29 June 2010

USA x Ghana; Argentina x Mexico; Brasil x Chile

20 million people suffered because Bob Bradley didn't get his tactics right. The same sorry scene from 2006 repeated itself. USAmerican defensive central midfielder gets caught in possession with a crunching tackle from a bigger, faster, stronger player (Reyna, 2006; Clark 2010), goal for Ghana. From there, Bradley was forced to change Clark for Edu and the game turned in favor of the Yanks. The second change, Feilhaber for Findley, should have happened the day before, not at halftime. The third change, Gomes for Altidore, was completely absurd as the USA lost physical presence in the box. Oh well. The Yanks earned a lot of respect here in Brazil for their raça e garra. Look for the USA to be based in the north of Brazil for the 2014 WC, probably Manaus or Fortaleza, places that have direct flights from the East Coast. 

At the FFF, the Mexican fans outnumbered the Argentines.Geographically, that didn't make any dang sense at all. Following more general football logic, the vast majority of the 10,000 strong crowd were pulling for Mexico. Every time Maradona's face showed on the screen the guy next to me would scream "Pelé". He would also scream "Maricón" at every opporutnity, the equivalent of yelling "faggot". His probably learned the word from watching this commercial for Skol, one of Brazil's many interpretations of Bud Light. 

Everyone agrees that Tevez's first goal was offside. But what about that pass from Messi? As the ball was floating ever so gently on to Carlitos' offside head, Messi was indicating with his own head that Tevez should head it home. It was as if Messi was passing the ball to himself. Even playing poorly, Messi is a destabilizing factor. The same could be said for Higuain, who continues to destabilize me because he is so out of form. Yet he continues to score goals. Unfortunately for Argentina his continued inclusion (and the whirling dervish defending of Heinze, plus getting overwhelmed in a three man midfield) will not cut it against Germany. Pity that.

When Brazil plays in the World Cup, everyone in the country takes the afternoon or morning off. They should take the whole day because going to work dressed in yellow and getting back home with everyone else at the same time causes an incredible amount of traffic chaos. Heading north from the center yesterday on the Metro was not for the claustrophobic. Within three stops, a totally empty train filled to the point where I literally could not move my arms. The air conditioning had no effect. There was no point in holding on to anything because there was nowhere to move. Were there an accident, everyone would die. With so much extra weight, do the brakes still work? The train lurched around curves. In order to get out of the car,  I had to slither and push and squirm before being shot onto the platform like a watermelon seed out of a slippery mouth. Many tens of thousands listened to the first half in their cars, paralyzed. 

Kaká's first involvement in the game was positive, so I settled in for a Chilean loss. The pace of the game was extraordinary. Brazil did not leave any time on the ball for the Chilean midfield and the technical superiority of Alves, Ramirez, Kaká, and Robinho won the day. It's hard to take a football off a Brazilian, which in turn makes for very few opportunities to counterattack, which contributes to defensive stability. Forced to chase the game after a well-taken corner, Chile opened up, leaving a 3v3 situation with Robinho, Kaká, and Luis Fabiano running at speed. Game over. 

3-0 was a fair result. Unfair were the interviews with Kaká's mom and grandmother during halftime and after the game. A perpetual state of forced ignorance of what actually happened during the game is shoved down the collective throat by OGlobo. The presentation perpetuation of Kaká as some kind of capital-religious-footballing superhero that embodies the best virtues of Brazilian-ness continues to make me sick. There's some dirty, dirty stuff going on with that lad with very open fights between him and Juca Kfuri in the Brazilian media. 

My general sense of Brazilian fandom in relation to the national team is that people would much rather see their club teams win than the seleção. The CBF has done a wonderful job of distancing the team from the people. The vast majority of people I know have never seen the seleção play in person, nor are they likely to see them. 20 of the 23 Brazilian players in the World Cup ply their trade abroad, so there's no identification with them as local or even national figures. Of course, everyone is happy to see the team win, but it's kind of like cheering for the USA Basketball team in the Olympics. The win is expected, there's low emotional investment because of the general lack of tension, so why not use the opportunity of the game to party with friends and family? The social role of the seleção and the World Cup is much more profound than I had imagined, full of the contradictions and coherencies that make this such a fascinating place to live. 

24 June 2010

Previewing Brasil x Portugal, debunking some other things

These photos and captions are taken from the back page of the sports section of Brazil's biggest paper, OGlobo, during the first week of the World Cup.

