20 July 2010

Putting the pieces together, building the Olympic city

Today’s headline in OGlobo: government gives R$ 20 billion (US$11.2 billion) for the 2014 World Cup. This astronomical sum is divided between airports (R$5.6 b), ports (R$740 m), hotels (R$ 1.8 b), stadiums (R$4.8 b), and urban mobility (R$7.8 b). These are most of the essential pieces of hosting a mega-event. This R$20 billion does not include investment from state and municipal governments, which, along with the inevitable cost overruns will push limits of my solar powered calculator. If only they would hurry up with the damming of the Xingú!

On page 15 of today’s OGlobo (I do actually get news from other sources, but this is the morning ritual), three more indications that things are moving quickly in Rio:
 1) There is a proposal to the Plano Director (Master Plan) of Rio that will allow for the privatization of public spaces, ala the Business Investment Districts that Giuliani installed in NYC in the 1990s.

2) The Port of Rio will receive R$1.6 billion in public investment through 2014. This money is separate from and in addition to the R$ 20 billion announced on the front page.

3) The Olympic project will forgive any and all debts accrued by Rio’s Dock Company (Companhia das Docas) in order to facilitate the transfer of real estate to private investors. This debt remission needs to be added to the public financing as well, but no one knows just how much is owed by the Companhia das Docas to the federal government.

There are complex calculations that need to be done in order to arrive at an estimated value for the planned investments. One example is the R$3.5 billion that is being redirected from the Fundo de Garantia por Tempo de Serviço (Gauranteed Fund for Time Served, a public pension fund) for the demolition of  one stretch of the Elevado de Perimetral. This demolition is part of the Rio city government’s Porto Maravilha project. This should be considered a public investment but it is unclear who is going to receive the money, who will direct the project, and how the government intends to track the spending.

At the same time that Lula is throwing as much money as possible at mega-events, he “fears the errors of the 2007 Pan American Games” (p. 6 in the Sports section). The Pan 2007 was ten times over budget and left no “urban legacy” for the city. Part of the problem during the Pan was that no one was clearly responsible for the work being done or the cost overruns, so the government ended up with the tab. The Olympics are an order of magnitude greater than the Pan and the same people are in charge, with modifications that will make the money trail even harder to follow. The World Cup is not as financially demanding, but all the same, Lula affirmed that the federal government will create conditions for World Cup host cities to “increase their debt capacity” so that they can restructure urban space in order to host FIFA’s private party.

There is a government website dedicated to the control of public spending on the Olympics, but since it was launched at the end of 2009, it has not changed in the slightest and is perpetually under construction. Last month, Lula created the APO (Public Olympic Authority) as well as the Empresa Brasileira de Legado Esportivo S.A. - BRASIL 2016 (Brazilian Company for Sporting Legacy, Inc), which will do a million different things in addition to receiving all of the money from the government directed at the Olympics (R$30 billion). The creation of two parallel government institutions to direct the 2016 Olympic Project is going to cause some serious confusion. Making sense of where and how the money goes in and where and how it comes out is going to make my head hurt for the next decade.

In the coming months I will be attempting to put all of these pieces together into some kind of coherent framework and welcome all comments and connections. As I see it, the construction of the Olympic City and World Cup nation involves the following elements, many of which are overlapping:
1)      City image and branding
2)      Political hegemony (in Brazil's case)
3)      Financing
a.       Federal, state, local
b.      Public Private Partnerships
c.       Transparency, corruption, & accountability
4)      Parallel government structures
a.       CBF / LOC 2014
b.      COI / LOC 2016
c.       APO
d.      BRASIL 2016
5)      Alteration of customs and immigration laws
6)      Environmental projects
7)      Re-structuring of urban space
a.       Urban “renewal” projects
b.      Real-estate speculation
c.       Changes to zoning laws
d.      Direct and indirect population resettlement
e.      Privatization of public space (BIDs)
f.        Façade painting
8)      Modification of transportation networks (international, regional, local)
a.       Airports
b.      Train
c.       Metro
d.      Bus
e.      Car
w.  Ferry
z.   Bicycle?
9)      Modernization / Upgrade of communication networks
10)   Production of “global” cultural spaces
a.       Museums
b.      Consumer culture
c.       Commodification of locality
d.      Tour guide and taxi driver language training
11)   Tourist accommodation
12)   Athlete, referee, and media accommodation
13)   Security
14)   Sport installations
15) Global Crime Networks (GCNs)
16) Corruption, Conflict of Interest, Transparency

