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HT@World Cup: Up against winter of discontent

india Updated: Jun 10, 2014 01:13 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times
Jan Gabriel

In some ways, Jan Gabriel’s comment brought home Uruguayan poet and football chronicler Eduardo Galeano’s famous line: “The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.”

Gabriel is a young beefy security official at the Freica Naca Shopping and Convention Centre with a shaved head. In halting English, he said he wanted Brazil to lose and the administration to feel the full blast of citizens’ anger. “I will be working during the World Cup games in Sao Paulo. Frankly, I can’t even afford to buy tickets and don’t really care,” he said on Sunday.

Gabriel belongs to that section of Brazilians who, though totally in love with what they call is the beautiful game, are angry about what they think is a story of massive corruption. “The World Cup has helped some people fill their inside pockets,” said Gabriel.

It’s why the song Desculpe Neymar (sorry Neymar) written by well-known Brazilian musician Edu Krieger has been a hit on the internet. Writing in the May issue of the World Soccer magazine, Tim Vickery has quoted Kreiger as singing: “We can’t be real champions...we have beautiful and monumental stadiums while schools and hospitals are on the verge of collapse.”

Speaking in another context, even Pele has said things could have been better. “Unfortunately the organisation has been poor,” Pele said. “I was part of (World Cup) functions that took place four years ago so there was time to get things right. There is no reason to be in the current situation,” he had said in April.

It’s been a while since such reports have emerged from the country which puts its life on hold every four years when football’s carnival comes along. Brazil have named its young ones Tospericagerja, as British writer and broadcaster Alex Bellos has pointed out, after 1970 legends Tostao, Pele, Rivelion, Carlos Alberto Torres and Jairzinho. At another time, an American anthropology professor explained how ‘soccer’ binds the country by saying he has seen boys play competently with a rag-tag ball in the recesses of Amazon still difficult to google.

So something’s definitely not quite right when part of the country universally accepted to be the keeper of football’s soul doesn’t want the sport’s biggest carnival. On Monday, the Metro strike entered its fifth day which means getting to the Sao Paulo World Cup stadium in Itaquera would again be a challenge.

On Sunday, the channel linking the Metro station to the stadium gates was closed but if that was one part of the story, the other was people milling on a bridge to look at an arena buzzing with activity four days before the World Cup kicks-off here. For all the protests, Brazil has bought more tickets than any other country. “Have a nice World Cup and here’s hoping Brazil treats you well,” said a shop owner at the mall where Gabriel works.

But if what Gabriel wants comes true, visitors could feel the full impact of a winter of discontent. It could in turn affect re-election prospects of Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff later this year. So when Pele spoke of the pressure being very high on Seleção, he may not have been talking just about football.