One of the world’s most captivating places, Brazil is a huge, dazzling South American country made up of glorious white-sand beaches, unspoilt rain forests and wild, rhythmic, overflowing metropolises. It is home to a diverse ecosystem containing many of the world’s most distinctive plant and animal life. It hosts the world-famous Carnaval and to cap it all off, is home to the most successful (five World Cup triumphs) national football team in the world. So when Brazilians say “Deus e Brasileiro” you can understand why they think God is Brazilian.
Brazil effectively knew it would be hosting the 2014 World Cup Finals as far back as March 2003, when Sepp Blatter announced that the World Cup would be rotated from continent to continent. South America was the chosen for 2014 and only Brazil expressed a significant interest in hosting this global event. By October 2007 it was official and Brazil rejoiced that it would be hosting the World Cup for the first time in over half a century (1950).
Certainly, it is a romantic venue for the football enthusiast – almost football’s spiritual home if you like. The world simply cannot wait until 12th June 2014 when the likes of Neymar and Oscar kick off the World Cup Finals in Sao Paolo.
However, the football affiliation with Brazil and the practicality of hosting the tournament are two very different things. In the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, each participating nation had to submit thorough applications down to the very last detail, yet by contrast, Brazil submitted virtually nothing as they had no competitors.
Earlier this year, FIFA’s General Secretary Jerome Valcke expressed his anxiety as to whether Brazil would be ready. “The concern is that nothing is made or prepared to receive so many people, because the world wants to go to Brazil. I am sorry to say but things are not working in Brazil,” he said. He added that the organisers themselves required “a kick up the backside” to get the tournament ready. His comments resulted in a public outcry as Brazilians are notoriously sensitive of criticism, especially from outsiders. Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo immediately wrote to FIFA stating that Valcke’s remarks were “offensive” and “unacceptable”. Valcke replied by saying that his comments were interpreted incorrectly, since his words were translated from his native French to Portuguese.
Nevertheless, Valcke’s comments were certainly not conjecture. Much of the finger-pointing has been in the direction of Ricardo Teixeira – formerly the president of the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation). Teixeira immediately quit his post once allegations of bribery began to surface last March. The allegations were later proven where it was announced that the former president had taken £8.4m (over $13m) in bribes from sports marketing firm ISL (ISL was essentially the ‘middle man’ in negotiating and tendering lucrative World Cup rights until it went bankrupt in 2001). Staggeringly, these payments were not considered to be criminal offences during the period when they occurred.
Upon the announcement that Brazil had secured hosting rights to the 2014 World Cup, Teixeira was adamant that the Brazilian tax-payer would not be burdened with any of the cost for both building new and refurbishing existing stadia. Furthermore, it is understood that FIFA originally wanted eight host cities (consistent with previous tournaments) but Teixeira successfully lobbied for 12 – on the basis that other states wanted a share of the 2014 limelight. Brazilian financial newspaper Brazil Economico has since revealed that some of the stadiums may have limited long-term financial viability and it is also apparent that a significant outlay both on stadia and infrastructure will come from public funding.
Along with the stadiums, infrastructure is a cause for concern – particularly airports. The 2014 World Cup, including the group stages, will be scattered across the country, with the obvious problem that the land mass of Brazil is not small. The rationale behind this decision was to maximise the opportunity for the Brazilian public to have a chance to watch their beloved Samba stars.
Thanks to the delays in negotiations, the knock-on effects will be felt through significant financial outlay necessary to speed up the completion process. However new Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, who had no time for Teixeira, has re-opened dialogue between her government and the Local Organising Committee.
Further problems include The World Cup bill – a FIFA proposal. This recommends lifting the existing ban on stadiums selling alcohol and also limits the number of discounted seats for students and pensioners. The bill is being scrutinised by the Brazilian government, who want to maintain their existing health and safety standards at their stadia and are also reluctant to give FIFA too much power.
With the countdown less than two years, it is necessary that dialogue between the government and the local planners is solely constructive from here on. Only then will deliverance of the expected World Cup masterclass be possible.