Step outside the Organising/FIFA bubble and it’s enlightening, even touching, how worried many Brazilians appear about their hosting of the World Cup.
This is a different concern to the prospects of Luiz Felipe Scolari and his squad succeeding where Zeze Moreira and his players failed, most horribly, in 1950, in the final match. People are far more positive about the team than about the country.
Brazil landed the finals, as it landed the Rio 2016 Olympics, on a wave of self-confidence borne on an economic floodtide bracketing the country as one of the ‘tomorrow’s world’ BRIC nations along with China, Russia and India.
But that was before the economic tsunami. Initially Brazil’s self-satisfied politicians patted themselves on the back: they had avoided the crash assailing the United States and Europe. They failed to realise that, a few years down the line, foreign investment would take a hit.
Brazil today is paying the price of an economic after-shock.
If Brazil’s economy were still powering ahead then so many millions would not have been provoked into taking to the streets during last year’s Confederations Cup to rail against a perceived imbalance in spending between grandiose World Cup projects and social welfare.
Do not think the protests will go away with the World Cup. After July the hate mail of the streets will be re-addressed to the Rio Olympics; indeed, Rio may feel a more focused backlash because it stands alone as the sole beneficiary of massive preparatory investment.
Talk to Brazilians outside the bubble and they fret out of concern for the image of the country in which they take such pride.
They say: We don’t have the hotels or we don’t have hotels up to the standard foreigners will expect; we don’t have adequate healthcare if anyone is taken ill; we don’t have the sophisticated security service of a United States or Germany or United Kingdom . . . and so it goes on.
Brazil’s politicians did not help themselves by rejecting the concept of hosting clusters; the all-over travel demand on fans, teams and media has exacerbated the hosting and touring tasks. FIFA could have eased its own supervisory angst by standing up to what it must have known would be a grand logistical nightmare. Instead it meekly caved in to local vested interests.
Omar Aziz, governor of Amazonia which includes Manaus, joined in the pessimism during a debate this writer attended along with Latin American journalists.
“The trouble is,” he said, “that no-one in parliament or the country understood what an enormous challenge it is to host a World Cup. It’s even bigger for us because we are not a developed country, we are a country which is still developing.”
At least he was admitting to a realism rarely evident in the outpourings of Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo (also known as the Minister for Flexible Deadlines).
But then, Rebelo is trapped at the heart of the bubble; he can do nothing else but talk positively and hope that, somehow, it will be all right on the night.
The acceptance of the size of the task among the people who shoulder the work may just ensure that it does.
Keir Radnedge is one of the foremost observers of international soccer. He has reported at every World Cup since 1966 and is a regular contributor to TV, radio, newspapers and magazines worldwide. He is editor of KeirRadnedge.com and is chairman of the Football Commission of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS). Visit www.KeirRadnedge.com for further information. Follow him on Twitter for more sports industry updates.