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The Land of Pelé Tackles The Tough Times

Published 9 years ago
By Forbes Africa

The first ever World Cup on African soil brought the whole continent together. Africa was finally able to showcase its beauty to the rest of the world. The passion, vibe and pure energy were beyond all imagination. People took to the streets, sang through the cold winter nights and the world was introduced to the vuvuzela. Who could ever forget it?

The international football governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), once said: “Brazil is football”. So it’s hard to think that the country synonymous with the beauty of football could be struggling to put on such a huge event in the sporting world. Is it true? Are the Brazilians more concerned with lifting the cup for the sixth time than putting together a spectacular event?

Brazil is the only team to have qualified for all the World Cups and has won it: in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. The country last hosted the World Cup in 1950 and is currently ranked 13th by FIFA, Spain and Germany are ranked first and second respectively.

The excitement of a World Cup at the home of legends has been tainted by allegations of corruption and reports that construction was far behind schedule and over budget.

When news of Delta Constructora’s withdrawal from the Maracanã stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, redevelopment and its investigation for corruption and bribery by the federal police came out, it threw a $3.7 million investment into doubt. This money was meant to contribute to the Maracanã Rio 2014 construction consortium, which included Odebrecht Infraestrutura and Andrade Gutierrez. With only two companies left in the consortium, the question was whether there were going to be enough funds to complete the project. At the time, the construction company also had numerous Rio transport infrastructure contracts.

Maracanã was built for the 1950 World Cup final. It holds the record for the largest attendance at a World Cup final, at 199,854 supporters. By April, work on the stadium was about 40% complete and open for public tours. It is the venue for the 2014 World Cup final and is supposed to be completed by February 2013, in time for the Confederations Cup.

PricewaterhouseCoopers partner, Mauricio Girardello wrote: “When building a facility for one event, you need to balance the demands of a limited use with other uses that will make the facility more financially viable over the long term.”

This is something South Africa knows all too well. The country is faced with the problem of unused stadiums that it spent close to $1 billion to build. The 94,000 capacity Soccer City, in Johannesburg, is being used for concerts, games and tours but others, like Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, are sitting empty and costing millions to maintain each year—due to the fact that there are no provincial teams large enough to take the leases over from the provincial governments and the inability of the stadiums to cater to the large rugby teams and their supporter’s needs. The other legacy left by the 2010 World Cup was the dire state of the South African hospitality industry. In 2011, the average occupancy rate dropped to around 48% and many hotels had to shut their doors. The millions of visitors were gone and had taken their money with them.

Danny Jordaan knows what it’s like to stage a World Cup. Jordaan was part of the formation of the South African Football Association (SAFA) in 1991. His World Cup involvement spans almost 15 years and his experience with the 2010 World Cup, held in South Africa, earned him the position of special advisor for the 2014 World Cup; a member of the 2014 World Cup and Confederations Cup’s organizing committee; a member FIFA’s Transparency and Compliance Committee and part of the FIFA technical evaluation team for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

“The infrastructure of Brazil needs huge investment and so their infrastructure program has greater demands on Brazil than in South Africa,” he says.

Access roads, parking lots, subways, trams, monorails and shopping malls are just some of the infrastructure projects Brazil will need to focus on, aside from stadiums. Construction of the $500,000 North/Center (Manaus) Monorail has been awarded to a consortium consisting of three companies.

Brazil’s planned infrastructure budget is around $11.2 billion and it is expecting $102 billion to be contributed to its GDP by the end of the two tournaments. Three point two billion dollars is allocated for airports.

In February, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and a Brazilian partner secured 51% of a 20-year concession to expand, operate and maintain the Guarulhos Airport in São Paulo. The airport is said to be one of the worst in the world. Brazil has decided on the privatization route for its airports in the hope to meet the demands that will be placed on them by the millions of expected visitors.

The two countries, Brazil and South Africa, have been sharing information and expertise since the 2010 World Cup, when a Brazilian soccer delegation came to visit. Like Brazil, South Africa received a lot of bad press, with people citing high crime rates; poor preparation and calls to move the tournament to Australia.

Jordaan feels that this criticism rears its head when the host country is in the developing world.

