24 July 2013

Maracanã Sem Álcool

I have finally figured out what the S.A. in Maracanã S.A. stands for: sem álcool. The good news about last weekend’s Vasco x Fluminense game (aside from the result) was that there is still some life in carioca fan culture. The bad news is that this culture will likely wither on the vine as the areas around the stadium have been completely sanitized and securitized and ticket prices are going to be out of reach for the majority. The cheapest ticket was R$60 with the usual caveat that anyone with a way to squirm themselves into a half-price ticket will do so. For the upcoming Flamengo x Botafogo match this weekend, the cheapest seat is R$100. For fun, what follows is a comparison between two classicos held three years apart. While I recognize the limitations of statistical comparison based on two events, they are reflective of some general trends that have been through a more robust analysis than I care to expose my merry band of elephant hunters to.

Vasco x Fluminense, 21 July 2013
Total gate receipts R$ 1,554,000.00
Total fans: 46,860
Ratio of paying fans to non-paying: 34,634 (74%) / 12,226 (26%)
Average ticket price per person present: R$33.16
Average ticket price per paying fan: R$44.87     
Missing revenue (nonpaying fans x average paying fan price): R$584,458

Vasco x Flamengo, 1 August 2010
Total gate receipts R$ 1.368.290,00
Total fans: 60.202
Ratio of paying fans to non-paying: 50.447 (84%) / 9755 (16%)
Average ticket price per person present: R$ 22.73
Average ticket price per paying fan: R$ 27.11
Missing revenue (nonpaying fans x average paying fan price): R$ 264,430.71

Some broad generalizations can be drawn from these numbers:
45% increase in overall ticket price
65% increase in ticket price per paying fan
10% increase in gratuities
221% increase in missing revenue
23% fewer fans produced 13.5% more profit

And here are some photos to make you choke and sputter like the Popemobile in a Guaratiba mudpit.

23, 25, 26? The edge of rows all have different numbers. 
The Lords of the Rings may or may not be getting their drink on. 

The Museo do Ìndio and the Xaracanã. This area was formerly inside the walls of the Aldeia and covered with trees. When I asked the security guard if there were still Indigenous people living here he laughed sarcastically. 

Manifestation in front of the Xaracanã before the game. Aha ooho, O Maraca é Nosso!

The seats inthe middle started at R$120 and went as high as R$250. No wonder they were empty. From 50 rows up, the view of the entire field is possible. Any lower down and one wouldn´t be able to see the corner of the field. Note the absurdity of the line of security guards staring at the empty stands to prevent pitch invasions. For this game, the authorities liberated the use of traditional flags and musical instruments. Next time, who knows.

20 July 2013

A dumb way to buy tickets

A HWE first! This is a guest post by Rodrigo Nunes, an assistant professor of Global and Latin American Studies at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas: 

This is another potential dumb way to die in Rio: buying tickets for a match at Maracanã.

I exaggerate; but at the very least the process can lead to irreversible damage to one’s ability to think rationally, and shake whatever faith in the private sector one might possess. Readers of this blog should be familiar with the stadiums recent history of over-budgeted reforms and transfer to private hands, but they are not prepared for the sheer level of incompetence that the new lords of the stadium have displayed in the last couple of days.

Of course, I can only speak about my own experience. I wanted to buy 9 tickets for the Sunday match between Fluminense and Vasco, the first official game of the Private Maracana era. I’m no cambista, mind you, but I have a group of American students that are dying to experience the jogo bonito live (they are in for some disappointment on that front also). In any case, the game is on Sunday and on Tuesday it was announced that online sales would begin the following day. Ah, for the conveniences of post-industrial life! 

The first ducha de agua fria hit me when the online seller limited each buyer to three tickets. No matter, I said, I have two credit cards and a debit card. 3x3=9. As I proceeded, the next guardian of the gates raised its ugly head: online sales do not grant you a ticket. After the purchase, you have to print a form, sign it, and bring it together with an id and the purchasing credit card to the Maracanã in order to redeem your ticket! 

But mind you, tickets will not be distributed on the day of the game. No will-call window. You, dear customer, have to haul your sorry carcass to Maracanã in the middle of the week to collect your online-purchased tickets!

At this point I’m already fuming. And I root for Mengão! But now for the cherry on top: For this convenience, futebolcard.com will charge you a R$6 fee, which basically amounts to 10% of the ticket price. Are you still with me? Hello, hello?

This is beyond incompetence, it’s just mean.

So I collect a few students and go to an official ticket booth in the Zona Sul where we can supposedly buy tickets without having to pay a convenience fee. There is a line. The line does not move. The line does not move because everybody in Brazil, apparently, is entitled to a half-price ticket. But to get these half-price tickets, you see, we need to make sure that you are who you say you are, of the age you say you are, of the profession you say you are, etc. Every person walking into the ticket booth spent 10 minutes filling up forms and unearthing documentation. In the meantime, a gentleman started fuming because he was told that he could not buy a half-price ticket for his 12-year old son. The reason? His 12-year old son, rather than be in line like a good consumer, was at school (or with his mom, or doing whatever it is that 12 year olds should be doing on a beautiful winter afternoon). How can we know he’s really 12? Without the kids documentation, or the kid, there was no chance. 

