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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.

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

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.

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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!)

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The Curmudgeon moved to Rio almost forty years ago, and has pretty much remained here ever since. He's been writing political commentary for The Rio Times for almost seven years. He used to refer to himself as a WASP (look it up) but doesn't any more because it embarrasses him.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I totally agree with you.The former president Lula promised FIFA that the country would respect FIFA`s law and now they want to change it because the so called “Brazil’s sovereignty”. FIFA didn`t ask Brazil to host the next World Cup.Brazil was one of the candidates for the World Cup in 2014.I have been following World Cups since 1974 and FIFA has been having problems only in Brazil.Everyone knows that some works are behind schedule and Mr. Valcke is right in criticising Brazil for it.To be fair, in my opinion FIFA should change the venue of the 2014 World Cup, giving the right to host the next World Cup to another country like The UK or The USA.I am fed up with this government(PT).

  2. Good reporting. Futebol in Brazil has changed the way the world has played the game since the sport began. However, the modern game is also changing the way of life of Brazil, where futebol is both a religion and a pastime, as was so well portrayed in “Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life” by Alex Bellos. What Brazil has to lose is much more than hosting the Copa, but rather its soul, by giving in to a corrupt money grabbing multinational machine like FIFA. In the end it doesn’t matter where the Copa is held. All that matters is that Brazil plays its game and brings the Copa home. The rest is irrelevant. Brazil’s “sovereignty” is anywhere the game is played.

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