(caption 1: After Dunga began to show his fashion at the World Cup, the coach for Ivory Coast resolved to show the world what he is going to wear against Brazil)

It’s pretty amazing that Brasil, year after year, cup after cup, is always the team to beat. It’s hard for Brasil not to be in the group of death, because they are death to opponents. Not only has Brasil won more cups than any other nation, they have more victories and the highest points per game average, the most goals, the most everything. It’s hard to think of Brasil as a place without thinking about how many times they’ve won the World Cup. Even with the crappy team Dunga has assembled, they’re going to finish top of their group.

(caption 2: Not everything is well at the World Cup. The Bafana Bafana, poor guys, return home.)

Brasil x Portugal stirs up a Luso-world of geographic, historical, and cultural associations. In 1808 the Portuguese court fled Napoleon’s marauding army, brining the entire imperial apparatus to Rio de Janeiro. Brasil was the only colony to have ruled over its metropole. It’s pointless to point out all of the connections, but interesting to note that the Portuguese flag hangs in abundance in Rio de Janeiro.

(caption 3: The miserable North Korean players that go hungry in their homeland asked FIFA for the chicken that [the English keeper] Green came up with [chicken is a goalie gaff] so they can make a stew.)

There isn’t too much riding on this game, other than a strategic positioning for the second round. I would be shocked and amazed to see anything but a draw here. The first place in Group G will cross with the second place in Group H, which is very much up in the air, could be Chile or Spain. Portugal will qualify in second place with one point, and Brasil will qualify regardless, so it would be an act of fratricide for Brasil to win. It's not going to happen.  1-1. Dunga will get to experiment with some other players and rest a few stars in the middle of the second half (Robinho, Maicon, Luis Fabiano). If an equalizer doesn’t happen “naturally”,  look for the referee to balance the scales.

(caption 4: The World Cup also has a social function. The goalies' chickens are going to do away with hunger for the miserable Africans.)

Dunga will replace the suspended Kaká with Julio Batista. Today’s (24.6) headline in the OGlobo sports section:  “The beast in the place of the crack: someone who Dunga trusts, Julio Baptista is the only bachelor on the team but has a wedding planned with a Spanish model after the World Cup.” Nothing but high quality reporting here.

The coverage of the World Cup in OGlobo and on OGlobo networks has been horrible. There is a total überload of information, none of which actually says anything that provides deeper insight into what is going on. To the contrary, in the lead up to the Ivory Coast match, OGlobo continued to publish photos that were very explicit in their portrayal of Africans. I have included the photos and captions with translations. I am not sure what to say about them but wow, the animalization, orientalization, generalization, and blatant classism combine to make a powerful broth of racism that you can sip one day at time. Delicious!

(Caption 5: Brazil plays today and even here in South Africa we can see people preparing their cookout with music and a lot of beer.)

I do hope you foreign correspondents out there will publish similar things about Brasil four years from now. Some indigenous folk with bows and arrows, lip discs, painted faces, headdresses, the symbiotic nature-culture-Avatar thing will be a good start.

(caption 6: Today is a festive day in Johannescheesburger: the Ivory Coast fans promise to throw their weight behind their team in Soccer City to cheer for the Elephants.)

Mais uma coisa para o Zé Ninguém. Os times Africanos não correm tanto assim. Os primeiros cinco colocados em distância ate hoje são: Australia, Japão, México, Inglaterra, e os EUA. Quantas vezes eu ouvi gente falar que os times Africanos não tem técnica, só correm, não tem técnica, só bate com sua força física. A verdade é que Australia e Nova Zelanda tinham cometido mas faltas que qualquer outro time. Vamos falar que os Oceânicos são tipos violentos? Cala a boca Galvão.

(Caption 7: Furious with the unpredictable Jabulani ball, the  Ivory Coast is training with balls that they brought from home.)

Brasil x Ivory Coast, a few days later

The Rio de Janeiro FIFA Fan Fest (FFF) is a textbook example of how space can be manipulated to create and reproduce socio-economic hierarchies, cultural value systems and accelerate patterns of consumption. Watching Brazil versus Ivory Coast there on Sunday afternoon was a strangely unemotional experience in a country and city that prides itself on stopping everything for the national team.