Nossa senhora! A gente tem muito trabalho pra frente…


14 July 2010

Trem Bala Perdida

The news about the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics continues to confuse, amaze, anger, and depress. 

Today's OGlobo ran the headline: Lula tells FIFA 'we're not a bunch of idiots'. Unfortunately, this observation was not confirmed by reading about the launching of the R$33.1 billion high speed train project that is intended to link Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Campinas. As I have mentioned before, there is NO PASSENGER TRAIN SERVICE between these cities, so an entirely new rail system will have to be created. Lula wants this to be completed before the Olympics, though he has delayed the public bidding on the project until 10 days before he leaves office. His solution: "It's really sunny here, if you wanted you could have three shifts working seven days a week." Yes, Senhor Presidente, you could. R$ R$ R$ R$ R$ R$. Ca-ching! The minister of the Casa Civil (responsible for federal construction projects) was asked why the government wanted to build the train: "Because we can. Because we're bold. It's a sign of Brazil's maturation, as a country that is in a period of growth." Spending tens of billions on a high speed train linking the wealthiest cities in the country because you can, is not only a sign of immaturity and insecurity, but is idiotic and irresponsible. 

Yesterday, p.21 of the Economy section: "Real Estate prices in Rio rise 76% and experts see new heights coming." There is a difference in the rise in prices around the city, with Ipanema registering the most growth. But the pattern is clear, from now until after the Olympics there is only going to be an increase in housing prices in what is already one of the most expensive cities in the Americas. OGlobo attributes the astronomical boom in the real estate sector to easy credit, higher wages, the installation of the Police Pacification Units (UPPs) in the Zona Sul, and the coming mega-events. The segment that is seeing the most hyper-valorization is the middle and lower middle class sectors. If you were thinking of buying a place in Rio, you're about a year late. 

In summary: all of the stadiums are behind schedule (and are going to be very expensive white elephants), the airports are not equipped to handle any increase in demand, there is no efficient inter-urban transport so the government wants to build a high speed train, the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) is a closed and corrupt institution and will direct the production of the World Cup, the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) is a closed and corrupt institution and will direct the R$30 billion Olympics through a complex shell game (which involves vague and temporary institutions like the Public Olympic Authority and the Olympic Legacy Company), the same people and companies that went ten times over budget and left no legacy for the 2007 Pan American Games are poised to repeat their sleight of hand, real estate prices are going through the roof, the state government is occupying favelas with shock troops which has increased real estate values by 400% and increased crime in other parts of the city, there are plans to totally reform the Zona Portuaria into something resembling Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires or South Street Seaport in Manhattan despite the fact that 40,000 people live there, there are massive government subsidies to build hotels, museums, and absurd environmental and cultural attractions, new transportation lines will link the international airport with the Olympic Zones and leave the rest of the city to find a way to get to work, the national government just passed a law REDUCING the need for transparent spending on the World Cup and Olympics, no government official wants to begin work until after the elections in November, and the contracts signed by three levels of government with FIFA and the IOC have become more inviolable than the social contract of a democracy. 

These projects will change the urban and social fabrics of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil for generations to come. Much more public participation and coordinated planning should be undertaken in their implementation. Closing one's eyes and hoping for the best is not a solution, unless you happen to own real-estate in a part of town that is already well-served by public transportation and environmental amenities. Money has never flowed more freely from Brasilia to Rio de Janeiro and those with vested interests are far from idiotic but work tirelessly to capture as much wealth as possible. The next post will be positive, but it may take some digging. 