All’s well that ends well and we got our tickets. But if this process is any indication of things to come, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to watching this game after all. Maybe I should do a pay-per-view and watch it at home.

Oh, wait, that will cost $R80….

17 July 2013

Lightning Counterattack

From Brazil, FIFA President Sepp Blatter flew to Turkey to open the under-20 World Cup. As his private jet was taking off, he boldly threw $100 million at the Brazilians, saying that the money would be used for some kind of social fund. The absurdity should be apparent, but if it isn’t, allow me to spell it out. If FIFA is so worried about their profits that they refuse to pay taxes, require duty free shopping on a continental scale and don’t have to open their accounts to public scrutiny, they why don’t they think twice about throwing out US$100 million? As I reported here some time ago, if FIFA were to actually pay their volunteer Brazilian labor force minimum wage (which is not, of course, adequate), the wage bill would only be around US$ 7 million. Why not take that US$100 million, invest in education, language training and actual projects rather than let it flutter down out of the sky into the dark corners of congress? Really, R$1 for every Brazilian as a return on our R$30 billion investment is pretty disgusting.

In other disgusting news, the Xaracana consortium has decided to ban every item and practice of Brazilian football culture. There will be no more large flags, banners or musical instruments. Fans will be prohibited from smoking or taking their shirts off. Swearing might become a criminal offense. They might even replace the referee with a robot and have drones determine offside calls. The head of the Xaracana S.A. has explicitly stated the obvious (which sometimes people need to get the ideas more completely in their heads) that there needs to be a “change in the type of fan” that goes to the stadium. This is consistent with all of the other World Cup venues. The cheapest ticket for the upcoming Vasco x Flu classic is R$60. The average ticket price to see Vasco x Flamengo in Brasilia last weekend was R$70. The 5.860 people that saw Santos x Portuguesa @ Santos paid an average of R$29. Tchau Neymar.

The continued absence of Brazil’s torcidas organizadas both in the protests and in relation to the stadium projects is as disheartening as it is revealing. Contrary to the ultras in Egypt and Turkey that have long been politicized and are pushing for social change (see James Dorsey’s amazing blog), in the Brazilian case, the torcidas have done nothing. They are perhaps so compromised by their dependency on the clubs to maintain their little pockets of power and so unable to overcome their long-standing rivalries with other clubs to unite for a common cause that they are impotent actors in a very complicated economic and political chess game. Their collective inability to politicize their own involvement in Brazil’s football world has greatly weakened their own position and been a loss for Brazilian civil society. This trend may be reversing itself with the statement of the Força Jovem do Vasco regarding the Xaracana, but it is the only such position that I have come across.

In case things in Rio weren`t difficult enough, here comes the Nope to really bungle things up. Not only is he bringing millions of McDonald’s eating adolescents, he’s brining 3 full holidays, shutting own traffic everywhere and substituting the rubber bullets of the Military Police with the live ammunition of the Brazilian Military. Yup, if you try to get within 13 kilometers of the site of the big mass in the west of Rio (not coincidentally, a site owned by one of Rio’s wealthiest who is having it fixed up nicely so that it can then be subdivided), you just might get your head blown off. The city is being progressively occupied by the military and of course they all want to behave like Rio's PM. Chega de evento. 

Fortunately, it is another lovely day in Rio. The sun is shining, the sewage is flowing into the bay, two and half million Catholics + the Pope will be sharing their personal effluence with us and we have three major holidays coming up! Bring on the Copa when we will have the entire month off. Put that in your economic return multiplier and smoke it. 

12 July 2013

A lovely day in Rio

It was really a lovely day in Rio. News that the private company that runs the x-Maracana has found a team to play there made my heart leap. Fluminense will have the rights to 43 thousand of the Arena’s 78 thousand seats. All of those seats are behind the goals. It doesn`t even bother me that in the first fifteen rows you can`t see the goal line, or that when I walked into this fanciful and spectacular stadium and was marveling at the that the harmonious symphony of colors and delightful twists of nuance in the architectural I nearly sliced open my leg on protruding metal bits. I was absolutely enchanted with the idea that I could leave the confusion of Rio simply by stepping into the Maracanã! It was a delightful escape from the smell and sensation of people. I was worried, though, that when watching a game that I couldn`t quite see completely, that I might be attacked by the opposing fans, or that some obnoxious fan of my own team would block even further my view by standing up with one of those obnoxiously large flags. To my complete relief, those flags and the pestering tic-tic-tak of musical instruments are no longer going to be allowed. I though it such graça when the seleção played a little rodinha de samba after they beat Spain. Neymar is such a cosmopolitan fellow and that Dante! Meu deus no céu, que fofo. Onde é que ele corta cabelo? I wonder if Fred is going to play a little before every game as an inspiration.