With this shared experience, how much cooperation is there likely to be? There are two sides to this coin. Some would say that the key to hosting a great World Cup would be to use the experience and expertise of those who have come before. But on the other hand, you can argue that Brazil would want to keep all business and money within the country by giving Brazilian companies the opportunity of large-scale projects.

Jordaan says this is where joint ventures come in. He says that as much as the government will not give a 100% tender to a foreign company, having a Brazilian company on board will certainly help—like in the case of ACSA.

“Brazilians are passionate about football. So I think that once they get the bricks and mortar sorted out the people will turn it into a wonderful celebration and that is what we are looking for”, he adds.

One of the issues facing the organizers was the passionate but poor Brazilian fans. In Brazil, students and pensioners are allowed a 50% discount on tickets. As an institution trying to make a profit, this may not be what FIFA had in mind. As a compromise, the organization has agreed to set aside 300,000 tickets for these supporters.

It really has been one thing after another for the Brazilians. The sports minster, Orlando Silva, resigned last October under accusations of corruption. The Brazilian Football Association’s president has also resigned. At some point the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, was not speaking to the Brazilian Confederation of Soccer’s president, Ricardo Teixeira. At the same time the minister of sports, Aldo Rebelo, was not speaking to FIFA’s general secretary, Jérôme Valcke.

In 2000, FIFA introduced the continental rotation policy, which began with the 2010 World Cup in Africa; South America was next in line.

There is a major difference between the South African and Brazilian World Cups, beyond geographics. Unlike Brazil, South Africa went through two competitive bids, the first was lost to Germany for the 2006 World Cup and the second was secured against five African countries with a 500 page bid book. South Africa had to show that it had the capacity to host the tournament and provide 17 government guarantees. Brazil was up against Columbia in the 2014 bid, but the South American Federation unanimously decided to back Brazil as the option for 2014.

This seems to have caused problems. One of the more thorny matters was the sale of alcohol at matches. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) is the largest brewer in the world and one of its brands, Budweiser is a major sponsor of the tournament. The problem was that Brazil’s Soccer Fan Statute—Article 13: prohibits alcohol at Brazilian soccer games. After heated words and years, the World Cup Bill—to lift the ban on alcohol—was passed by the lower house of Parliament in March, the Senate in May and received the final approval and signature of the president in June. The Senate changed the Bill so that it applies only to the Confederations and World Cups.

Some members of Senate were holding out because they felt that their law on alcohol was in line with the FIFA 2004 Safety Guidelines—Article 19: ban on the sale of alcohol and that the ban has helped reduce violence at games.

Jordaan’s tips for a world class World Cup are simple. First, you need the necessary legal framework and then you get the infrastructure going. These seem to be lessons the Brazilians would have done best to learn much earlier in the game. All new reports from both sides seem to be positive that Brazil is back on track, or at least trying.

You’ll get a different story if you ask the millions who live in Brazil’s slums—the favelas.

One of the harshest measures in the preparation for the soccer tournaments, as well as the Olympic Games in 2016, is the forced removal of favela residents. Some have been around for over a century and have now been declared Imminent Domain—meaning that the government has the power to remove the residents and use the space for public use. The proposed 2016 Olympic Park is an extravagant project destined on a favela site.

In a video produced by non-profit organizations, Phesca Brazil and WITNESS, a devastated grandmother tells of how she was born in Morro da Providência, in 1941, and her mother before that. Three generations of her family currently live in the favela. Some residents talk about how they’ve only been given a month’s notice.

Other favelas are enjoying some improvements to the power, water and sewage. There have also been reports of armed police raids with tear gas, rubber bullets and tanks to clean up crime.

All this aside, the eyes of the world will be on Brazil. The only question is whether they will feel the pressure to step up their game and put on a fantastic show or merely the pressure to lift the cup.

“The people [Brazilians] will not react as South Africans. What South Africans did was embrace other teams and the event hype and passion continued and South Africa celebrated in the streets even though their own team was long out of the tournament”, says Jordaan.

“If they [Brazil] don’t [win on home soil] I think it will be a difficult moment”.

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Related Topics: #Brazil, #Danny Jordaan, #Fédération Internationale de Football Association, #September 2012, #World Cup.