The streets surrounding the FFF in Copacabana were full of yellow clad fans heading in all directions. Since it was Sunday afternoon, the Avenida Atlântica was closed to cars. On the sidewalks where there would have normally been camelôs (vendors) selling hats and shirts and beer and food, there were cops making sure that no commerce outside the realm of FIFA was occurring. The sterilization of the area surrounding the FFF was stunning. That public employees were directed to liberate public space for AmBev to sell beer at twice the price of informal vendors made me thirsty.
The line into the FFF was long. Hundreds of security guards regulated the waves of fans who passed through the various checkpoints. No one was concerned about the rules that prohibit the wearing of bathing suits into the FFF. However, inside the FFF, there were no musical instruments, no drums, no vuvuzelas (thank God). It would have been difficult to hear the crowd above the pounding bass of the booty beats coming from the gigantic stage. As the FFF filled, people passed out on the sand, hundreds lined up to get their beers and dancing started to take over the crowd. There was a definitive party atmosphere, ripe with anticipation. There were no songs about the national team, no syncopated “Brasil, Brasil, Brasil” chants, just people at a stage on the beach, dancing about with the people they came with.
The journalists were able to hang out in the shade of some palm trees in relative comfort, while the majority of the crowd baked in the afternoon sun. The VIPs in the Coca-Cola and Itaú boxes danced with the pretty lads that were there to lead them though some dance steps. In the Hyundai tent, young couples circulated around the cars. Two hundred people waited in line to get the Sony 3D experience. On the sand in front of the stage, people danced until the party was interrupted to watch a video game simulation (FIFA 2010, of course) of the Brazil versus Ivory Coast game, replete with live commentary. This is the spectacularization of the banal.
Thirsty, I went to get some beer and was shocked to see that it came out of a can and into a plastic cup. There were 18,000 people in the FFF. That’s a lot of cans. The maxim of the mega-event seems to be “maximize consumption.” I went back for more just to be sure. New can, new cup. Delicious.
I have catalogued for some time why I am not a fan of the Seleção Brasileira. I can’t take the smug satisfaction, the religious proselytizing mixed with crass commercialism, the corruption of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), the sense that winning the World Cup is an inalienable Brazilian right combined with a kind of dispassionate consumption of the spectacle.
Then there’s Kaká, Dunga, Robinho, Lúcio, Luis Fabiano and Dani Alves with their pinched expressions, their petulant characters, their mercenary attitudes, their futebol de resultados, their crass commercialism.
Brazil is not playing well. Kaká is putting in especially poor performances. The first five times the unholy warrior touched the ball, he lost it. In the sixth minute, he was dispossessed twice. It happened again in the 11th, 14th and 21st minutes.
The game was ugly, not at all helped by Ivory Coast’s lack of interest in football and Drogba’s total lack of movement. I watched the game with my dad, who knows a thing or two about football, and he commented, “It’s like watching an MLS game.” Ouch. The crowd was quiet. No songs, no noise, no chants, nothing.
When Ivory Coast missed a key tackle and the ball popped up at Kaká’s feet, he slotted through from Luis Fabiano who could barely miss. 1-0. The goal came out of nothing, a mistake, a fortunate bounce. The crowd exploded, someone threw beer all over me and then nothing happened until half time, when nothing much more happened. A terrible half of football in a crowd of 17,000 atomized individuals.
Luis Fabiano’s second goal was as unbelievable as it was illegal. The short clip of the French referee running back to midfield with Fabiano, asking if it was a handball, laughing and then patting his FIFA badge, launched a thousand conspiracy theories in my mind: There is much talk about Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the CBF, running against Blatter for the FIFA presidency next time around. Could it be that FIFA is giving a few presents to the Brazilians? Could it be that Ivory Coast was paid to let Brazil walk over them? How can two handballs in two seconds be missed by two referees? Why was there laughter in missing the call? With Brazil playing so poorly, has FIFA agreed to let them through to the next round?
If the second goal came out of nothing, the third goal made me think that the fix really was in. The Ivorian right back allowed Kaká to get to the line easily, when even slight pressure on his holiness would have complicated the cross. Elano flew into the middle of the box unmarked, 3-0. The goal came out of weak defending as much as attacking buildup and put the game out of reach. Where was the Ivory Coast team that took the game to Portugal? Why was Drogba so sleepy?
The Ivorian reaction to their 3-0 deficit (perhaps annoyed that their federation had sold the game?) was to start kicking the snot out of everyone and everything (and the Brazilians under Dunga are just as likely to do the same thing under similar circumstances).
Dunga should be blamed as much as Kaká for the latter’s sending off. Knowing that the key player to Brazilian success in the tournament is injured and off-form, why not take him off with a 3-0 lead? Kaká got involved in some scuffles, drew a yellow, and then threw an elbow - a well deserved explusion.
From there Dunga blew a gasket, screaming ladrãoladrão (thief, thief) at the French referee. In the post-match press conference, Dunga tore into some journalists calling them “pieces of shit” among other niceties. FIFA decided not to take action against him.
Kaká, roundly criticized for his petulance, had a go at the son of the polemical journalist Juca Kufuri. Kaká claimed he was the target of journalistic persecution because he is a follower of Jesus Christ. Kaká, persecuted? Jaysus Christ! Every time someone clicks on the FIFA website to watch game highlights (which are all exactly 2:12 long, somehow), they see Kaká shooting a ball at some ostensibly African goal. I feel persecuted by Kaká! This guy is THE face of FIFA and he’s bitching about being persecuted? Fala serio.
I think Kaká’s sending-off was intentional so he could rest his injured groin before the second round.
Brazil only played about 10 minutes of football against Ivory Coast, finally getting into a rhythm that resembled Brazil in the 32nd minute of the second half. The defense lost concentration late, allowing Drogba to do something other than walk around carrying his limp arm.
Watching a game with thousands of Brazilians is not particularly exciting. The Brazilians admit this. There is only one song with one line, repeated halfheartedly. With so much of the national consciousness wrapped up in the national team, I was expecting more.
I have been asked innumerable times if I have ever spent a World Cup in Brazil, a negative answer followed by quick guarantee that there is nothing like it. After watching Brazil versus Ivory Coast, I’m pretty sure there is.

