There is little more than two months remaining of 2011, and though the deadline seems arbitrary it will be a pity to conclude a year that has yielded such a rich variety of melodrama, controversy, pantomime and gritty prose. Good guys have turned bad (á la Ryan Giggs), the bad guys have turned, well, worse (Mourinho) and a seasoned protagonist’s days now seemed numbered (Wenger).
Fortunately, one tale has yet to fully develop and it could be the most compelling of them all. It turns out that with just under a 1000 days to the 2014 world cup, FIFA are suddenly weary of Brazil’s eligibility as host nation and many suspect that a happy ending could prove elusive but, like with any decent story, there’s an original premise, a cast of engaging characters and a hint of the unanticipated.
Brazil learned it would host the 2014 World Cup back in 2003, some eleven years prior to the event. Logically this would afford the nation ample time to orientate itself and adapt its infrastructure, renovate and improve stadia, and generally ensure it could adhere to FIFA’s regulations. This has proven a somewhat idealistic forecast as the nation’s planning schedule is about as coherent as a Lost plot-line and costs are accumulating quickly.
Recent reports from goal.com estimate the nation’s urban mobility expenditure as 35.7% higher than expected. Worse still, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) have estimated that the price-tag of the country’s preparatory projects will total almost £2 billion.
However, if the current expenditure is disconcerting, the progress of the projects themselves is enough to cause complete panic. Originally, Brazil had planned to upgrade 13 airports to facilitate the festival but completion of that task may not be feasible before 2014. Efficient public transport will be paramount to accommodating the influx of visitors (predicted to be between 800,000 and 1 million) but projects to address this issue have been plagued by delays, having only started work on 9 of the 49 proposed urban-transport schemes.
The scenario with stadia almost seems promising in comparison to the other predicaments. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, has asserted that 9 of the tournament’s 12 stadiums will be ready by December 2012. Worker’s strikers have frequently hindered progress but once again the prevalent issue is that of finances. Much of the money invested in stadium renovation has been public, rather an unwelcome departure from previous assurances that the projects would be predominantly private.
Okay, so the premise of the story, albeit somewhat complex and unconventional, has been established. Perhaps its now a good idea for us to acquaint ourselves with the implicated parties, the eccentric cast of our story.
First off, at the heart of all matters football in Brazil is Ricardo Teixeira, a politician’s politician with a particular proclivity for courting a level of controversy Liam Fox can only dream about. As chairman of the CBF he was responsible for electing participating cities for the World Cup, a decision he shirked, fearing the political repercussions of overlooking major cities. Ultimately, the choice was delegated to FIFA who promptly resolved the issue…in 2009, some six years after Brazil was nominated host nation.
Regarding the poorly coordinated infrastructural adjustments and seemingly unregulated allocation of funds, it is perhaps the president of Brazil who should be held accountable. Having only been in office since January of this year, the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, can perhaps elude a large portion of the blame. Her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, seems a more appropriate candidate for supreme culpability. He presided over these matters for 7 years and failed to address the procrastination of Teixeira, a political ally who he shrewdly endorsed. However, not all of the characters in this tale are natural politicians.
Romario is a congressman. There may be a more eloquent manner of stating the fact but dramatic effect would no doubt have been compromised. If anyone is well acquainted with the resonance and significance of Futebol in Brazil, it is erstwhile talismanic striker,Romario, and his career shift, albeit somewhat peculiar, is perhaps a more elegant post-pitch pursuit than uttering some dreary commentary alongside some indecipherable picture renderings on Match of the Day.
However, his approach to the role has been somewhat unconventional. Best put, Romario is not a politicians politician. He has recently overtly scrutinised the misconduct of Teixeira, stating that ”Ricardo Teixeira, as the biggest name in Brazilian football, should give answers and justify the things which people see are not normal.” A refreshingly candid criticism that could only come from a former footballer but Teixeira wasn’t the only one on Romario’s radar.
It turns out Sepp Blatter, everyone’s favourite misogynistic leader of FIFA, has arisen from slumber for the first time since the polemic dismissal of his sole presidential opponent, Mohammed Bin Hammam. And not for nothing. As it transpires, Blatter has not only been irked by the halted progress of Brazil’s World Cup preparation but by the country’s proposal to honour its legislation regarding ticket discounts. The issue is that Brazilian law entitles senior citizens and students to half price tickets to public events.
Needless to say, FIFA aren’t in a particularly charitable mood regarding ticket revenue and the Brazilian government aren’t eager to disregard the Brazilian people’s benefits after having subsidised preparations with public funds. Romario recently outlined that dilemma quite explicitly, cautioning that ‘If FIFA is not put in it’s rightful place it will soon have more power than our president.‘ Now there’s a thought.
So, here we are. There remain a mere 967 days until the World Cup kick off and the drama seems to have arrived somewhat prematurely. Brazil could salvage the tournament from this crisis but after the abundance of money squandered, there may be little incentive to spend more, particularly as previous hosts South Africa only recorded a return of £323 million from around the £3 billion invested.
So where does Brazil go from here? Should certain allowances be made for the festival’s most successful, and indeed popular, guests? Or does FIFA revoke its invitation to the nation to host the event? How exactly can all the threads of this story be resolved harmoniously? Well, get your popcorn out. The second act is about to begin.