13 July 2010

Looking back, looking forward, going nowhere

The 2010 World Cup is history. Spain were deserving winners over a preternaturally violent Dutch side that should have been sent to Robben Island for a week of rock breaking. The juxtaposition of the villainous anti-football of Van Bommel and De Jong to the heroic jogo bonito of Xavi and Iniesta gave Spain well-deserved moral and sporting triumphs.

By most popular accounts, the 2010 tournament was a success: relatively safe streets, beautiful stadiums, decent organization, and incredible hospitality on the part of South Africans. FIFA agrees: the South Africans really were wonderful hosts, spending public money freely so that the Swiss-based monolith could rake in a record profit. It won’t take long for FIFA to count their US$3.3 billion in revenues (for the month); it will take South Africa many decades to pay off the party. The tourists have gone; the hotels, stadiums, airports, communications facilities, transportation lines, cultural attractions, and debt remain.

In order to make sense of what has happened in South Africa one has to get rid of the idea of the 2010 World Cup as a month long football tournament. A mega-event is not an “event” but a multi-year process that has residual effects that most people can’t, don’t want to, or refuse to acknowledge. In reading the responses to a recent article that draws attention to Brazil’s poor state of preparedness for the 2014 World Cup, one is struck by the degree of ignorance, short-sightedness, and willful disregard about the way the World Cup functions in the local context. While we distract ourselves about notions of “Fair Play” and contribution to cultures of deceit (i.e. the Suarez handball against Ghana), the dirtiest, cheating-est, most dishonest game is in the very production of the World Cup itself – where the laws that govern society are changed, violated, and ignored so that “we” can consume the inherent drama of sport in safety and comfort.

     1)   FIFA is a corrupt institution of organized criminals that bullies national and local governments into financing a private party. FIFA is very explicit about the private nature of the event. Everything within an x-kilometer radius of a World Cup stadium is FIFA’s private domain: a sanitized and securitized world of private accumulation where only certain signs, symbols, and behaviors are permitted. Worse, this FIFA-world is controlled by public and private security forces that act to ensure the smooth production of a global spectacle.

     2)     The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) has little or no public accountability even though they receive and direct all public funding for the event. This closed organization is neither elected nor subject to public regulatory agencies. In South Africa, one of the 23 SA2010 LOC  members was shot dead outside his home on his way to a whistle-blowing deposition. Once the event is over the LOC will dissolve, forever eliminating the possibility of legal action or public accountability.
      Brazil 2014 is a story of corruption foretold. The Brazilian LOC only has 6 members. For the first time in the history of the event the head of the national football federation (Ricardo Teixeira) will head the LOC. His daughter is the Secretary-general. Her grandfather is João Havelange, president of FIFA from 1974-1998. 

     3) Transportation infrastructures are constructed with only short term mobility and use in mind. FIFA does not employ urban planners. A LOC does not hold public meetings. In Johannesburg, for example, the construction of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lines linking the tourist zones with the stadium had two effects. One, it eliminated employment for thousands of informal and formal transportation providers, who later opened fire on the BRT. Secondly, the BRT will be almost completely unused after the World Cup, draining public coffers to maintain the linkages between the five star hotels and the Ellis Park Coca Cola Park Stadium (itself a totally unnecessary construction).

In Rio de Janeiro, the construction of BRTs linking the Zona Sul and the International Airport with the Olympic Zone in Barra de Tijuca is underway. There is also much talk of a bullet train linking Campinas-São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro (at a cost of R$45 billion). Presently, there is no passenger train service at all! Fala serio.

     4)   Most World Cup stadiums are isolated from the urban and cultural contexts, have no programmed post-cup use, and are very expensive to maintain. The anticipated maintenance costs for Soccer City are R1.5 million per month. That is R18 million a year (US$2.5 million) just to keep the thing standing. The average attendance at South African football games in 2009 was around 8,000. Who will pay to keep these stadiums standing?