17 June 2010

Argentina x Korea

The irony of the name Soccer City is probably lost on FIFA. From the air, the stadium looks to be surrounded by nothing, a world apart, a huge bowl of money, a colorful tip jar sitting in isolation from the dichotomous reality of Johannesburg.  FIFA is an increasingly savage and rapacious beast, gnashing their teeth at the slightest provocation. During the Holland x Denmark match, twenty female Dutch fans were forcibly removed from the stadium because they were suspected of engaging in some kind of guerrilla marketing campaign, when in reality they were just trying to have some fun.  

Here in Brasil, the 2014 World Cup Local Organizing Committee, run by the mind-numbingly corrupt president of the Brasilian Football Federation (CBF) has decided that the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo will not be used in the 2014 World Cup. The reasons were clear enough for anyone who has ever tried to go to a game there, but the final excuse was that São Paulo F.C. and the city couldn’t find a financing package for a project that had exploded from an initial estimate of R$136 million to R$630 million. The transportation and tourist infrastructures of São Paulo are in no condition to receive the Shiner Circus, much less the World Cup. The decision to exclude the Morubi could be a sign that logic is starting to enter the thinking of the 2014 LOC.

Argentina x Korea this morning had me up at 7am boiling water for mate and heating up some empanadas for the 8:30 kickoff.  Argentina were dominant but Korea were strangely slow and didn’t look to impose themselves on the game at all. This World Cup has been very strange in that regard. There are a few teams that it is impossible to try to play football against. If you try to play attacking football against Spain, Holland, Argentina, Germany, a loss is guaranteed. The best that Korea could hope for was a draw and they set out their stall to defend like the goal was the 38th parallel, but Di Maria and Tevez used the space that Messi vacated and picked apart the Korean back line.

Messi was dropping into deep midfield positions to pick up the ball. In the absence of the injured J.S. Veron, Messi and Rodriguez provided the incisive passes to Di Maria and Tevez and Higuain. The latter was probably the worst player on the field for Argentina yet he ended up with a hat-trick. In the first fifteen minutes of the game, Higuain fell over when trying to control the ball and then blasted fifteen yards over inside the box.  His first goal (32nd minute) was abetted by the Korean keeper, the second he was offside (and the easiest goal of his life), and the third was more due to the brilliant passing of Messi and Agüero. Higuain should have had six. The bad news (for Argentina) about the hat-trick is that it hides Higuain’s poor overall performance and means that Milito will not see the field.

