Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Futebol no Brasil

Watching Football in Brasil 

The New York Times over the weekend published an article by their travel writer Seth Kugel about watching football in Brazil.  Though I would not call it irresponsible, I would call it a bit reckless.  In it, Kugel urges readers to forgo the guided tours that will take you to a football match and instead dive right in with the torcidas, the supporters groups, and especially try to go for a classico, a match between main rivals.

There are two things wrong with this: one, this is may not be stupid to do, but you should know that you are taking on some risk - much more than he would have you know - especially for those that have no Portuguese.  And I am not sure his three matches are a big enough sample to really give this advice.  Two, there is a middle way: you don't need a guided tour, but if you spend a little more you can sit in good seats in an area that is calm and safe for women and children.  You will still get the full effect of the torcidas, believe me, especially for a rivalry match. This is my suggestion at least.

Why? Well the torcidas are predominately young, male, passionate and drunk.  Need I say more?  Without knowing properly what is going on, what to expect from them and so on you run the risk of getting into a situation that you would rather not be in.  If you do decide to sit with the torcidas, leave that iPhone,wallet, fancy clothes, etc. behind.  Remember that electronics in Brasil go for about twice what they do in the US so that iPhone 5 is worth R$2,400 (about $1,200). You should not take a child. DO carry some money.  The Brasilians I know all make a point of carrying R$25-R$50 in cash in case of a mugger.  No money makes them mad and you risk assault.  This is not to scare anyone, but you should know the risks and I think Kugel does no one any favors downplaying them so much.  He went to matches recently during the less intense state championships, things heat up when the national championships start.

But choose the more expensive seats and everything is generally fine, but as with all crowded places the world over, watch for pickpockets and, again, leave the iPhone behind.  Oh and things might be different in the new stadiums (and probably will be for the World Cup), but in my experience no one pays any attention to their seat assignment.  The more expensive seats are thus physically seperated so just find a free one when you arrive.

All that said, do not come to Brasil and fail to go to a game!  However you go, it will be a fun experience and police have become very good about crowd control before and after the matches.

World Cup in Brasil

The new Macaranã is starting to look close to completion

The World Cup preparations are continuing predictably here in Brasil:  Stadiums are woefully behind schedule and other promised infrastruture projects have long been laid aside.  In fact, São Paulo will not host a confederations cup game, the warm up tournament for the WC.  The biggest city in South America and the one with the most transportation challenges does not get any practice thanks to the Itaquerão stadium being so far behind schedule.  Corruption in the CBF, the Brasilian football authority, is rampant and lots of graft is happening in the name of expediency.

And there are now even quesitons about the stadiums that they are building.  A brand new stadium, built in 2007 in Rio for the Pan-American Games, the Engenhão, has been shut down indefinitely due to fears that the roof will collapse in a strong breeze.

And it is not just the World Cup stadiums that are being built, Gremio has just opened a new stadium (where the grass was not playable initially and a barrier collapsed during a match), and Palmeiras in São Paulo is in the process of building a brand new stadium out of the skeleton of their old one (and just yesterday a worker was killed when a huge concrete section of the old stadium fell).

All this makes me wonder whether in a country lacking in human capital (read: engineers, etc.) can so many stadiums really be built at one time.  Early indications say no.

Still, it will all come off fine in the end, and no one should hesitate to come to Brasil for the World Cup.  I certainly plan to - though perhaps not to São Paulo.   You just need to understand that things here operate a little differently and to allocate much more time than you think to do...just about anything.

Finally here is an amusing aside from the Fonte Nova in Salvador, Bahia where the translations did not quite come off: 'saída' means 'exit.'

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