The stages of grief following Brazil’s quarterfinal defeat last week in the World Cup included shock, despair, anger and recrimination.
A Haitian fan reportedly flung himself in front of a bus, having lost all joy in life after the five-time World Cup champion lost to the Netherlands, 2-1. Worldwide anguish was so profound, according to Internet chatter, that Twitter momentarily was disabled. Mick Jagger was blamed, accused of casting the same pox on Brazil that he had brought on his previous rooting interests, England and the United States.
And last Sunday, the ax fell on the coach responsible, Dunga, who was fired for his dull tactics and disheartening results. But there’s only so much grieving that Brazilians can do.
So on Thursday, July 8 in Johannesburg, Brazil threw itself a party. And it skimped on nothing with none other than the country’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, taking the stage after performances by two bands; a troupe of “body musicians” who created rhythms by stomping, clapping and popping their mouths; and a soccer acrobat who manipulated a ball like a child does a yo-yo.
The occasion? The unveiling of the logo for the 2014 World Cup, which Brazil is hosting. To some, that’s a thin pretext for a party. But not in Brazil, where no excuse is needed to have a good time. And that was the point of Thursday’s festivities at the Sandton Convention Center, which were broadcast live to Brazil (where it was early afternoon) and attended by such dignitaries as FIFA President Sepp Blatter, South African President Jacob Zuma and a host of former Brazilian soccer greats including Cafu, Romario and Carlos Alberto.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen sent her message via a slick promotional video. Then came an elaborate dinner for all.
“We are going to hold an unforgettable World Cup,” Lula pledged, praising his South African hosts for the vibrancy and joy of their first-ever World Cup, which concludes with Sunday’s championship match at Soccer City between Holland and Spain.
“We are passionate about sport and passionate about football,” Lula said, “because we are people who are passionate about life!”
Lula went on to promise a “green” and “transparent” World Cup, with all of the expenditures posted online for taxpayers’ scrutiny, as hundreds of journalists from around the world chronicled the pledge of a president who will leave office in 2011.
At a news conference, Ricardo Teixera, head of Brazil’s football confederation, acknowledged the country has much work ahead before it’s ready for the month-long tournament and influx of visitors. Brazil has limited public transportation in its major cities, which is problematic for a country with a landmass comparable to that of the United States.
Moreover, the city of Sao Paulo lacks a stadium that meets FIFA’s standards and no financial plan for a major overhaul or replacement.
Brazil’s airports also will require extensive expansion. But none of these concerns was alluded to during Thursday’s unveiling of the logo, which features three hands emerging from the base of a trophy to cradle a ball. Its colors, vibrant green and yellow, echo the palette of the nation’s flag.
Brazil has hosted a World Cup once before, in 1950. Argentina was the last South American country to host,
in 1978. And Blatter took obvious delight in the decision to return to Brazil, which was announced in 2007 and celebrated anew Thursday.
“Brazil, it’s the country of football!” Blatter said. “Football is a religion in Brazil. Everybody is a footballer. And you have written the history of football because you (have won the World Cup) five times. So it is time (to return).”
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