The good news for Argentina was Di Maria’s first half performance, the loss of the Messidependencia of the Nigeria game, the improved organization of the midfield, Gutierrez’s improvement at right back (though he will miss the Greece game through card accumulation), and the massive improvement over the performance against Nigeria.

The bad news:  a very worrying injury to center-back Samuel, Di Maria’s disappearance in the second half, DeMichelis total lack of concentration as the first half was coming to a close, gifting the Koreans a goal. Also bad: Maradona’s inabilty to make tactical changes in response to changed tactics from the opposing manager. Korea were able to impose themselves much more in the second half and were very close to an equalizer on two occasions. Maradona was too slow to bring on Agüero, but when he did they scored two goals in ten minutes.
The Argentina commentators on DirecTv are brilliant, so much more pleasant than the burros at OGlobo. The final words of the game: Señores e Señoras, Argentina es candidato al título.


13 June 2010

FIFA Fan Fest (FFF), Rio de Janeiro

I went to the Rio de Janeiro FFF for the opening days of the Cup. The experience confirmed my long standing opinion that everything FIFA touches turns to shite.

FIFA, the Rio Prefeitura and D+ Produções have turned the public space of the beach into a place of individual consumption and social distinction through contrived territorialization. There are separate entrances for VIPs, who are entitled to entry into the “luxury boxes”. Of the 20,000 spectators permitted into the Fan Fest, 850 can hobnob with executives from Coca-Cola, Itaú, Soy, AmBev, Hyundai, and Emirates. Thus, 4.25% of the Fan Festing population can sit in a chair, or duck into luxury if it rains.

For those 850 people, there are 16 bathrooms, or one for every 53 people. For the 19,150 others, there are 150 bathrooms, one for every 128 people.

There are 200 private security guards working every day, all day. There are also 12 security cameras and an operations center. The area surrounding the FFF is militarized, but “light”, kind of like drinking a Coke Zero.
The following are not permitted on the beach: plastic bottles, cans, food, musical instruments and flags, bathing suits, people without shirts or with school uniforms. Choose your expletive. If you haven’t worked yourself into a fine lather by now, “entry will not be allowed to groups wearing clothes or objects advertising companies competing with those licensed by FIFA.” Que porra essa?

To enter the FFF, you have to show some kind of government sourced identification. Then you pass a pat down, then a bag search, then a metal detector. Then someone gives you a wrist band. Then you have to have your wrist band scanned. One of my friends was wrongly sent away because she had a camera! The FFF has taken up all of the parking along the Avenida Atlântica for the VIPs. The only mention of public transport in the FIFA documents is the Metrô, nothing about bus lines.

They’ve got a big screen, so what? The sound is so loud that you can’t get very close to it, so you might as well be at home or in a bar. At half-time, the speakers crank up to an ear splitting decibel, literally driving the fans away from the screen towards the consumption zone. There, you can find the “Sony 3D video experience” where a numbed crowd awaits to be fed even more visual stimulae.  There's also AmBev beer (a barely swallowable R$4), and where there was once open sands has turned into the terra de ninguém. There’s nowhere to sit or congregate that isn’t on the sand in front of the screen. No one brought chairs in, though apparently they aren’t prohibited. 

The experience of a Brasil game at the Fan Fest will be, hopefully, radically different. The current level of interest  is confirming Juca Kufuri's assessment in this month's Brazilian edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, that "Brasil não é o pais de futebol."
 I have yet to go to one of the free shows that are part of the FFF, I imagine it's pretty cool. There's a show every night during the Cup, with some pretty big names, whatever that means. In fact, spending a whole day at the Fan Fest will be a fun adventure that I am looking to undertake with my dad this coming week. 

For those following the World Cup on a tactical level, www.zonalmarking.net is an indespensable resource. 

11 June 2010

cada quatro em quatro anos...

It's the night before the World Cup and I can't sleep. These four weeks, these sixty-four games, this World Cup will define the rest of my life, in one way or another. The life cycle of football fans is linked to seasons, temporadas, campeonatos, fixtures, and World Cups. I frequently count backwards in four year increments to 1930. Uruguay. Monumental. Despite the horrors of producing and hosting the World Cup and all of the criminally banal acts of intimidation, corruption, and authoritariansm that accompany these thrity days, there is something irresistable about the World Cup.

