Now that we have qualified for next year’s FIFA Flagship Money Making Scheme, ahem, sorry, FIFA’s Flagship tournament… I thought it’d be a bright idea to start looking at what a World Cup in Brazil will be like. Of course there’s going to be controversy, and of course there’s going to be things going on that will make us scratch our heads in wonder, but let’s also remember that it’ll be as mad as a box of frogs (in the best ways possible) and I for one cannot wait to see it all kick off!
I wanted to use this blog to talk about the stadiums, but as I was researching them something very obvious struck me and that is HOW FAR APART THEY ARE. If you have a look at a map of Brazil and find the 12 host cities you’ll see that there are a couple of ‘clumps’ of cities which are clustered quite close together. In the North East there is Fortaleza, Natal and Recife, with Salvador a little further down the coast. In the South East area there are Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. That leaves Curitiba and Porto Alegre in the south with Brasília and Cuiabá stranded in the centre and to the west of the country and, completely isolated in the north west, thousands of miles from its nearest host city neighbour and right in the middle of the Amazon Rainforst, Manaus.
Common sense would dictate that the groups would be centred around these little hubs of host cities to keep the amount of travelling involved to a minimum, but there are other factors to be taken into consideration. I’ve mentioned before that Brazil is the size of a continent, in fact, it is very nearly the size of Europe. So if we take Europe as an example, it’s obvious that the playing conditions in Greece are completely different to those in, say, Denmark. And so it is within Brazil. The tournament will be played during our winter, during which the average temperatures in the north east are around 23/24°C whilst in the south they are closer to 14/15°C. The temperatures, then, shouldn’t be a problem but the north east will be incredibly wet, the humidity reaching exhausting levels whilst in the south the climate will be more like that of a temperate European country. In other words, it’s going to be much better to play your games in the south of the country as opposed to the north.
To try to maintain fairness (fairness and FIFA! HA!) it has been decided that groups won’t be kept in a single area, but will travel around the country ensuring no team has to endure all 3 group games in the stifling humidity of the north east or the heat of Manaus (which will be in the high 20’s/low 30’s).
This may well be better for the teams during the matches, and it may well make better viewing around the world (cos that’s what counts, right?) but it also shows that it’s not just the FA who couldn’t give a crap about the fans, it appears that this attitude comes directly from the top of the game. Good to know, eh?
I decided to do a little experiment to see what sort of air miles the teams (and therefore their fans) might be looking at tackling next year.
I chose a random group (Group B) and a random team within that group (B2) and followed its successful journey from group matches to the final. Let’s imagine that England are drawn out of the hat in the position of B2. Their first match will be held in Salvador meaning at least a two legged flight, probably Heathrow – Rio (5700 miles), Rio – Salvador (750 miles). That’s 6450 miles just to get into our seat (one way) – great start! Now that we’re in the behemoth of a country let’s see our journey throughout the tournament.
We’ve won the opener in Salvador in the north east and are now heading to the southernmost host city, Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul, as the crow flies that’s a whopping 1920 miles! The final group stage takes us up the coast to São Paulo, a veritable hop of just 529 miles.
Imagining that Woy’s Boys have taken the tournament by storm and we’ve won the group, our last 16 game takes us back to the north east city of Fortaleza, a tidy 1472 miles north. Winning the first of our knock-out games takes us back to where we started, a 639 mile trip back to Salvador, our semi-final is back in São Paulo, 904 miles south. Having won our semi (against Germany on pens) we finally get to a cidade maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro, a mere 358 miles north.
Should team B2 follow this route, they will have travelled 5822 miles WITHIN Brazil. They will have played primarily in the heat and humidity of the north east and the temperate, wet conditions of the south and south east. And their fans will have been dragged around behind them, exhausted, frustrated and skint.
To exacerbate the fans’ tribulations, the infrastructure is absolutely shocking. Suffice to say that the sole international airport for South America’s most visited city, Rio de Janeiro, is dated, crumbling and not fit for purpose. When I say, ‘not fit for purpose’, I’m talking about the traffic it handles today, let alone the volume of passengers it will have to deal with come June next year.
I’ll be talking a lot more about the country’s infrastructure (or lack, thereof) along with the worrying signs of profiteering that are looking likely to take place in future blogs.
With 7 games remaining in the Brasileirão and it’s very much Cruzeiro’s to lose. They are 12 points ahead of Botafogo and Gremio and 13 points clear of 4th placed Atlético Paranaense.
Although I’m a disappointed that Botafogo were unable to keep their lead and win the league (keeping the title in Rio thanks to Fluminense’s win last year), it looks like Seedorf has steered them to a more than credible spot in next season’s Copa Libertadores – following on from their Carioca Championship win this can only be put down as a massively successful year for Rio’s perennial under-achievers.
In a way I’ll be really happy to see Cruzeiro win the title, though. Brazilian football has always been centred around the two economical centres of Rio and São Paulo, but there are other areas around the country who can call themselves ‘hotbeds’. Porto Alegre, for example, is home to Grêmio and Internacional, both clubs are giants in their own right who play out my favourite Brazilian derby, the GreNal.
Then we have the state capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. Home to two great clubs, Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro, the state and city are constantly overlooked for the more fashionable Paulista and Carioca clubs, but this year will certainly belong to them. As a city they’re going to do the double, Ronaldinho’s Atlético won the Libertadores and Cruzeiro are going to win the league. And I dig that, I dig it a lot.
At the other end it’s still wide open, but Vasco are looking at a second relegation in 5 years while reigning champions, Fluminense have been dragged right into the mire. Watch this space!