With 100 days to go before the World Cup starts, Brazil is in the home straight of the countdown and huffing and puffing to complete stadiums, airports, IT networks and public transportation systems.
Four of the 12 venues are still not ready and at least two will not be completed until at least April, two months before Brazil meet Croatia in the opening match on June 12. Authorities are also racing against the clock to finish airport terminals and transport systems and to clean up areas around the grounds.
Officials at soccer’s ruling body FIFA have expressed concern but can do little more than cross their fingers and hope everything is alright on the night.
“I am not a World Cup specialist but I will say this has not been easy for sure,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters in Zurich at the weekend.
“I think things will work well but it is also true that whenever you receive something late it becomes a challenge to make it ready in time.”
Valcke, the man charged with organising the tournament, prompted a diplomatic uproar in 2012 when he said Brazil needed “a kick up the backside”.
President Dilma Rousseff replied by vowing this would be “the World Cup to end all World Cups”, a slogan repeated by FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, but others say there are reasons for scepticism.
Two of the completed arenas have already shown signs of wear and tear, with part of the roof at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte falling off at the weekend. No one was hurt in the incident.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter reiterated that Brazil’s World Cup problems are under control as preparations entered the final lap.
“One hundred days, its a long way to go. Its a short way to go if there are still problems but now all problems are under control,” Blatter told FIFA.com.
Blatter said Brazil’s history as one of the most successful football nations meant the World Cup will be a triumph.
While England “invented” the sport, Brazil had “shown the world the way to play good football,” he added. “The Brazilian spirit of the game and the Brazilian ability to play football makes this World Cup very special.”
What Brazil means to football
Brazil is the most decorated national football team in the history of the World Cup, with five championships: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
It looks like Brazil put the ‘B’ in the beautiful game. The ‘Samba boys’ play very skilful, creative, free-flowing, fast-paced brand of football. Because Brazilians are often not as big and physically strong as Europeans, technical ability is their key to the world.
From Pele to Neymar, the country has produced more than 50 years’ worth of great players. Brazil’s unique style of play was epitomised by some of the greats that wore the yellow jersey.
Pelé, arguably the greatest footballer ever, led Brazil to three of those world championships. His control of the football has been the stuff of folklore, and is largely credited with putting Brazil on top of world football.
Over 10,000 Brazilians play professionally all over the world. A report earlier this year stated that Brazil is the biggest exporter of football talent.
Of the 12,309 international transfers registered worldwide last year, 13 per cent, or 1,558, involved Brazilian players.
Brazil’s colourful and passionate fans often get the football party started.
Though football continues to be the biggest sport with possibly the most partisan sports crowds in the world, Brazil is one team that holds a universal charm. They have the most number of neutral fans.
What football means to Brazil
Football or Futebol was introduced in Brazil close to 120 years ago, and during this time nothing else has had a deeper cultural impact than the beautiful game in the Latin American nation. The Brazilians often refer to their country as “o País do Futebol” (the country of football)
Riddled with poverty and struggling for development, football is the easiest form of pleasure and past time for the Brazilians. Former World Cup winner Leonardo once said, “Brazil very early recognised football in our future and tradition and as an opportunity to communicate to the world that Brazil is a powerful nation.”
Although there is no accurate trace of why football became so big in Brazil, noted Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre wrote, “The Brazilians play football as if it were a dance…for [they] tend to reduce everything to dance, work and play alike.”
When the side lost the 1950 World Cup in decisive final group stage match to Uruguay at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (the venue of the 2014 final also), it was treated akin to a national disaster. The loss was called ‘Maracanzo’ or ‘The Maracana Blow’.
The game is played in every possible nook and corner of the country. In the favelas (slums within urban areas), people who can’t afford a ball roll up socks and use it as a replacement on the rough, stony terrains.
Many of Brazil’s talents emerge from the dangerous favelas where drug trade is rampant, and many lives have been lost in gang wars. Football acts as an equaliser
Football is also a favourite activity on the 7491 km-long coastline. The default 11 a side format on the beach is improvised on to accommodate more players