11:00, Brasilia time, Mexico vs. South Africa. Where will you be?  I love to hate Mexico. It wasn't always that way. I used to like Mexico.  But when the US started beating them regularly, El Tri turned into a swarthy group of petulant punks, kicking and crying their way to defeat. The Yanks were, and are, a better side. Not as creative or tricky, but much more mens sano em corpore sano.

During qualifying, Mexico did well to get rid of the ineffectual Swede Ericksson, now the manager of the Ivory Coast. They recalled former coach Javier Aguirre, who has El Tri playing like El Tri. Mexcio are fun to watch. They pass the ball beautifully and have players with real techincal gifts. This generation of youthful attacking players (Dos Santos, Guardardo, Torres, Vela, Franco) are all in the top European leagues. And even though C. Blanco has headed so many balls that he's lost his neck, having your talismanic triker named after the last Aztec emperor is cool. So, arriba Mexico?

The Bafana Bafana will be performing under more pressure than the Mexicans. It's hard to know what to expect from them, other than an incredibly high work rate. I think they'll be fortunate to get a draw, probably with a little help from the referee. It's hard not to sympathize with them, but perhaps best to lose early to get started with the decades-long hangover.

Prediction: RSA 2 x MEX 2

15:30, Uruguay vs. France. Les Bleus are tout enigmatique that it's impossible to say what they're going to do. Coach Dominech doesn't really seem to have a clue and the players are openly confused. France might just be a bunch of well-fed eurostars who can't be bothered to fight their way into the second round. I don't envision a coherent performance, but if three or four players get into sync they will score more than they concede.

Uruguay is no fun to play against, and only slightly more enjoyable to watch. They will kick and pull and counter and run until they have to change feet or get sent off. Diego Forlan is a world-class striker, capable of turning a sleepy draw into a win.

Prediction: URU 2 FRA 1

09 June 2010

A taxa triplica dos estádios. Pensa nisso quando olhando a Copa.

O cidadão paga três vezes para suportar estádios construídos com dinheiro publico.

Na primeira estância, a cidade inteira paga e sofre, desviando dinheiro para sua construção. O que vai aos estádios não vai às escolas, saúde, meio-ambiente, transporte público.  No caso da Copa do Mundo 2010, além de R$3,9 bilhões em nove cidades foram tirados. No caso da Copa do Mundo do 2014, o custo antes de começar as obras é além de R$6 bilhões. Se o orçamento quadriplicar (como o Pan 2007), seriam R$24 bilhões. Ou seja, R$2 bilhões por estádio.

Na segunda instância, @ torcedor@  precisará pagar custos elevados para assistir os jogos. A entrada do Brasileirão 2015 terá que atingir RS$40, e temos que lotar as arquibancadas. O publico médio de Brasileirão 2009 foi 17.601. A meio entrada por um jogo bonito no Maracanã, Junho 2010, foi R$19.  Então, de onde vem mais 17.000 fãs dispostos pagar o dobro para tornar o projeto viável? É uma divida prevista. Essa situação já se espalhou na África do Sul.

Na terceira instância, o dono do estádio precisa pagar os custos de manutenção. Se um órgão publica for o dono, o povo pagará. No caso de Engenhão, a manutenção é R$450.000 por mês. O Botafogo tem que assumir essa carga de aqui há dois anos, quando a garantia expirasse. O clube Glorioso sobreviveria sem ajuda pública? As cidades da África do Sul não terão como manter esses estádios gigantescos e custosos. No Portugal estão falando já em demolir alguns estádios da Eurocopa 2004.

A cidade também sofre dos impactos urbanísticos e ambientais. O discurso de sustentabilidade, construção verde, e tal, não servem para nada se os espaços e o entorno dos estádios não se inter-relacionam com a cidade. E como é possível melhor o meio-ambiente quando você está aumentando consumo? O caso de Johanesburgo mostra que até as novas linhas de transporte estão causando muitos mais problemas que estão solucionando. O seja, a solução é pelo curto prazo (e para a dona da festa), os problemas sempre estarão.

Os casos de estádios desastrosos não faltam. Montreal, Wembeley, Atenas, Vancouver,  o Ninho do Pássaro, o Pan.  O que é surpreendente é que continuamos construindo-os do mesmo jeito. Se valesse o investimento, em concordância com lógica econômica, o capital (cada vez mais livre) teria chegado já.  Mas esse não aconteceu na África do Sul, nem aconteceria no Brasil. Os estádios deles estão prontos, vamos lá.