In Brazil, the idea is that ticket prices are going to increase from an average of R$20 in 2010 to R$60 in 2014. This is seen as part of a necessary and inevitable process of “elitization” of Brazilian stadiums. There are no plans for multi-use stadiums. There are no plans to integrate stadiums into the urban fabric (partially as a result of FIFA’s requirement that there be one parking space for every 6 spectators which creates dead space around the stadiums). There are, in short, no plans that will make the stadiums anything but a perpetual drain on the public coffers.

     5)     While there are short –term employment benefits and increases in civil engineering projects (with corollary booms in commodities like concrete and steel), there is no evidence that mega-events bring economic benefits. While there is a boom in construction jobs, the haste to build the South African stadiums resulted in labor law violations, forceful strike breaking,  and the civil engineering companies responsible for the projects (at least in the South African case) brought in their skilled labor from abroad. Stadiums bring no medium to long-term economic gain anywhere in the world, much less in a country with 20% unemployment.

     6)     The restructuring of urban space and culture for tourism creates a dependency on a tourist economy. The current debt crisis in Greece can be traced, in part, to the massive borrowing for the Olympics plus the global financial meltdown that killed the tourist economy. This begs the question about why public funds are directed to hosting international tourists instead of providing basic necessities for the national population. 2010 World Cup spending equaled what is spent on public housing over a decade. Will more tourists arrive in South Africa? Maybe. Would they have arrived without the World Cup? Maybe. Will the South African housing and public health crises continue? Definitely.   

     7)     The way in which the world outside of the World Cup stadiums perceives and experiences the World Cup has become completely homogenized and controlled by the FIFA production crew. Everyone sees the same thing at more or less the same time in more or less the same way. From replays, to close-ups, to wide angle shots, FIFA controls the narrative. Granted, this narrative is delivered in HD with 36 cameras and super slo-mo, etc, etc, but what is presented to the world as reality is a simulacra of what is happening in the stadiums: an incomplete and fragmented narrative of events that only gives us limited insight into reality.

     8)      It is not only tele-spectators, but also live spectators that are crushed into a hegemonic, homogenous box. FIFA’s stadiums are basically the same. They all have to follow the same “manual”, meet the same “requirements”.  The worst example that comes to mind is the Maracanã. The architectural project submitted to FIFA in March was not approved because the architects did not take into account that the advertizing boards that surround the field for a FIFA World Cup (and occupy our field of vision for the 128 hours of football) are 30cm higher than those commonly used in Brazil. Therefore, the slope of the lower tier of stands had to be readjusted, which necessitated the complete revamping of the stadium project.

     9)     Is there any doubt that mega-events widen the gap between rich and poor? The South African government pail hundreds of millions in advertising to attract people, and then paid hundreds of millions more to control them once they arrived. The South African debt from the World Cup is roughly equivalent to FIFA profit.

    10)   If there is so much money to be spent on public works projects, why not do it anyway? (The event tends to unify coalitions that are usually at odds). By building on a massive scale for a month-long event, governments opt for a strategy of maximizing capital accumulation in the shortest possible time frame. That the public will continue to pay the bills for decades to come is not of much interest to the political power de jure as they will be remembered more for the successful hosting of the event than for the unfulfilled promises of economic and social development.

    11)   This table reflects the current state of the stadium projects for the 2014 World Cup. One year ago, the estimated cost for all of the stadiums was R$ 4,411,000,000. This has jumped by 31.6% - without actually building anything! Stadiums in Cuiaba and Manaus have begun to be demolished, but none of the remaining ten projects have begun.

Cidade-sede      Construção        R$xMilhões        Gestão       Atual (13.7.10)
Belo Horizonte
não contratada
edital publicada
Em duvida
na justiça
Licitação pendente
Porto Alegre
procurando dinheiro
Rio de Janeiro
não tem licitação
Contratada ; suspensa
São Paulo

São Paulo has no stadium project, as the Morumbi has been excluded. Rio de Janeiro has not yet published the Novo Maracanã project (to which we should add the R$430 million in reforms undertaken for the 2007 Pan American Games). Several other projects are held up in the courts. And…the national government just passed a law that will make it more, not less, difficult to track how public money is spent for the World Cup and Olympics.