As I was saying, I have fear of being attacked by rabid bands of opposing fans when I pay R$100 to get into my private space, so I was absolutely thrilled to hear that Maracanã S.A. is going to install dividing walls between us. I hope they also put gas masks under the seats so that if anyone shouts a palavrão at the referee the police can just launch some tear gas in their general direction and shut them up. Of course, before the World Cup they will have to take it down again, then put it up again for 2015 and then take it down again for the Olympics, but that is why I am willing to pay premium for these seats! I even heard that they are going to have the same kind people that were there during the Confederations Cup to help us to our seats and to get people to sit down. I’ve always said that what this place needs is a good bit of civilizing. And I just can’t wait to see Beyoncé, Shakira, Britney, Justin, and Roberto Carlos. I wonder if they are going to have those big cups of beer again. I collected as many as I could at Spain Tahiti, but could only manage to drink one beer for every goal. Thank God there is no Lei Seca after games at the Xaracanã!

Besides the great news about the Xaracanã, the whole city was off work, so I headed to the beach. I was horrified later when all of these disgruntled people started throwing trash all over the streets and calling the governor a dictator. You don’t vote for dictators do you? I voted for him twice! And that was just the first election. I don’t know what everyone was so upset about last night, but I leaned out my window and gave them a good finger wagging. Those shock troops looked like they were right out of Hollywood – so exciting to see! It´s too bad that that gas makes it up to the 10th floor, it really made the poodles suffer. Coitados.

01 July 2013

2013 Copa das Manifestaçãoes

 Here is a short version of why we were tear-gassed yesterday outside of the Maraca.

The Maracanã, a public space of tremendous historical, cultural and architectural value, has been successively deformed since 2000. The first deform cost around R$100 million. This was ostensibly for the FIFA World Club Championship. They put in sky boxes which closed off the access to the stadium from the big ramps and eliminated much of the air circulation. Plastic seats also went in.  A stupid move that reduced the capacity to 129,000, but much of the stadium’s character remained.

In preparation for the 2007 Pan American Games the state laid out another R$330 million on the Maraca, this time grossly disfiguring it. The geral disappeared, the field was lowered, huge televisions put in and the VIP section expanded, the capacity reduced to 89,000. At this time Brazil knew it would be hosting the World Cup and these reforms were intended to serve as a “legacy”. Beneficially, there was investment in the Julio Delamare aquatic center and in the Celio de Barros athletics facility. The stadium was closed for 20 months.

Despite being disfigured, the Maraca still held some of its old charm. That was until 2010 when the Gigante do Derby was closed again for unspecified reforms. The initial budget was between R$400 and R$500 million. That has since ballooned to R$1.2 billion. The aquatics center has been shuttered, the athletic track replaced by a parking lot, the public school on the grounds is in threat of imminent removal and the former national Indigenous Museum has been violently emptied of its people and history. Brazil’s formerly richest man has won the rights to a 30 year concession – a competition he won after being contracted to do the economic viability study. During the destruction process, Delta, one of Brazil’s biggest construction firms was caught in bed with the governor and was kicked off the project. There has never been any dialogue with anyone who wasn’t already at the table (which is in a smoky back room inside a huge black box).

Now, instead of a place of popular manifestation and convivial emotion, the area around the stadium is a sterile environment, a brutally empty zone of transition between the organic and inorganic. Inside the Zone of Exclusion, there can be no informal commerce, no music, nothing except overwhelming police force that are there to guarantee the safe passage of the wealthiest segments of Brazilian society into the shopping mall environment of the stadium. Protected on the outside by the national army, shock troops, and military police, the well-manicured are guarded on the inside by a sense of entitlement and aloof condescension. No drinks are available on the outside, but once in the stadium they can drink campaign and eat caviar. Inside the stadium, there are no smells. Outside the air is like Venus: hot, acrid and impossible to breathe. The off-world of FIFAlandia is mirrored by a nether-world of repression.

On the outside, everyone is a potential criminal, vandal or threat to public order. On the inside, everyone is a walking cash machine. Outside, the right to manifest in public is repressed and rejected. Inside, the right to public culture is manifest through one’s capacity to pay for it. The performative spectacle of police violence on the outside has been countered with pacific displays of social solidarity (with some radical, fringe opportunists that trigger the police and vice versa). On the inside, the performative spectacle of capital reproduction is manufactured, understood and internalized by prodigious flag-wrapping, fetishization and baleful ignorance. Both are publically financed spectacles and speak to the rifts and ruptures that define Brazilian society.

There is no one narrative that can explain what is going on here, but the 2013 Copa das Manifestaçãoes has definitely changed the profile and structure of social movements in Brazil. As these movements take stock of the problems and possibilities we will likely see both an expansion and consolidation of the political project that takes as its target the barbarities being committed for the Good of the Game.


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