De um ponto frio, os dez estádios são bonitãos, de alta qualidade. Pode passar horas investigando a arquitetura, técnicas, materiais, mão de obra. As tecnologias de iluminação, produção, transmissão são fascinantes e quase inacreditáveis. Posso receber um vídeo de um gol feito por um Norte Koreano em África do Sul no meu celular no Rio de Janeiro, menos de um segundo depois de acontecer. É.

O estádio é obra da arte, teatro, cenário, lugar de encontro, palco da festa, face da nação.  Produz, reflete, e transforma a sociedade. Se não pensasse nos problemas, se você acredita, se você já esta salvado das necessidades cotidianas humanas, pode ate se ajoelhar e rezar na direção dos estádios da Copa. O Kaká, o seu Coca Cola, o seu Nike, o seu CBF, e a puta que te pariu estão lá liderando o choro. Mas também está lá seu Zé Ninguém Vuvuzela quem trabalhou no estádio e tem orgulho no seu produto. Também estão o pai, a mae, o filho, a filha, o primo, a vovozinha, e o povo africano (com certas limitações, obvio).  A Copa vai deixar muito além de que podemos imaginar. Mas é verdade que os donos da bola, os donos de tudo, arrumaram uma festa de tamanho global com o dinheiro de povo. Sua festa muda de lugar cada quatro em quatro anos, e o dinheiro sempre vai à mesma direção, mas as memórias da Copa são de todos nos. Estar lá será um privilégio.  

Enquanto eu sempre falo sobre o lado negativo de tudo que vejo no mundo esportivo (é porque não), eu gostaria ir a Copa, ir aos estádios. Gostaria saber o volume, a textura, o efeito na paisagem desses estádios. Eu gostaria ver, ao vivo, os maiores craques do mundo jogando para entrar na historia, na memória global. Eu gostaria encontrar com gente de tudo o mundo, conhecer África da Sul, os sul-africanos.O futebol é emocionante, é coletividade, é representação, é encontro, é o mundo.

A Copa faz das tripas coração. Dá para se perder num jogo de futebol.  Dá para se emocionar, chorar, gritar, sacanear, festejar, deprimir, ficar fora de lugar e tempo. Dá para ver todos os jogos da Copa. Dá para fazer porra nenhuma por um mês. Mas é preciso entender que é a Copa é muito além do o que acontece durante 90 minutos de espetáculo televisual.  

07 June 2010

Kaká – the unholy warrior

The key to Brazilian success in the World Cup is Kaká. Dunga’s system is predicated on absorbing pressure and counter-attacking. I’ve been making the metaphorical connection between Dunga’s tactical scheme (destructive creativity) and Lula’s embrace of free-market capitalism with its waves of creative destruction.  Kaká, as the team’s major star, is an embodiment of Brasil, the seleção, and just about everything that is wrong with modern football.

Kaká is the perfect embodiment of capital, religion, and patriotism. His naked and shameless commercialism was on display during a press conference the other day when he started kissing the Adidas Jabulani world cup ball. The ball has come under fierce criticism from nearly everyone except those who Adidas is paying to make out with it for the international press corps. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, Kaká wears Adidas boots, Kaká makes money for Adidas, Adidas loves Kaká, and Kaká loves Adidas so much that for his next trick he is going to inflate the Jabulani without a needle.

Hands in the air, lips moving, eyes rolled back in the head? A crack addict getting arrested? No, Kaká in his pregame ritual. Kaká is so pentacostal he’s hexacostal, wants to be a pastor after playing. I’ve got no problem with that, but the Igreja Renascer em Cristo to which Kaká belongs is much more than a church, it is a money making machine that has turned into a political party, hiding its naked worldly ambitions behind a veil of sanctimonious righteousness that keeps bringing me back to the idea of throwing a basket full of snakes in the locker room.

It’s difficult to imagine a country where national identity is more involved with the fate of the national team than Brasil. The streets are decorated green and yellow, the stores are running out of televisions, people are planning weeks in advance for the first round games, nearly every conversation I overhear on the street, metro, bus, small gatherings, parties, is about the Seleção. Kaká is the most well-known Brazilian player (outside of Brazil) and as the fate of Dunga’s team depends on the former world player of the year he has become an ever more important figure in the national consciousness. Unfortunately for Brazil, this pretty boy from São Paulo doesn’t know how to dance (and is out of form and a bit injured besides) and that is going to mean a quarterfinal exit for the Seleção Brasileira.

