KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
— A Portuguese colleague was heading out to a journalists’ conference in South America. What, he asked me, should I tell them about the European attitude to Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup in 2014?
Simple, I told him. Just think of mixing the football World Cup and Brazil. Everyone believes it will be disorganised chaos but, above and beyond all that, a wonderful party.
That conversation came back to me this past week when Carlos Alberto Parreira chipped in. Carlos Alberto coached Brazil (Romario, Bebeto and Co) to victory in the 1994 World Cup in the United States; he and the Brazilian confederation then fell out after the quarter-final defeat by France in 2006 in Germany.
Winning is all that matters about 2014 in Brazil, said Carlos Alberto. And in those words he encapsulated a concept around which FIFA cannot curl its corporate head.
President Sepp Blatter and, even more, secretary-general Jerome Valcke have spent much of the last year – when they haven’t been fighting internal corruption, matchfixing, doping, incompetence, Poppy campaigns, etc –growing increasingly exercised about Brazil’s failure.
But ‘failure’ to become what, precisely?
Failure, really, to become European or, more specifically, Swiss.
FIFA depends almost entirely on the success of the World Cup to fund its administration, its development programmes, its loss-making youth and women’s tournaments for the subsequent four years. Hence the concern of Blatter, Valcke & Co that the 2014 World Cup should be as well-organised and as profitable as possible.
Very Swiss (OK, Valcke is French but for FIFA purposes he is adopted-Swiss).
For the Brazilians however, as Carlos Alberto pointed out, the overwhelming priority in 2014 is not whether the airports can cope, not whether the planes can even get off the ground, not whether there are enough hotels for visiting fans, not whether the stadia are ready, not whether the police are prepared and not whether any of these strange ‘steward’ people can be trained in time.
What matters is that Brazil win. Not one match but all their matches including – and most specifically – the final.
Simultaneously the entire nation has a date with both history and destiny. In 1950 Brazil staged the World Cup for the first time. They reached the final. Almost 200,000 packed Maracana ready to party… only to be plunged into funereal grief after defeat by their tiny little southern neighbour, Uruguay.
Defeat was a national disaster. No less. Brazil has been waiting for the opportunity to put that right. Hence the manner of ‘merely’ organising the 2014 World Cup matters far, far less than winning it.
That is what FIFA’s phalanx of Swiss administrators and accountants cannot understand. That is the kernel of the psychological and conceptual chasm between FIFA and the Brazilian organisers (both local and national government politicians and sports authorities).
Yet, in an era when the Great Game has been virtually hijacked as a business, as a brand, as a sponsorship vehicle, as a TV ratings magnet and as an accountant’s playground, isn’t that reassuring in a funny, footballing sort of way?
Here’s to Brazil and 2014. However it turns out.
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Also at www.LeadersinFootball.com
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