by Pedro Tolentino
It has arrived, there are only 14 days left before the start of the twentieth Football World Cup (Soccer World Cup for the North American readers). It is the most important event of the most popular sport in the world. The numbers speak for themselves, while the U.N. has 193 member states, FIFA (Football International Federation), has 209.
In its twentieth version, the World Cup is going to feel at home being played in Brazil. The Country is the most successful one in the tournament’s History. Sometimes referred to as “The Country of Football”, even though the British actually created the sport.
Brazil in the only country to have won five editions of the tournament, more than anyone else. It played the world cup final seven times (tied for first in this one with Germany). Also, the greatest footballer of all time (Pelé) is Brazilian. He has played in four World Cups, between those four Brazil won three, and in the two of them (when Pelé was able to play in the final match), he managed to score.
With such tradition in the sport, Brazil is a natural choice to host such an event, but World Cups have changed a lot since we hosted it for the last time (in 1950). In those 64 years WCs became huge events that involve a lot of money, demand heavy investments in world-class stadiums and other pieces of infrastructure, and attract tourists and media from around the world. The cost of sponsorships and TV rights to the games have skyrocketed, there are simply no more place for amateurs.
Will such an event succeed in a country like Brazil?
What is "succeeding" for you? If it means having 200 new pieces of infrastructure already commissioned within 200 days before the Cup starts; including new roads, stadiums, airports and some 3,000 kilometers in high speed railroads; If s"succeeding" means that the tourists will not see a beggar on the street; If it means providing hotel rooms to everybody so no one has to stay in family homes or participate in “home switching” schemes; If it means to bombard the clouds some time before the games to guarantee they take place without rain; then it wont.
If we look at it that way, to maximize the success chance we should opt to host the World Cup in China, the Chinese would do all of the above faster, cheaper, and better than us. Clearly infrastructure is important, but it is not the only aspect analyzed by FIFA when they pick the WC host country.
Nothing makes me more annoyed than hearing a fellow Brazilian, suffering from the traditional Brazilian Mutt Complex (BMC), and feeling premature shame whenever confronted with a long line at the airport, starts mumbling to whoever happens to be close to them: "If It’s this bad now, imagine how it will be like during the World Cup... ". I don’t have the numbers, but quite a lot of Brazilians are almost certain that we will screw up big time and show how incompetent we really are, for the whole World to see.
I believe, however, that over 95% of Brazilians suffering from BMC never had the experience of traveling abroad to watch a World Cup game, from inside the stadium. I had.
I was in South Africa in 2010, the first World Cup held in a developing country since the one held in Mexico in 1986 (in the 1980’s FIFA did not oblige the host country to build or rebuild 12 brand-new “FIFA-Standard” stadiums. Back then the games were played in whatever stadiums the host country had).
Guess what happened four years ago in South Africa? A truckload of things went wrong! Some metro stations were not ready, part of promised new terminals at host city airports also didn’t meet the deadline, part of the stadiums finished construction only less than a month before the start of the games. To get to the games, following FIFA’s recommendation, we had to get off the car / bus / van at one point and walk three kilometers to reach the stadium. At Ellis Park (Johannesburg) and Moses Mabhinda Stadium (Durban), this walk was through not so safe-looking neighborhoods (mainly in Joburg, where the walk took place at night through poorly lit streets).
But, in the aftermath, guess from how many fans (Brazilians or otherwise) I heard complaints about how WC South Africa was a big "mess"?. Zero. Guess how many times I heard people saying that South Africa should not have accepted to host the world cup in order avoid the "worldwide shame" that would certainly follow the mistakes described above, among others? Zero
The South Africans were much more concerned about treating the tourists as well as they could and providing them with a beautiful and unforgettable party. The fans were grasping every moment of it. Whoever likes football and crosses the Atlantic to watch his/her national team play is too excited and happy to get upset with minor issues, like the fact that the flight to the next game’s location was delayed by half an hour. "Waiter, another round of beer please, looks like the plane today is not in a hurry ... "
Let's try to picture three German tourists coming to the Cup in Brazil (tourists coming from abroad to watch a Football World Cup are 90 % male, yet). The German national team will play the first three games on the three largest cities of the Northeast (Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife), the region is a blessed part of the Country with incredible beach venues where temperatures are always on the high 20’s (Celsius). What will do you think they will do on the day before the game?
Option A: They will be in a bad mood locked up in their hotel room, posting on Facebook how awful was the traffic from the airport or how annoying was to the wait for their luggage, angrily typing how Brazil is not an organised Country and suggesting to friends they should never, EVER, come down here.
Option B: They will spend the day toasting their white/pink backs on the beach, sipping Caipirinhas , eating local delicacies, trying some "samba moves" without much success and mingling with the natives, as well with other tourists.
I'm not saying that construction delays or cost overruns do not matter. If it is proven that a particular stadium ended up costing much more than the original budget due to bribes being distributed along governmental agencies for "fast track licensing", the corrupts must be punished. What I'm saying is that, for now, we Brazilians should focus on making sure these fans from around the world have the time of their lives and, guess what, we should savour the moment as well, it might be 64 years until we get to host the cup again...
Much of the infrastructure needed for the cup ended up not meeting the deadlines, but much did. The 12 stadiums are ready, many financed, at least partly, by private capital. Brazilian national football championship is very popular. Almost all the stadiums, therefore, will end up being used regularly by the clubs from the host cities, for years after the World Cup is over. This legacy will stay.
Worse than the ultra pessimist / ashamed Brazilians mentioned above, who are almost certain we will screw up big time on the managing of the event, are the ones who are actually hoping we screw up big time for political reasons. Some people want so bad a change of government in October, they actually hope for a big failure. I did not vote in Dilma Rousseff (our current President), but she won the election and is our President, period. I won't hope for something to go wrong in the World Cup just because the President was not the candidate I voted for.
But in the end of the day, the "apocalypse prophets" are a minority. Brazilians love football and, even better, Brazilians are great hosts. I am certain we will treat the tourists very well, these guys will go back home and say great things about the Country and it's people, convincing others to also visit us, to the dismay of those suffering from BMC, who are ashamed of the country where they live and prefer to keep it hidden from the World…
PS : The term "Mutt Complex" is not mine, was created by Brazilian writer and playwright Nelson Rodrigues , which originally referred to the trauma suffered by the Brazilians in World Cup 1950 held in Brazil. The Brazilian national team, playing at home and considered the favorite to win, was defeated by the Uruguayans on the final, in front of 200.000 fans at Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil recovered from the shock (at least in the football field) in 1958 , when it won the World Cup for the first time (held in Sweden).
For Rodrigues, however, the phenomenon was not limited to the football field. The term “Mutt Complex” referred to the inferiority in which the Brazilians arise voluntarily in the face of the rest of the world.
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