The World Cup in Brazil is a strange mix of popular festival, nationalistic chest pounding, nostalgia, hopeful anticipation, and resignation. I have yet to meet a Brazilian that does not have an opinion about the World Cup, or that is planning on doing something other than watch Brazil play. There is not much love lost for Dunga’s side here and even though they are ranked number one in the world and a heavy favorite to make it through to the final, many people are secretly hoping that they will lose with dignity, so as to not valorize the futebol de resultados that defines the modern game (political and financial gain at the expense of popular culture and spaces, increase in social discipline via blind devotion to god and economies of scale, the cold abandonment of a perceived national style).

04 June 2010

Cade a licitação pelo Maracanã?

The project detailing the planned reforms for the Maracanã were finally made public this week. R$ 720 million. Obviously, the final cost will be much higher as the demand for concrete, steel, and other stadium parts are not going to maintain the same price over the next three years. Adding the reforms undertaken for the 2007 Pan American games, R$450, we get a stadium project worth R$ 1,170 billion. Billion!

After searching the Rio de Janeiro state government websites (http://www.turismoesporte.rj.gov.br/licitacoes.asp and http://www.governo.rj.gov.br), I was not able to find any details for the project. According to OGlobo the project is going to go to the lowest bidder, but, really, if they are so committed to spending so much money, why not go with the most competent. I could do this reform with my graduate students for about R$500,000. 

I would love to explain what the plans for the stadium are, but the black box of SUDERJ is inside the black box of the Tourism and Sport ministry, which is inside the black box of the State Government, which is inside the black box of CBF, inside the black box of FIFA. In short, a brilliantly complex shell game carried out with billions in public money. 

In other news, Brasil were shockingly bad vs. Zimbabwe the other day. Kaka was truly awful and Robinho and Luis Fabiano kept running into the same spaces. Brazil have the talent to open up any defense with one brilliant pass and quick finish, as they did for their second goal, but this team is not enjoyable to watch. I have talked with dozens of Brazilians who are actively looking for another team to support, many of them actually hoping that  Argentina win the cup. 

For those who have more than a passing interest in what has happened in order to produce the 2010 World Cup and the lecacy of destruction, social exclusion, environmental devastation, murder, greed, avarice, etc. that has defined the South African experience, the book Development and Dreams can be found here.

01 June 2010

Eu não torço pelo Brasil

Every day I pick up the paper I find another reason not to like the Brazilian National Team.

Today’s cover of the sports section is a child soldier standing with a wooden rifle in a stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. The CBF (Corrupto Bosta Fodido) is collecting US$1.8 million for tomorrow’s game, which will no doubt feature Ricardo Teixeira sitting next to Roberto Mugabe in the vip section. Brining the Brazilians to Harare will help to legitimate Mugabe’s twisted regime while directing a chunk of money to the pockets of the CBF. The only critical analysis undertaken by OGlobo was the headline “In  Zimbabwe, we’re the circus: The population of Harare, capital of this African country, one of the poorest in the world, sees this game with the Seleção as a miracle, while the dictator Mugabe in power for thirty years, uses the game to legitimate his regime.” E daí, porra?

Lula. My god, man, grow up. He used his weekly radio address yesterday to ask Brazilians to support the team, which no one likes because Dunga’s team is basically a footballing expression of the neo-liberal economic approach of the PT. The only creativity comes out of destruction and the benefits of winning with “futebol de resultados” accrue to the politicians and thieves at the CBF.

Pentecostals, the team is full of them. Why does every other sentence have to have “se deus quiser” in it (if god wants, or the Brazilian version of Inshallah). God doesn’t give two shites about football, nor did, does, or will he (in this case) help but the ball in the back of the ol’onion bag . No self-respecting Christian would play for the CBF, knowing that his salary is paid for with the blood of the child soldiers defending Mugabe’s regime.  I know that it’s human nature to throw your hands up in the air in celebration, but palms in the air and a prolonged skyward gaze make me want to throw a basket full of snakes into the dressing room to really test the faith. 

Corrupto. Burro. Formação de quadrilha. CBF.
Corprófilos. Besuntões. Fariseus. CBF.
Cabungueiro. Biriteiro. Flexíloquo. CBF.
Capeta. Bigorrilha.Filaucioso. CBF.

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