    12) Mega-events as a model of social and economic development are inherently flawed. These events are promoted by local and national economic and political elites who erect autonomous agencies to direct billions from the public coffers. The restructuring of urban space for capital accumulation is exacerbated by the use of public and private security forces to ensure its unimpeded flow into the hands of multi-national corporations and international sport governing agencies. Once the “event” has passed, there is no public accountability, frequently nothing left in terms of a “legacy”, and massive sporting, transportation and tourist infrastructures that have little to no local context but need to be maintained with even more public money.

    13)  Is a mega-event completely horrible? No. Was the World Cup an unmitigated disaster? No. I nearly died from emotional overload on a number of occasions. Does a mega-event bring intangible benefits to the hosts? Yes. A mega-event is a global party during which a host city or nation is able to welcome the world. The emotions and drama of global sport are captivating and important and form part of our collective human consciousness (especially post-WWII). However, the form, function, processes, and lasting effects of the World Cup and Olympics are, on balance, terrible, nefarious, and destructive. The World Cup and Olympics need to be massively reconfigured, re-scaled, and re-thought, or they will continue to destroy environments, economies, communities, and lives around the globe. 

05 July 2010

Previewing Uruguay x Holland

There are 3,510,386 Uruguayans living in Uruguay. As with 21 of the 23 players on the Uruguayan roster, some three million more Uruguayans live and work outside of the República Oriental del Uruguay. Uruguay is nestled snugly between Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay is lovely.  It is fun to repeat "Uruguay". The Asociación Uruguaya de Fútbol (AUF) is bidding for the 2030 World Cup, which would mark the Cup’s centennial in the Estadio Centenário, originally named for the hundredth anniversary of Uruguayan independence.

In 1930, when Uruguay had 1,734,000 residents, they beat Argentina in the World Cup final. The Argentines burned Uruguayan businesses in Buenos Aires. In 1950, when Uruguay had wildly grown to 2,194,000, they beat Brazil in front of 200,000 suddenly silent cariocas. In 2010, Uruguay is the team with the second smallest national population in the tournament (Slovenia) and is one game away from the final. 

There has been much vilification of Luis Suarez, for denying Ghana a birth in the semi-finals by swatting the net-bound Jabulani with two hands. It was a crazy moment but tactically the right thing to do. Guarding the line, Suarez chose expulsion and an 80% chance of a goal to a 100% chance of a goal. If he hadn’t done that Uruguay were out. He did it and only he was out, and will get to play at least one more game.
 I’m not sure why his tactical decision makes him a cheater to some people. The rules were clear and correctly applied. Gyan had the chance to win the game in a way that almost never happens in soccer – a game ending spot-kick, in a historically laden situation - sending the only remaining African team to the first African semi-final in the first African World Cup. The pressure was too much and he missed, Suarez’ gamble paid off. (Gyan’s bravery in taking the second penalty was as stirring as his initial miss.) Here’s the question as put by Luis Fernando Verissimo in today’s OGlobo, “should a moral goal [Gyan’s] count more than a grave infraction that causes the perpetrator to be expelled?” That is to say, Suarez’ handball counted as much as a legal goal, as conditioned by the rules. Fair play, indeed. Maybe that’s what people don’t like about it.

For tomorrow, the most Uruguayan looking coach in Uruguayan history, Oscar Tabárez, will have some thinking to do as he fills out his team sheet. Captain Diego Lugano is doubtful, Suarez suspended, defenders Fucile and Godin are suspended and injured respectively. But there’s Diego Forlán, putting on a show as CR9, Rooney, Kaká, Messi couldn’t (one goal between the four of them). The key to Uruguayan success against the dour Dutch will be in absorbing pressure while remaining organized (a lon3-5-2 that turns to 5-3-1-1 on defense) and then hope that Forlán will be able to counter at pace, creating opportunities for others, and getting a few free kicks around the box to try his Jabulani luck. Two goals from Uruguay would be a miracle, but they’re here, have a hell of a footballing tradition, and anything is possible.

