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I’ve always loved the noise of a football crowd when a goal goes in. There’s something visceral and emotional about that roar, it’s a release like none other.

That’s one of the reasons I absolutely love this video about Sport’s campaign to boost the number of organ donors in Pernambuco, where the club plays its home games. The emotion of the crowd at the start of the clip is a thing to behold.

That emotion is nothing when compared to what comes next. Sport fans awaiting transplants guarantee their future donors that their passion for the club will live on after they die.

“I promise your eyes will keep on watching Sport,” says Adriano dos Santos, a fan awaiting new corneas.

“Your lungs will keep on breathing for Sport,” says Luiz Antonio, a fan awaiting a lung transplant.

And “I promise your heart will keep on beating for Sport,” says Marleide dos Santos, who is awaiting a new heart.

It’s such a simple and yet brilliant idea and it has led 57,000 Sport fans to register as organ donors. Enough of them, in fact, that the waiting list for heart and cornea transplants in Pernambuco state has been cut to precisely zero.

More clubs should join up.

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.”

Football has become way too commercial.

From the shirts covered with sponsors, to the salaries surpassing 200,000 pounds a week, to the ordinary fans now priced out of games, I didn’t think it could get much worse.

That is until I heard the countdown to kick off over the tannoys at the European Championship. It’s hard to see how the game can sink to a more crass level.

And then there’s a day like today when something happens out of the blue to restore a little bit of my faith in football.

Thanks to @Pernambucogypsy I heard about Vitoria, a second division team from Bahia state who came up with the most novel campaign to encourage fans to give blood.

As I say in my Reuters piece (which you can read here)

Vitoria has removed the traditional red hoops from its shirt and told supporters it will add the colour back gradually as fans donate blood.

The club normally plays in a red-and-black hooped shirt, with white shorts and red and black socks.  Before Saturday’s game against Avai, players wearing black-and-white hooped shirts carried a banner onto the field reading: “Vitoria has always given its blood for you. It’s time for you to give yours.”

Vitoria president Alexi Portela Junior said the club plans to add a red hoop back after each game, starting with next  weekend’s match against Parana. The club has four red and four black hoops on its jersey.

“In this novel way we are making our fans aware of the importance of giving blood,” Portela Junior said.

The campaign comes just a few weeks after Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s biggest clubs put the slogan “Give Blood” on their shirts for a game.

Vitoria, which based in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, was founded in 1899 and is one of Brazil’s oldest clubs. It is famous for having launched players such as World Cup winners Bebeto and Vampeta, and current Chelsea defender David Luiz.

It currently sits in fourth place in the Serie B after eight games and is one of the favourites to gain promotion.

The give blood campaign already seems to have brought them luck on the pitch. In their first red-less shirt, they beat Avai 2-0.

Here’s the club video promoting the campaign. The web site has all the details of where and how to give blood.

It may be a smart marketing ploy. But that’s fine by me. It’s for a good cause. Everybody wins.

As I said last week in this Lula blog, many of my colleagues in both the Brazilian and international press are writing summaries of the departing president’s eight eventful years in power.

Paulo Cabral did this very detailed radio special on the BBC.

AP’s bureau chief in Brazil Bradley Brooks has this.

My first retrospective was a broad piece on the economy that came out in October in the KPMG’s magazine High Growth Markets.

Read it here. My article is on page 12.




Following on from last month’s blog about Brazilians getting fatter, the country’s statistics institute has just released a report that contains some of the reasons why.

I outline some of those reasons in my Financial Times blog today. (I’m not responsible for the rather cheeky picture of Ronaldo accompanying it.)

There’s no major surprises in the IBGE study (which can be found here in Portuguese).

Simply put, Brazilians are eating less fresh fruit and vegetables and replacing their staples of rice and beans with beer, soft drinks and ready made meals. It’s a trend seen all over the world.

Of course, much of this is thanks to the country’s economic boom. More people have more money. That’s obviously a welcome development for people who struggled to get by.

However, the down side is that it has fostered a growing obesity problem. Today, almost half of Brazilian men are overweight and more than half of women are.

My friend and colleague Larry Rohter was vilified in Brazil a few years back for writing two stories that offended Brazilians.

One suggested that Lula was drinking too much and that it was affecting his ability to govern. The second suggested that Brazilians were getting fatter – and featured photos of overweight women on Ipanema beach. (The women in the pictures turned out to be Czechs.)

I remember going to a carnival parade in Ipanema shortly after and getting a kick out of seeing one wag with a sign saying, “The New York Times Got It Wrong! – Lula is fat and the Girls from Ipanema drink too much.”

But Rohter was right on the second issue, as a new OECD study to be released on Thursday shows.

Figures show that 51 percent of adult Brazilians are overweight, above the OECD average.

“Unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are pushing obesity rates rapidly toward those seen in OECD countries, where half of the population is already overweight and one in six people is considered obese,” the report states.

“Seven in 10 Mexican adults are overweight or obese, while nearly half of all Brazilians, Russians and South Africans are also in this category. China and India report lower levels of obesity, but are also rapidly moving in the wrong direction,” the report adds.

These results are not new. I wrote about this here for the Daily Telegraph back in 2008, as well as here for Time magazine in 2009.

Back then, a leading doctor told me that a quarter of hospital beds in Brazil are taken up by people suffering from weight-related ailments such as heart attacks, back surgeries and hip and joint replacements.

Although the numbers I quoted in these previous stories differ slightly from the OECD numbers the trend is clear. Brazilians, famous for the body beautiful, tiny bikinis, and lovers of plastic surgery, are getting fatter and thus falling into line with the rest of the world.

When Lula took power in 2003 he said his priority was making sure that every Brazilian would have the means to eat three square meals a day. He has to be admired for doing everything possible to keep that promise.

But today, the biggest issue is not making sure that Brazilians have enough to eat. It is making sure that Brazilians don’t eat too much.

One of the tragic consequences of Dilma Rousseff’s failure to win a first round victory is that the Workers’ Party is discussing caving in to the right-wing fanatics and coming out more strongly against abortion. (See the front page story in today’s Folha de S. Paulo.)

Abortion is already illegal in Brazil in all but the most extreme circumstances (when the foetus is already brain dead or in cases of rape).

But up to 1 million illegal abortions are still performed each year, according to reproductive health organisations. For upper class women, they pose no danger; they are carried out in modern and well-equipped clinics in the best neighbourhoods and police look the other way.

But for the poor, these back-street operations are exactly that. They are fraught with danger. Brazil’s own Health Ministry says 200,000 women are hospitalised each year because their back street operations have gone wrong.

That’s hospitalised. Not taken to hospital, or looked over by a doctor, but actually have to spend the night in a ward because their injuries are so severe.

(I wrote this Time magazine piece back in June after reading a study that showed one-in-five Brazilian women of child-bearing age have had an abortion.)

Dilma, Marina and Serra are all content to let that  tragedy continue.

Serra is a former doctor and Health Minister and should know better. The PT, as the party that claims to have the best interest of the poor at heart, should be protecting them and offering abortions to those who most need it.

But Marina, a hard core Evangelical, is even more guilty. Evangelicals launched an internet campaign claiming Dilma would decriminalise abortion and that is what caused Dilma to lose votes, according to news reports.

Because of that the PT are cravenly pampering to those fanatics ahead of the second round vote.

Brazil wants to be taken seriously as modern and developed nation. That’s a tough sell while it continues with an absurd and antiquated abortion policy.

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