The war against the World Cup and the Olympics

May 29, 2014

“It must be strange for people who are used to see Brazilians as a smiley and youthful nation, proud of its country’s sporting exploits, to learn that most of them are hating to host the Olympics and the World Cup. While the costs are astronomical and no one knows for sure who actually benefits from these soulless mega-events centred on big business, very few countries get the privilege of hosting them and doing so usually is a matter of big national pride. Brazil seems to be an exception, and the question that comes to mind is why. Ask the average Brazilian and he will give you the standard answer: The anger is because the government decided to throw money on these useless events instead of investing in hospitals, schools and infrastructure.” Lost Sambista

Beyond samba, sex and soccer: The World Cup riots in Brazil
“Only 22 years old, the footballer known simply as ‘Neymar’ is far more than the ‘face of Brazilian soccer’. Since donning the iconic, canary yellow and blue kit for the first time, Neymar has sidestepped defenders as if dancing the samba, and raced up and down the pitch with the cavalier and carnival spirit definitive of Brazilian football. As Neymar sprints into his prime, Brazil is primed to host its first World Cup in 64 years. This year’s tournament, furnishes the Brazilian government with a rare opportunity to showcase its greatest export on its home soil. Brazil and football are synonymous: A conflation the state has engineered to carry forward its policies inside and outside of the country. Its iconic lineage of soccer stars, starting with Pele and ending with Neymar, provide the state with single-named ambassadors known and loved all over the world.” Aljazeera

Brazil’s evicted ‘won’t celebrate World Cup’
“Every four years, Brazilians decorate their streets in green and yellow, celebrating the arrival of the most anticipated sports tournament in the country. With the kick-off for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil less than one month away, the country’s passion for football should be pulsating more than ever. But there are some signs to the contrary. ‘World Cup for whom?’ read the words painted on a wall on a street in Sao Paulo. Many in Brazil’s middle class are unhappy with the effects the World Cup has already had on their lives. The cost of living has risen in the cities hosting the games, traffic jams have worsened, and a construction boom aimed at improving urban mobility has only compounded problems, they say.” Aljazeera

Eric Cantona: Fifa’s corruption divides Brazilian football from its roots
“It will surprise precisely no one who has taken even a passing interest in his life and career, but Eric Cantona is no great fan of football’s governing bodies. Having recently returned from Rio de Janeiro, where he has been making a documentary about Brazilian football and politics that will receive its UK premiere at Amnesty International’s Sidelines film festival next month, he has a jaundiced view of Fifa’s modus operandi.” Guardian (Video)

Police Repression of Indigenous Protest Against Brasil’s World Cup
“Hundreds of indigenous people and thousands of supporters peacefully marched towards the National Mane Garrincha Stadium in protest of the upcoming World Cup in an effort to block the roads. They were met by riot police and Military Cavalry Police of the Federal District on the afternoon of Tuesday the 27th. The demonstration, which had the support of hundreds of Indians left the Pilot Road, but was surrounded by police personnel about 100 meters from the arena to receive seven games of the World Cup 2014. Police blocked the march and soon were using tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets on people to violently disperse the protest march.” Revolution News!

Brazil Is Tired of Being Scolded
“By now, Brazil should probably have been grounded for life, without video games or dessert. Last month, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee, John Coates, said that Rio de Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics were the worst he had ever seen. Before that, Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA — the International Federation of Association Football — claimed that Brazil was further behind in its preparations for this summer’s World Cup than any previous host nation, even though it had had seven full years to prepare. Then, in March, FIFA’s secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, declared we could risk being ‘the worst organizers’ of the ‘worst event.’ He had previously said that Brazil needed “a kick up the backside.” Well, that was harsh.” NYT: The Opinion Pages

Can Goldman’s economists predict who will win the World Cup?

May 29, 2014

“The economists at Goldman Sachs apparently can’t wait for the beginning of the World Cup next month. They issued a 60-page report — billed as ‘an unnatural mix of football and economics’ — with detailed analyses of each team and a forecast for outcome of the tournament. Now we know what they’ll be doing once the matches begin in Brazil. Brazil, the host country, is strongly favored to win the championship, according to Goldman’s predictions. These predictions are derived from a formula that estimates the number of goals a team is likely to score in a game based on its past performance as well as on a few other factors, such as whether the team is playing at home. Brazil’s home-field advantage is a major reason why Goldman expects it to do so well.” Washington Post

[PDF] The World Cup and Economics 2014

Bosnia: Divided by war, united by football

May 29, 2014

Žilina, Slovakia, September 2013. Slovakia’s third largest city is close to the Low Tatras Mountains, the natural border with Poland. The cold wind and rain hint at snow and winter’s early arrival. On the pitch, the Bosnia national football team is training in silence ahead of their next World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in 24 hours’ time. Their coach, Safet Sušić, buried deep in a thermal jacket and hood, is being soaked by a nagging drizzle. The 50 or so Bosnian journalists watching in the stands shuffle their feet and chain-smoke to keep warm. But they, too, watch in silence. No one – not the players, the coach or the journalists – looks as if they want to be here. Which is strange. Bosnia are currently top of Group G in World Cup qualification.” CNN – James Montague

Brazil 2014: Got, Got, Need — how stickers took the World Cup by storm

May 29, 2014

“Obsession often brings joy and sorrow in equal measure. Inside that thin, shiny packet giving off a mystical glow sits five stickers — five faces of five men whose very presence can turn lives upside down. Welcome to the world of World Cup sticker collecting. … While most relationships survive the sticker phase, Blazer is not alone in his infatuation with the shiny adhesives which smile back at those dreaming of the holy grail — the full sticker album. Some are relentless in their pursuit of that holy grail, setting up spreadsheets and even calling in their spouse to increase the odds of successful swapping.” CNN