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The Brazilian World Cup is here!

The Brazilian World Cup is here!

The 2014 World Cup known as the Brazil World Cup is finally here after years of preparations since the Southern American country was given the right to host the World’s most prestigious event by world’s football governing body, FIFA in 2007 unchallenged.  (Photo: The makeshift bridge linking the media centre to the Corinthians Arena was not finished when I visited the stadium two days to the opening game – Photo Credit: Mohamed Fajah Barrie)

The clock is ticking, it’s just a matter of hours for the 20th World Cup tournament to begin at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paolo with Brazil taking on Croatia.

It’s the second in Brazil, the first in South America since 1978 when Argentina last hosted it and the fifth overall in the region.

The preparations have been overshadowed by protests after protests highlighting social issues. Even workers at some of the venues down their tools at certain period of time demanding increase in their wages- one of the reasons why some the stadiums were never delivered on time.

The organisers of the World Cup were seriously criticised for failing to deliver facilities including some of the stadiums on time.

I visited the Corinthians Arena stadium hours after I arrived in Sao Paolo on Tuesday 10th June 2014, I found workers doing final touches on the facilities at the stadium as well as the metro station linking to the stadium. I understand that other World Cup venues too were undergoing last minutes touches.

Some of the stadiums have never been tested –contravening one of FIFA’s testing requirements on stadiums hosting world cup games.

Outside view of part of the Corinthians Arena (Photo Credit: Mohamed Fajah Barrie)

Outside view of part of the Corinthians Arena (Photo Credit: Mohamed Fajah Barrie)

The Brazilian government has spent over US$10bn on the World Cup making it the most expensive World Cup in history. Around US$ 4bn was spent alone on stadium works (Seven new stadiums built and five renovated). US$ 530m of the US$ 4bn was spent on the renovation of the Iconic Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro instead of the US$ 300m initially budgeted for.

The new Maracana stadium which is the venue for the grand final on July 13, was one of the stadiums finished on time and delivered on time. Its capacity has been reduced to 79,000.

A good number of Brazilians many of them football fans do not approved. They prefer their government to have spent that money on the health, education and infrastructure sectors. They have made their voices heard by staging several protests across the country on different occasions.

They started protesting last year during the dress rehearsal for the World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup when both the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as well as FIFA Present Sepp Blatter were heavily booed as they were announced to give their speeches at the opening ceremony of the tournament. Further protests took place outside other matches during the tournament.

This made FIFA to resolve that the 2014 World Cup opening ceremony on Thursday just before the first game kicks off would not feature any speeches.

Metro workers brought Sao Paolo into standstill as they took into the street demanding higher wages just days to the kick-off of the tournament, paralysing the city of 20m people as an estimated number of 4m people use the subway daily. The workers have however returned to work for now, I even went through the subway to go to the Corinthians arena.

But it has prompted many people to question Brazil’s state of readiness for staging the world’s premier football showpiece. But President Dilma Rousseff, one of the few female heads of states in the world has assured FIFA and the world that they are ready to host the world and the tournament will be a success.

157,000 police and troops in all will be deployed in the twelve World Cup cities by President Rousseff’s government to ensure a smooth running of the 32-team tournament.

Public holidays have been declared in cities hosting games on match days to make it easier for people to access public transportation to the stadiums.

Football legend Pele, a winner of three World Cups with Brazil 1958, 1962 and 1970 too is confident that his country will stage a successful World Cup. He says he understands why his fellow countrymen are protesting but believes when the tournament starts every Brazilian will rally behind the Samba Boys.

He added: “The World Cup is a big party and everybody wants to be part of it.”

Not all Brazilians though disapproved of their country hosting the World Cup. Many of them are enthusiastic about the fact that the World Cup is coming back to the South American nation for the second time after 1950 when they lost to Uruguay 2-1 in their first ever World Cup final. Even though there had been protests, there were rush for match tickets by Brazilians, 180,000 tickets went on sale within an hour at one point.

Brazilians based in Sao Paolo Marlou Pouzilaqua and Daniel Neres Dias were among people I spoke about the World Cup. They showed me their tickets for the opening game between Brazil and Croatia and they expressed similar sentiments. They said: “We are among the protesters but we are done with it for now. It’s time to give full support to the organisers of the World Cup and our national team. We’ll win the World Cup.”

I have seen the streets of Sao Paolo dressed with the Brazilian World Cup mascot and shopping centres, government buildings, business houses, homes, subway stations etc. clad in Brazilian colours. In fact the flags of the all the 32 teams competing in the World Cup are hung in some of the shopping centres. World Cup promotional items like key-holder, wallet and lot of other stuff are on streets of Sao Paulo. I’m told that it’s same in the capital city Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in the country.

I have no doubt that Brazil is a footballing nation having won the World Cup more than any other country on earth. I believe once the World Cup get started Brazilians will think World Cup, eat World Cup and sleep World Cup, a tournament they have won five times in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.

All the 32 teams have prepared well for the once in every four years tournament and once the competition commences the focus will be on the pitch until the 13th July when a new winner is crowned.

The total prize money on offer for the Brazil World Cup is the highest ever as there is 37% increase from the amount allocated for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The money was confirmed by FIFA to be US$ 576 including payments of US$70 million to domestic clubs for using their facilities.

Each of the 32 teams participating in the World Cup received US$1.5 million for preparation costs. Once at the tournament, the prize money will be distributed as follows:

  • US$8 million – To each team eliminated at the group stage (16 teams)
  • US$9 million – To each team eliminated in the round of 16 (8 teams)
  • US$14 million – To each team eliminated in the quarter-final (4 teams)
  • US$20 million –Fourth placed team US$22 million –Third placed team
  • US$25 million-Runner up
  • US$35 million- Winner

By Mohamed Fajah Barrie in Sao Paulo

Credit: Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) & www.sierraleonefootball.com

Sponsors: Mercury International & www.sierraleonefootball.com

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