On the other side of the planet, seventeen million Dutch will be biking to their bars dressed in Oranje, hoping to see Die Oranje actually show up and play some voetbal. Unlike 16th century Indonesians, most people expected the Dutch to get this far. They have some of the best technical players in the world and cruised through qualifying. Yet in their five games they have scored nine goals, well below the tournament average (2.6). They have hit more long balls than any other team. They have not convinced. Against Brazil, they were TERRIBLE, unbearably predictable, monochromatic, and violent. It was an absolute disgrace what Marc Van Bommel was getting away with in midfield during the second half.

(To re-enforce my conspiracy theory #1 about the Brazil loss, I again quote Verissimo in OGlobo, “Julio César and Felipe Mello’s errors do not explain everything: where did the team that left us completely radiant at halftime disappear to? In what parallel world did they disappear to, what vague mystery swallowed them?)

Holland will likely stick to their 4-3-2-1 formation, which allows them relative flexibility in attack and defense. Even though Holland is a very technical team, their midfielders (other than Sneider, #6 in the Castrol Ranking) have not looked comfortable under pressure. In a system designed for ball circulation and player interchange, passing accuracy is key, so look for Uruguay to pressure and hassle in midfield as much as possible. Surprsingly, Holland (and Spain) have hit more long balls than any other teams in the Cup, so the idea of them being a short passing, technical team may be more imagination than reality.

 Arjen Robben’s (aka. Flopping Ninny) slicing and dicing from the right wing was shut down easily by Brazil with a few good kicks to the back of the leg and with solid collective defending, both Uruguayan specialties. Van Persie was doubtful, but looks like he will play up top where he has been isolated and disappointing. Kuyt looks slower in Oranje than in Liverpudlian red but he manages to cover about 10km a game which contributes to overall flow. Marc Van Bommel will be trying to stop Forlán from getting the ball but will have much more time and space on the ball than he did against Brazil. Wesley Snejider is in form and tricky. Uruguay will need to shut off his service and not let him operate between the fullback and midfield lines.

In summary, Uruguay need some luck to get to their third World Cup final. The injuries and suspensions may be too much for the garra charrua and Loco Abreu to overcome. Perhaps if there were more people to choose from they would have a chance. Holland will also be trying for their third final and they will need to put on a convincing display if we are to believe they have a chance against Spain or Germany. 

Prediction: Holland 3 x Uruguay 1. The Flopping Ninny wins a penalty in the second half.

03 July 2010

Germany 4 x Argentina 0

The last time Argentina were so convincingly beaten in the World Cup was when they suffered a 6-1 thrashing at the feet of Czechoslovakia in 1958. Argentina had refused to participate in the World Cups of 1938, 1950, and 1954. Their rude re-introduction to international football was a national embarrassment, the defeat figuring heavily in the national consciousness for decades. The utter thrashing that Maradona's side suffered today will never be forgotten and has permanently altered the historical trajectory of El Pibe de Oro.

Argentina never came together as a whole team during the reign of Don Diego. The attack had nothing to do with the defense and vice versa. His team selections were based as much on personality as capability, and those who didn't fit in with Diego's worldview (Riquelme, Camibasso, Zanetti) were dropped or refused to play for him. Their absences were cruical to today's result. There was no one to distribute the ball through the center of midfield as Mascherano was busy trying to catch Schweinsteiger. The initial dependence on Veron for creative attacking gave way to...nothing. Riquelme!

Otamendi had performed better than Gutierrez on at right back, but today, all four goals came from Germany's left flank, where Zanetti (captain of Inter Milan) would have shut down the same Germans he faced in the Champions League final. Otamendi caused the first foul, then was beaten on the goal after TWO MINUTES! The injury to Samuel didn't solidify an already shaky defense, but Heinze? Come on. Two of the goals resulted from his reckless tackling. Zanetti must have been chewing his own liver in disgust.

