November 21, 2017
Friday, June 13, 2014

Problems pile up in Brazil

Broadcast media camera crews film riot policemen during a protest against the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo yesterday.
By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

Strikes, demonstrations and discontent taint kickoff

World Cup problems keep on piling up for Brazil and perhaps they wish they had never thought of organizing the event. It was done to give Brazil a boost and good propaganda, but unfortunately it is doing exactly the opposite. It is feared that the same will happen with the Olympic Games there in 2016, although former British record holder Sebastian Coe, who was head of the successful 2012 Olympics in London, said he was sure everything will be alright.

Take his word, if you like!

The World Cup started yesterday with airport workers on strike in Rio de Janeiro to demand pay rises. On a positive note, Sao Paulo metro workers decided not to strike on the tournament’s opening day. It would have been a disaster if they had because the subway transported thousands of fans to the Itaquerão stadium where the kickoff took place.

This is just like the teachers in Argentina who always strike when the year’s classes are due to start. The International Football Federation (FIFA) says it is not worried. That is natural, because FIFA and other officials are provided with cars to be driven around.

Just after last Friday’s column was written, mentioning that Brazilian police had not been given an increase for eight years, they were given one of 15.8 percent by the government. Otherwise they would have gone on strike also — a serious problem because riots by poor people against the tremendous cost of the World Cup continue. This week there was rioting and fighting against police in Sao Paulo.

At least FIFA’s president, Joseph Blatter, opened the World Cup Congress talking about expanding soccer eventually to other planets. One would think they had enough problems on earth before sending a team to play the little green men, or whatever they are, on Mars!

Another problem, which probably helped to delay refurbishing of several stadiums for the tournament was at Atlético Paranense which was discovered in trying to buy a player with government funds destined for refurbishing their stadium.


Brazil has started deporting hooligans. The news so far is that a Rosario Central hooligan who figures in the list of 1,600 of the most dangerous ones sent by Argentina was not allowed to enter the country. There should be a way not to let him back into Argentina either. Also two Uruguayan hooligans were sent back with the first batch. The United Argentine Fans group (HUA) of hooligans had not yet left. Their lawyer tried to stop the government to send that list, but to no avail. The lawyer appealed. She can appeal as often as she likes in Argentine courts, but this is a Brazilian matter. Meanwhile, HUA members are studying how to get into the country without passing border controls, but Brazilian authorities are aware of this and will be on alert to deport them immediately. Also, any foreigner committing a crime would be deported immediately.

Further danger exists about fighting between Argentine and British hooligans over the Malvinas question as was the case in Mexico 1986. In that case, it is quite likely that members of both groups would be deported.


At the warm-up match between Argentina (2) and Serbia (0) the other day, the Argentine players unfurled a flag with the words “The Malvinas are Argentine.” Perhaps it was a government order, but the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and the government should know by now that in these international tournaments political or religious propaganda is not allowed. In 2012, the government wanted the Argentine competitors to march in the opening ceremony (or even compete) with vests emblazoned with the same words in the Olympic Games in London. The Argentine Olympic Committee had to explain that this would not be allowed.

FIFA is studying the matter of the incident in the Argentina-Serbia match, but the AFA should forbid it from happening again and bear in mind that once in a previous World Cup a Korean player unfurled a banner with a similar slogan about some island that country was claiming and FIFA suspended him for two games.


Continuing incidents of drugging of players in the World Cup, there is the case of Brazil’s Branco who insisted he had been drugged by drinking from a water bottle given to him by Argentina’s physio during his team’s second round match against Argentina in the 1990 World Cup in Italy and that he was dizzy for the rest of the game. It seemed an excuse for losing 1-0 to their eternal rivals or perhaps he wanted FIFA to investigate. But it was quickly forgotten.

Years later, Carlos Bilardo who was Argentina’s coach at the time, sort of admitted that Miguel Di Lorenzo, the physio, gave the bottle to Branco to have a drink from and apparently Brazil striker Bebeto also mentioned that Di Lorenzo had told him what he did. But time had passed and an investigation at this stage, with the Argentines unlikely to cooperate, would have been useless.

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