More than three months have now passed since Brazil’s elimination in the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ at the hands of eventual runners-up the Netherlands. For a country of Brazil’s unmatched footballing pedigree and expectations, it was a painfully early end to their South African campaign.
Combined with the team’s exit at the same stage of the 2006 tournament in Germany, it marked the first time in 20 years that A Seleção had missed out on a place in the semi-finals in two consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments. In any other country, this might have led to feelings of doom and gloom, or at least a lingering sense of disillusionment. But, when it comes to football in particular, Brazil is not just any other country. Following the initial shock of the Dutch defeat, there was little sign of ill-will towards the national team.
National flags could still be seen fluttering and a brisk trade in green-and-yellow FIFA World Cup-related merchandise continued, even weeks after the tournament had come to an end. This was not just the tail-end of Brazil’s dressing up every four years to celebrate the FIFA World Cup™. This time there was a real sense that Brazilians were keen to keep that World Cup fever alive, even if the latest edition had ended with less glory than usual for the national team. The main reason for this feeling of national pride lies less than four years in the future. For in Brazil, the blowing of the final whistle of the 2010 FIFA World Cup signalled the start of a new four-year cycle that will culminate in the return of world football’s biggest event to the country which has won the tournament more often than any other nation.
Having only hosted the competition once before – back in 1950, when Brazil were just another one of the 13 hopeful participants – the South Americans are now relishing the opportunity to welcome the world to a place that many now consider as the land of football. “There is no country in the world that is identified more with football,” was how FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter put it when he addressed dignitaries at the unveiling of the 2014 tournament’s Official Emblem in Johannesburg during the final days of the 2010 edition. “In Brazil, football is a religion. What other country in the world is as synonymous with this sport?” Many of Brazil’s brightest World Cup stars were also present for the unveiling of the logo, including 1994 FIFA World Cup™ winner Romario, who told FIFA World of his own excitement at the 2014 edition.
“I would go as far as to say that you have not really experienced a World Cup atmosphere unless you have been in Brazil during the World Cup,” said the 44-year-old former striker. “I cannot even start to imagine what it will be like when it is up to us to actually host it and organise it.”
Serious and reliable
But while the promise of a carnival atmosphere is something that fans will already expect of Brazil as FIFA World Cup hosts, Romario said the tournament was also a chance for his compatriots to demonstrate other national virtues. “The football, the parties, the atmosphere – that is all part of the face of Brazil that people already seem to know. I think though that our ultimate obligation is to showcase a country that is serious and reliable. And there is a huge expectation of seeing the country evolve in a lot of different ways: socially, economically. I sincerely believe that the world will get a different take on Brazil after 2014.”
I would go as far as to say that you have not really experienced a World Cup atmosphere unless you have been in Brazil during the World Cup.
If that sentiment sounds familiar, it is perhaps because Brazil’s hosting comes so hot on the heels of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, where issues of legacy, social improvement and the dismantling of lingering stereotypes were so successfully brought to the fore. As well as sharing a reputation for being friendly hosts, and a combined love for sport, Brazil and South Africa also face a handful of similar challenges when it comes to areas such as infrastructure and the broadening of social equality. All of which sets up Brazil 2014 as a worthy next destination for FIFA’s flagship tournament, as the South American country looks to match the off-field achievements of the 2010 hosts.
“The success of our African brothers sets the bar incredibly high for us Brazilians, and we have certainly been learning lessons from them in order to help the 2014 World Cup be an even bigger success,” acknowledged outgoing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the day of the logo launch. “As of January 2011 I will no longer be the President of the Republic but I’ll still be Brazilian. And my country can count on me to ensure that, working together, we put on the best World Cup ever. That’s our pledge.”
A vast stage
With all that said, both the Local Organising Committee and the Brazilian government know that the task ahead of them is far from simple. While the organisation of a FIFA World Cup is always a complex and massive operation, the challenges are considerably intensified when it comes to staging the event in a country on the scale of Brazil, whose surface area of 8,514,877 square kilometres make this the secondbiggest nation to host the tournament, surpassed only by the USA in 1994. Sixty years ago, the staging of Brazil’s fi rst FIFA World Cup was focused on the south and south-east of the country. All six venues from the 1950 FIFA World Cup (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Recife) will again be involved in 2014, but this time the reach of the tournament has been expanded to include six more state capitals (Brasília, Cuiabá, Salvador, Natal, Fortaleza, Manaus).