Even as they were getting taught a lesson in tactical (spatial) awareness, Argentina had chances. Higuain ruined almost all of them. By my count, there were seven times when he had the ball at his feet, going forward and either gave it away easily on a dribble, made the wrong pass, or was too slow in making a decision. Diego Milito must have been beside himself with frustration. Higuain may be the worst player in the history of the World Cup to score four goals. A shocking performance.

From a tactical perspective, Argentina never had a chance. The only way to restore some of the balance in midfield was to have Messi or Tevez (or both) retreat into midfield to relieve the overwhelmed Mascherano. Messi played as well as possible when there is someone else in your shorts, another person in your shirt, and two others on your shins. When he received the ball (sometimes 55 yards from goal), there was nowhere to go but into two rows of Germans. Diego Maradona is the only person capable of ruining Messi's genius.

As I was watching the game in relative isolation with an Argentina jacket on, the room began to fill with Brazilians. By the end, they were celebrating as much as if Brazil had been winning. I hung my head, and left the restaurant as quickly as possible to the chants of "Auf Weider Zehen!"

It will take some time for the dust to settle in Argentina. The Diego Experiment is hopefully over. The confidence of the albiceleste, and the public confidence in the AFA, must be wearing thin as the team has not won a senior-level international tournament since the Copa America in 1993. Fortunately for the Argentines, the less one wins and the more one suffers, the more valuable your passion becomes.

02 July 2010

Brasil 1 x Holanda 2

Brazil were brilliant for 53 minutes. Holland were terrible for 75. For about an hour, Brazil had constant midfield pressure, were recovering the ball with ease, winning the tactical battle, attacking with fluidity and pace. Kaká was playing well, looking comfortable on the ball. Robinho was running hard, Dani Alvez and Maicon were causing problems for the Dutch, there was no beating of Lúcio and Juan in the air. The orange defense struggled to cope with blue movement. Robinho’s goal was all too easy, exposing the total confusion in the Dutch ranks. Brazil deserved to be winning by two, but a flying Stekelenburg spectacularly denied Kaká.

Brazil played beautiful football for the first time in the tournament. Really. The sequences that began the second half and the attacking moves that defined the first, made me doubt that Brazil could be beaten. What team was capable of competing with them technically and physically?  I had just started to re-think my anti-seleção stance, was starting to want them to win, primarily because Brazil were not playing futebol de resultados, and they were winning convincingly. How could they lose when their football was SO MUCH BETTER than the dour Dutch. Dunga’s tactical structure combined with an insane technical skill set to produce a team that looked the business. They were putting on a show de bola. Everything was working. 1-0 at halftime.

Brazil dominated the first ten minutes of the second half. Juan was always finding himself with free headers on set pieces. Holland wandered around the pitch, replacing the divots they made chasing Maicon. Dunga screamed on the sidelines, happy as ever. Despite his general mal-estar, Brazil’s 1994 captain had made sure that Brazil were one of the tournament’s better organized teams. Robben rode his one trick pony, then dived onto the crappy grass, again, looking for pasture. Holland were going out. Brazil were going through.
Then it fell apart. Julio César, considered by many to be the best goalie in the world, collides with Felipe Melo and misses a relatively harmless cross. The ball skims off Melo’s head and into the net.  Um frango monumental.  1-1. No worries, these things happen. Even to the best goalie in the world on a relatively simple cross. Felipe Melo got in his way, didn’t mean to. Everything under control.

Even after the gift of a goal, Holland didn’t threaten. They were terrible, and had been up to absurd tricks throughout. For example, in the 34th minute, Robben took a corner kick. Instead of kicking it towards the goal, he rolled it just a little bit forward and then ran away as if he hadn’t touched it. Danny Alvez saw what happened and cleared the ball off a Dutch player and Brazil regained possession. It was beyond absurd. Did no one inform the Dutch that they were playing in the quarter-finals of the world cup, down 1-0. That was their set-piece? WTF? In the 46th minute, Dutch midfielder Weil was booked for diving. One minute after the kickoff, diving in lieu of playing football? Horrible. Clueless. Disorganized. Going out of the Cup. Definitely.

