You might be aware that the Pope visited Rio last month for World Youth Day, or as it was known here, ‘JMJ’ – Jornada Mundial da Juventude. Not being of a religious persuasion, I wasn’t really fussed about the whole affair. In fact, I pretty much sit on the opposite side of the spectrum to ‘a person of faith’, preferring to read Dawkins, Hitchins or Harris than anything by someone who would like to improve the state of my soul. My soul is fine, by the way, thanks for asking.
Having my home city inundated with millions of Catholics from around the world didn’t so much as inspire me as, well, get in my way a little bit. But, live and let live and all that. They were all really happy to be here (even though the weather was absolutely shocking) walking around with their colourful backpacks and ponchos, maps and that smile that only someone about to see the leader of their faith can have. It was pretty funny having someone wearing a bright yellow poncho, carrying a bright blue backpack, both branded with the ‘JMJ’ logo, asking for directions for Copacabana Beach (where o papa was talking to the millions who had come to see him) and them then feeling the need to explain that they were here for World Youth Day… If only good old British sarcasm would translate perfectly into Portuguese.
Though the religious element of JMJ didn’t move me, there was a bit of political news that did manage to stir some emotions. Pope Francis was originally supposed to hold his Final Mass in Guaratiba, 13km west of the city, but due to the incessant rain, the fields in which the stage and muckle huge golden cross had been erected had been turned into a big old soggy mush resulting in a last minute change of location. All seemed innocent until it was reported that at least R$6m (about £2m) of taxpayers’ money had been spent on preparing the land, including clearing large swathes of trees. To add to the controversy, it turns out that the land belongs to the father of the state Governor, Sergio Cabral. If true (there has been strenuous denial of any wrongdoing, as you’d expect) it means that the State has paid to clear, and prepare for development, the land, whilst enabling the owner to circumnavigate the usual, painstaking planning permission processes that a developer has to go through when applying to clear trees.
You might wonder why I’d write about this in a blog on a football fanzine website. Well I’ll tell you. Firstly, I think its nuts – shit like this hits the papers on a daily basis. I mean, this is stuff that would have a UK politician out of a job at the very least (you’d like to think, anyway), but there is just so much corruption taking place at every level of society that you find yourself becoming numbed to it. I mean, this story is pretty small potatoes, the public would hardly have batted an eyelid. In fact, NO reports of corruption or dodginess going on would have created more of a stir! And, more relevant to our beautiful game, think about this: this event was a one off, held in a single city and lasting a mere week or so. It wasn’t a sporting or corporate event; it was a religious festival – a celebration of Christianity, a coming together of the youth of the Catholic church. And the politicians STILL found a way to make something on the side out of it.
Now imagine the World Cup. 12 host cities, 12 brand new or massively upgraded stadiums. Costs which have spiralled out of control, budgets which have doubled during the construction processes. 12 cities which have required massive infrastructure upgrading, an estimated R$100b being spent in total… If a religious festival is seen as an opportunity to exploit public funds, what chance has the World Cup had?
We’re just over halfway through the season over here, the Brasileirão has just completed round 21, and it’s proving to be another cracking competition. Cruzeiro have been top for quite a while now, but Rio’s very own Black & White wonders, Botafogo, have been right on their tails. Up until the last few weeks a chasing pack including ‘Fogo, Grêmio, Atlético Paranaense and Internacional have been within 7 points of the leaders but slowly Cruzeiro and ‘Fogo have pulled away from the rest. As it stands Botafogo are 4 points adrift of Cruzeiro, but next week sees a top of the table clash with the two meeting in Cruzeiro’s city, Belo Horizonte. It should be a cracker-jack (Ed: CRACKERJACK – oh, suit yourselves, its a 70s thing) of a match.
I’ll be cheering O Glorioso on till the end of the season – I’d love to see them win their first title since 1995. Not only are they the smallest club in Rio, and not only do they wear Black & White stripes, but I think it’d also be a bit of magic to see Seedorf win the Brazilian Championship, too!
Last week Botafogo earned a very credible 1-0 win over a handy Corinthians side, containing the revitalised Alexandre Pato in their lineup, thanks to a goal by a cracking young player called Hyuri (hardly a Brazilian sounding name, is it?)
The 21 year old had burst onto the scene a few weeks back, scoring a brace during a 3-1 win over Coritiba. Scoring 2 goals on your debut is special enough, but when one of them is absolutely spectacular it’s even sweeter! Check out the goal at 4mins 26secs. If you think it was ‘ok’, have a look at the reverse angle on 5mins 27secs. The Brazilians have a word to describe goals like that – GOLAÇO! Actually, it’s more like, “GOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAÇÇÇÇOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”
I didn’t get to see the win over Vile which meant I made up for it by reading as many match reports as possible, including TF’s very own Podcast superduperstar, Taylor Payne’s.
I was over the moon at those 3 points, as I will be with any maximum haul over the coming 8 months. Of course, beating that lot on their own turf always feels exceptionally sweet, and it always will – to quote a certain angry TF scribbler, NEVER FORGET!
All the reports were pleasing to read, all mentioned our positive, direct formation, our attacking front 3 and a solid looking back 4. Mbiwa and El Capitan have both been praised for their reading of the Vile attack, whilst an industrious midfield has been credited with allowing the front 3 to cause havoc. I was particularly pleased to see Anita keep his place ahead of Tiote, I’ve been boring everyone to death for far too long that he waltzes back into the team far too easily for me. Anita must be up there with our ‘most improved’ players, and having a defensive midfielder who is capable of playing a decent forward pass has to be a bonus. When he arrived he mentioned he was looking forward to learning from Tiote, well I think Tiote could learn a thing or two from wee Vurnon, an’ all!
But of course, HBA once again stole the plaudits. It’s no exaggeration to say that when he’s on his game he’s a real mercurial gem. Just the kind of player we love at Gallowgate, full of trickery, skills, entertainment and an eye for a pass the ability to score wonder goals (let’s not even mention his ability to drag us out of the clarts from time to time!)
I was over the moon to have seen this on the Twittersphere, get a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy! http://vimeo.com/74564840#at=0
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