Successful infrastructure will clearly be vital as the organisers work to make sure that teams, members of the media and supporters are all able to move around this vast country in an orderly manner. With this issue in mind, FIFA and the LOC are also currently analysing ways in which they can minimise the travel times between matches for the teams and their respective fans. Brazil’s federal government has already pledged massive funding to transform the country’s major roads, rail networks and airports.
The opportunity we have now – an opportunity we will grasp with both hands – is to showcase not just Brazilian football but also Brazil itself.
Earlier this year, the government said it expected to spend just over BRL 17 billion (USD 9.9 billion) on FIFA World Cup-related investments. On top of that, additional projects are constantly being rubber-stamped, such as a recent guarantee by the Brazilian President that the 16 airports of the 12 host cities would be renovated at a cost of BRL 5.5 billion to the federal government. As was also the case with South Africa in 2010, the benefits of those investments are intended to be enjoyed by the Brazilian population long after the tournament has finished.
“We are scheduled to deliver all the necessary work for the 2014 World Cup, but some of the aspects are definitely more pressing, such as the airports,” acknowledged Sports Minister Orlando Silva de Jesus Junior. “We hope to cope with an estimated 600,000 foreign tourists and another three million Brazilians flowing around the country.”
Beyond the impressive amounts being made available by the state, Brazil’s commercial sector has also shown heavy interest in the opportunities offered by the tournament. Taking sponsorship as just one example, last April already saw a number of top Brazilian companies joining FIFA’s impressive line-up of commercial affiliates. The Brazil-based global food supplier Marfrig signed up as a sponsor of both the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, using the events to activate its Seara brand.
Furthermore, before the 2010 FIFA World Cup had even been completed, Brazil’s largest telecoms company, Oi, and the country’s leading bank, Itau, came on board in the categories of FIFA World Cup Sponsor and National Supporter respectively. When it comes to the highly important issues of stadiums, work is already well under way in the majority of host cities. Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana – the only stadium for the 2014 tournament which was also used in 1950 – is receiving a major overhaul in preparation for its second FIFA World Cup.
Work began in August with the removal of seating from the stadium’s lower ring, which is being completely rebuilt. Since September, the stadium has been closed for the start of the major construction work, which will also include the expansion of the roof. A huge upgrade has also begun at the country’s second-biggest stadium, the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, home to Minas Gerais giants Atlético Mineiro and Cruzeiro.
Following the demolition of the old Mineirão, a new “sunken” pitch is being prepared 3.5 metres below ground level before reconstruction work can begin in November. At the end of July, another major overhaul began at Porto Alegre’s Beira-Rio stadium – home to 2010 Copa Libertadores champions and FIFA Club World Cup 2010 participants Internacional – with President Lula donning a hard hat to welcome the arrival of the building team.
Similar scenes have been witnessed up and down the country in recent weeks, whether it be the demolition of old stadiums such as Salvador’s Fonte Nova and Cuiaba’s Estádio Governador José Fragelli (Verdão), or the laying of the cornerstone at Brasília’s new Mané Garrincha stadium on 27 July. In Natal, Manaus, Fortaleza and Curitiba, fi nal planning or tender processes are close to completion, with construction work due to begin later this year or in the first half of 2011.
While the main wish for most Brazilian football fans in 2014 will be to see their national team secure the World Cup title for a sixth time, and for the first time on home soil, local organisers, national sponsors and the country’s federal government are clearly all united in hoping that the watching billions remember more than just the football when the final whistle blows on Brazil’s staging of the event.
“Brazil is already widely regarded as the country of football,” points out LOC President, Brazilian Football Association President and FIFA Executive Committee member Ricardo Teixeira. “That is not just a cliché or a slogan, but can be seen as a statement of fact when you look at Brazil’s record as the only country to have played in all 19 editions of the FIFA World Cup – and, of course, having won it a record five times. “But in 2014, we will have 12 host cities spread across several beautiful regions of the country, giving tourists the chance to get to know the whole of Brazil, from the amazing beaches to the exuberance of the Amazon; from the mountains to the cerrado savanna. The opportunity we have now – an opportunity we will grasp with both hands – is to showcase not just Brazilian football but also Brazil itself.”