home stadium for neither country.
Among the reasons: Time, money, and globalisation, as I say in my Reuters story from last year.
“It’s a trend,” says the headline and it’s not wrong.
It’s increasingly common for two international teams to face off in a third country.
The matchups and venues often sound completely random. Ireland have played Italy in Belgium and Oman in England. England have faced Brazil in Qatar and Italy in Switzerland. Argentina have taken on Nigeria in Bangladesh and Venezuela in India.
At least Brazil vs. Italy is more attractive than Brazil against Iraq in Sweden or Brazil against Japan in Poland.
Here’s the most iconic image of Pele, taken from the mural that surrounds Santos’s training ground. For no other reason than it’s cool.
I am often asked, What do think the World Cup will be like in Brazil in 2014?
My stock answer goes something like this:
“Visitors will have a great time. It is a dream come true for any real football fan to see the World Cup in Brazil and they will be made very welcome by Brazilians. In addition to the games themselves, they can enjoy beaches, music, nightlife, the lot. But when they all go home, the average Brazilian won’t have a lot to show for it. Authorities are not adding the public transportation links they promised, airports will still be a mess and communications will still be deficient. And we’ll still be paying way over the odds for everything.”
I wrote a long piece for Reuters that came out today about public transportation and how cities and states all over Brazil are breaking their initial promises to provide trams, express bus lanes, highways and metro lines in time for the World Cup.
The story says that,
Although exact numbers are still changing, at least a dozen of the 49 original projects have changed completely and won’t be ready by the time the tournament kicks off off on June 12, 2014.
Five cities – Brasilia, Fortaleza, Manaus, Salvador and Sao Paulo – won’t have the promised tram lines, express lanes for buses or metro links ready, according to Brazil’s Federal Audits Court.
“The much discussed social legacy looks like it won’t get off the drawing board,” Romario, a former World Cup winner who is now a lawmaker in Brazil’s Congress, wrote last month in a newspaper column. “Almost all the transport projects are behind schedule, some have been put back and will be opened only after the World Cup and others have been cancelled altogether.”
This is one of the big tragedies of the 2014 World Cup.
The second is that more people aren’t demanding that those responsible for the broken promises be held accountable.
England take on Brazil this evening in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s return to both London and the Brazil manager’s position. (See my Reuters piece on what to expect from Felipao’s reign.)
The former Chelsea coach has just one task. Win the World Cup at home in July 2014.
What happens until then is largely irrelevant. Only an unthinkable turn of events would lead to his firing before the tournament begins and poor form up to that point will be ignored. Felipao took over in 2001 when his team were considered outsiders and barely a year later he’d led them to a record fifth World Cup title. The dinosaurs at the CBF trust him and so do Brazilians.
Ronaldinho Gaucho is being given another chance to prove he can cut it at the highest level. Dunga gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. Mano Menezes gave him a chance and decided he couldn’t. I can’t fathom why Felipao reckons the Atletico Mineiro player is worthy of yet another chance.
He may have played well last year but the World Cup at home is a serious business and that requires concentration, consistency and serious dedication, qualities that Ronaldinho doesn’t seem to have. He may shine on occasion but Felipao needs more than that at this stage.
Luis Fabiano, meanwhile, has a goals per game record at international level that is up there with the best of them (if this site it to be believed). His problem, however, is his temperament. He was sent off several times last year and got Lord knows how many yellow cards.
The pressure on Brazil at home will be immense and the one thing that Felipao needs more than anything are players who can handle that pressure. I doubt Luis Fabiano can.
The Brazil team:
Júlio César; Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Dante and Adriano; Ramires, Paulinho, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and Oscar; Neymar and Luis Fabiano.
Kick off 7:30pm UK time, 5:30 pm Brazil time.
Worrying news from Brazil, where the first matches to be played in a renovated World Cup stadium were a failure with the paying public.
Only 33,000 fans turned out to see the double header that opened the Castelão stadium in Fortaleza. The city’s two biggest teams, Fortaleza and Ceara, played games one after another on Sunday but still only half the capacity of 64,000 people turned up.
Why were fans reluctant to see such a big event live? Could be high prices. Could be that the games are on TV. Could be that they are treated like cattle by police and security. Could be that public transport to the game is atrocious and parking is absurdly expensive.
I wrote about those issues in this Reuters piece last week and the broader fear that real fans will be priced out of the new grounds.
The story started:
(Reuters) – Upgrades to Brazil’s crumbling football stadiums ahead of the 2014 World Cup promise a safer, cleaner and altogether more pleasant environment for fans but the luxurious new grounds come at a price – quite literally.
Brazilian fans are already complaining about high ticket costs and a debate has begun over whether some supporters will be priced out of venues that boast cinemas, shops, restaurants, and even automatically flushing toilets.
“I fear that the new stadiums being built for the World Cup will make football more elite,” Tostão, a former World Cup winner with Brazil in 1970, said in a recent newspaper column.
“Different priced tickets need to be sold in order to avoid that. Those who want to be waited on can pay for it. More humble fans have a right to pay reasonable prices and get safety and comfort.”
Tostão, once again, got it right.
Brazil has to be very careful here. It doesn’t want to go the way of England, where working class fans have been priced out and football lost it soul.