Before I could really figure out whether I was going to want Brazil to win through footballing virtue, Robben won a free kick in midfield. Sneijder’s quick ball played in Van Persie, who won a corner. The in-swinging ball  was flicked on by Kuyt to THREE UNMARKED DUTCH PLAYERS INSIDE THE 6 YARD BOX! Sneijder heads home, 2-1.  From there, Brazil looked crestfallen and had no way back into the game, although they still created some chances. That was until Felipe Melo was sent off in the 73rd minute for stomping on Robben. Then it was really over. What happened? Brazil had defended free kicks very well throughout the tournament. Julio César looked comfortable on nearly every other ball that came into the box. Why did he miss that one (with Felipe Melo’s help)? Were these lapses in concentration? Or was something more sinister at work? Were Brazil simply comfortable with a 1-0 lead and decided to muck about? How did a team that was so completely dominating the game in every category lose so pathetically? Why wasn’t Marc Van Bommel cautioned or expelled for his hacking every Brazilian as they tried to go by him on their way to the semi-final?

Theory #1
The CBF sold the game to FIFA/ FIFA bought the game from the CBF.

Let’s say that Brazil beats Holland convincingly, as they had been doing up until J.C.’s frango, progressing to the semi-final against Ghana or Uruguay. Uruguay or Ghana in the final? I don’t think so. Once in the final, the chance for the 6th (hexa) World Cup is pretty high. With the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the expectations for a trophy on home soil will be enormous, and from there what nation could ever catch Brazil in the trophy count? Better to lose in Africa with a coach that is generally hated by the Brazilian media. It’s hard to crucify J.C. because he’s clearly one of the best players in the world, having just won the Champions League and the Scudetto with Inter Milan. It’s easy to crucify Felipe Melo because he’s a bit violent, caused an own goal, and saw red. It’s easy to pillory Dunga because the seleção  needs a new coach, no one liked his brand of football, and he’s already at odds with the Brazilian press. Kaká? He’s so pure and handsome, even if he didn’t score a goal

The dirty dealings between the CBF (Confederação Brasilieira de Futebol) and FIFA are notorious, as are those between the AFA (Associación de Fútbol Argentino).CBF president Ricardo Teixeria is the son in law of former FIFA president João Havelange, and may be in line for the FIFA presidency after the 2014 World Cup. AFA president Julio Grondona is also the treasury secretary of FIFA, privy to all of the ways in which money flows in and out. He also has an eye on the FIFA presidency, should Herr Blatter start behaving like the Jabulani. Something went down behind closed doors to get Brazil to stop playing football in the second half. Will something similar happen to get Argentina to the semi-final against Spain/Paraguay?

As I was walking home there was a very drunk woman sitting on a very dirty wall, moaning “Foi comprado! Foi comprado!” (It was bought.) Many of my co-spectators felt the same way. Many other people I have talked to were convinced long before the Cup started that Brazil were not going to be allowed to win so that they could win in 2014, in the R$1.4 billion Nova Maracanã.

Theory #2
Julio César’s frangão destabilized the Brazilians psychologically. 

The lack of concentration was something that was evident against North Korea. The goal disrupted the delicate balance that made for such attractive football for the first hour. From there, the Dutch took more control. Scoring the second goal fifteen minutes later.

Theory #3
Holland out-played Brazil. 

This is the least likely of the conspiracy theories. Even at the end of the game when Brazil had completely given up and the Dutch had Robben, Kuyt, and Sneijder with only Juan and J.C. to beat, they blew it. The result could have easily been 4-1, but the orange machine couldn’t count that high.

Theory #4
FIFA’s eugenic plan for the world includes a Holland v. Germany final as a symbolic and functional European dominance of Africa. (Thanks to my friend Kaká (not the player) for this theory).  

Theory #5
Add your own. 


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