true faith : THE BLOG FROM BRAZIL

by • March 12, 2014 • Blog from brazilComments (1)1217

We’re now less than 100 days until the World Cup kicks off and in my last blog I wrote Fuelcoabout how low key the build up was. Since then, carnival has been and gone and I’m over the moon to report that I have seen evidence that the biggest sporting event in the world is on it’s way.

Not only have I seen a chocolate bar and some mouthwash adorned with Fuleco (the official mascot of the tournament), but I have also seen a giant Brazuca (the official football of the tournament) in a shopping mall.

Wow! The excitement being created by these campaigns is almost palpable. Not quite.

There has, however, been a softening towards the World Cup by the locals, though only slightly. A recent poll has shown that although popular support for hosting the tournament has fallen to around 50%, down from 80% in November 2008, support for holding protests during it has also dropped off to around 30%. You might think that 50% support for the tournament is shocking, but you must remember that since Brazil was officially handed the host duties back in 2007, the once booming economy has stalled, the cost of living has soared and all the hopes and aspirations that the population had towards the end of the naughties have been well and truly hammered.

There’s an old, and rather cruel, joke about Brazil that I hope my Brazilian friends will forgive me for repeating here – “Brazil is the country of the future – and always will be.”

Wow! The excitement being created by these campaigns is almost palpable. Not quite.

There has, however, been a softening towards the World Cup by the locals, though only slightly. A recent poll has shown that although popular support for hosting the tournament has fallen to around 50%, down from 80% in November 2008, support for holding protests during it has also dropped off to around 30%. You might think that 50% support for the tournament is shocking, but you must remember that since Brazil was officially handed the host duties back in 2007, the once booming economy has stalled, the cost of living has soared and all the hopes and aspirations that the population had towards the end of the naughties have been well and truly hammered.

There’s an old, and rather cruel, joke about Brazil that I hope my Brazilian friends will forgive me for repeating here – “Brazil is the country of the future – and always will be.”

 

Unfortunately, in my 3 years of living in Brazil, any optimism and positivity for the future of the country that I have grown to love, and the city I now call my home, have suffered the same fate as those of my neighbours. At least my neighbours always had the cynicism not to get too hopeful – me, being a

naïve Gringo, allowed myself to believe that we would actually see real change. However, the crippling effects of a culture of corruption (at all levels of society), the gross disparities between the social classes, the disgraceful state of the health and education services and the reverence in which ‘jeitinho’ and ‘malandragem’ are held, or at least accepted, make me fear that regardless of the anger and suffering of the people, the current lop-sided status quo is set to continue on its current destructive cycle.

 

Jeitinho (‘the little way’ – sometimes called o jeitinho brasiliero or o jeitinho carioca) and malandragem are important aspects of Brazilian, or at least Carioca, culture. They are ways in which a person uses his wits and cunning to squeeze out of any unfortunate situation he may find himself in. Back in the day Jeitinho was applauded as it was seen as the little man getting one over the all-powerful authorities (usually the police). (Today it usually means the way a middle class man gets out of paying for his parking space.) The prime proponent of o jeitinho carioca was the malandro, a (usually) mulato male who lived by his charm and wits, who made a living by means which usually brought him into to conflict with the police and who was a sharp dresser who loved samba, women and cashaҫa. You see the image of the malandro wherever you go in Rio – usually midway through a samba dance wearing a snappy white suit, red shirt and white panama. Very dapper.

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I have been meaning to talk about one particular cause of irritation for a while now and that is the World Cup venues. I know you will be aware of the costs, delays, problems and embarrassment that the stadiums are bringing to Brazil, but I wonder if you know just how bloody ridiculous some of them actually are.

Let me be frank. In this mammoth of a country only three of its regions are footballing hotspots. Once you get past the south east (Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais), the deep south (Rio Grande do Sul) and the north east (Bahia…..) there a very few football teams that can compete at the top level and who can pull a crowd in. Yet the CBF decided that in order to make the tournament as democratic as possible, and that all of Brazil is paying for the tournament, all of Brazil should have a chance to see the tournament, they would build stadiums in far flung corners of the country.

 

You’ll have heard about the Arena Amazonia in Manaus (England play Italy in there in their 1st group match). You may have heard about the Estadio Mane Garrincha in Brasilia and you might even have heard about the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba (that’s one of the ones that are still really far behind their deadline date). What you probably wouldn’t have heard about is the great football teams based in those cities who will then move into the stadiums once the tournament is over. That’s because there aren’t any.

I’ve heard of Nacional FC in Manaus, I thought they were playing in the 3rd division but Wiki tells me they play in Serie D… Looking at the table for the Campeonato Amazonia I don’t recognise another team that plays in the region. So a city with a team in the 4th division, stuck in the middle of the Amazon rainforest now has a 42,000 capacity stadium. It reminds me of Darlington, but at least Darlo is near civilisation! The authorities have tried to reassure us that the stadium will be used for events and concerts to justify the investment. Really?

Brasilia, the capital of the country (and the city that T. Dan Smith wanted to model Newcastle on) has NO football team. Again, it is stuck in the middle of the country and has no hope of justifying it’s investment. The only time a decent crowd rocks up to a footy match is when Flamengo or Corinthians play there, so we have had the spectacle of watching Corinthians (of Sao Paulo) play Vasco da Gama (of Rio de Janeiro) play each other in Brasilia.

Then we have the Arena Pantanal in the state of Mato Grosso… I really couldn’t tell you the names of the local teams, but what I do know is that if you add up ALL league attendances for ALL the teams in Mato Grosso in 2013, you wouldn’t get to 30,000 – and yet they’re being lumbered with a 43,000 seater stadium.

 

The average attendances for Seria A – the 1st division, in Brazil are around 14,000, and they have been dropping year on year. And yet these 3 cities, which have no teams competing in, or even close to competing in, the top flight, have had massive, 40,000 seater stadiums dumped onto their laps. What the Hell are they going to do with them? The answer, of course, is nothing. The next we’ll see of them

is in the run up to the 2018 tournament as a reminder of the problems that bad management and folly can bring to a country. White elephants? Oh aye…

If the CBF had kept the host cities at 10, rather than 12, and had ensured that those cities with strong footballing heritage, with teams able to occupy them and fans to at least half fill them were chosen as host venues, maybe we wouldn’t be in the mess that we find ourselves in today.

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That’s about it for now. The State championships are still dragging on, it looks like Botafogo won’t make it to the play-offs but I’m not convinced that that’s a bad thing on the whole. It used to surprise me how excited the locals would get over these tournaments, until I realised they only get excited when they win them. If their team loses, “It’s only the Carioca”… I’ve come to realise that they’re just bona fide ‘Top Dogs’ trophies that give the fans bragging rights over their neighbours for the coming year. No more, no less.

 

JOHN MILTON TF_INITIALS_LOGO

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One Response to true faith : THE BLOG FROM BRAZIL

  1. Mike Hubb says:

    Nice work John, keep it up.