Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On the Ca-lends of March, a couple of weeks before a planned visit to Brazil to view several cities which will host World Cup matches in 2014, Mr. Jerôme Valcke, FIFA’s General Secretary, made some pointed criticisms about Brazil’s lack of progress towards hosting the Cup. Using earthy language, he said Brazil needed a “kick up the backside” to get things moving. He pointed out that hotel space, airports and football stadiums are everywhere far behind schedule. Everyone in Brazil knows Mr. Valcke is right.
Everyone, that is, except the recently appointed Minister of Sports, Aldo Rebelo, who called Mr. Valcke’s remark a slur on Brazil as a whole, his Ministry and his Government in particular. So, in retribution the Brazilian government announced it would refuse to deal with Mr. Valcke — FIFA must send another delegate. Mr. Valcke called that position “puerile.” Everyone in Brazil knows Mr. Valcke is right.
Puerility, however, is a highly contagious disease. Joseph Blatter, the President of FIFA, issued an apology, where he denied any intent to denigrate anyone at all, much less the Minister or the President of Brazil. He then had the chutzpah to invite himself to visit President Dilma. And he postponed Mr. Valcke’s planned inspection trip until after this visit.
Puerile comes from the Latin word “puer” meaning “young boy.” President Dilma, who is not a boy, and who knows football is a sport where young boys love to cavort to impress both their peers and by-standing puellae (young girls), has remained silent throughout this posturing. She did manage to convince the Congressional committee to approve the so-called “FIFA Law” and send it to the floor of Congress.
A vote may not happen soon. A potpourri of populist politicos, prominent among whom is former football hero Romário, now a federal deputy from Rio de Janeiro. They have decided to contest all of the changes in Brazilian legislation that FIFA seeks, calling them affronts to Brazil’s sovereignty.
Among these affronts is the “right” of “students” (age fifteen to 29!) and the “aged” (over sixty!!) and those who turn in illegal firearms (!!!) to attend sporting events at half price. The biggest bone of contention, though, is the “right” of Brazilian states to ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages in football stadiums. Everyone in Brazil knows Budweiser (which belongs to InBev and is controlled by Brazilians) is FIFA’s biggest sponsor.
FIFA has the option, until June this year, to change the venue of the 2014 World Cup. There are lots of countries (e.g. the UK and the U.S.) which could host it without breaking a sweat. The grounds for this would be that Brazil has betrayed those solemn promises, made by former President Lula, that all those legislative changes would happen. He told FIFA not to worry, because he and his coalition of parties would take care of everything.
Everybody in Brazil knows this, including President Dilma and Minister Rebelo. But they don’t really believe that FIFA will be so puerile as to say “if you won’t play by my rules, I’ll take my ball elsewhere.” Perhaps they should. For sure what they should be doing now, rather than pretending to be offended by Mr. Valcke’s remarks, is accept them as true, and begin distributing a few kicks in the backside to those responsible for getting things ready for 2014.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)