While Brazil may be vying to win a record sixth World Cup, the mood around the country’s stadiums is anything but award-winning, the chairman of England’s soccer body said.
In the days leading up to tomorrow’s World Cup opening match in Sao Paulo, the streets of Brazil’s biggest city are showing little of the thrill seen at the tournament’s edition four years ago in South Africa, English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke said. The possibility of widespread protests during the month-long event and the objection by some Brazilians to public money being spent on sports venues may explain the lack of interest in a country that lives and breathes soccer, he said.
“What I’m surprised about this city is that you wouldn’t know there is a World Cup going on,” Dyke told reporters in Sao Paulo yesterday. “The only reason you’d know there’s a World Cup here is because half the people are on strike and you can’t get from the airport.”
The start of world sport’s most watched event has been marred by threats of street protests and a wave of strikes including subway and museum workers as opposition to the event grows. A poll released June 3 by the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of Brazilians say hosting the World Cup is bad for the country because it takes money away from schools, health care and other services. Streets in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where the final will be played on July 13, are missing the decoration and painting that preceded past tourneys.
“The people I’ve been talking to are of the view that it’s very quiet,” Dyke said, talking at governing body FIFA’s congress. “It does bring up the question for the future, because clearly there are a lot of people in this country who think too much money has been spent when there are extremes of poverty.”
Brazil’s World Cup organizing committee didn’t reply to an e-mail seeking comment on Dyke’s remarks. FIFA yesterday put out a statement that said it contributes $2 billion to cover the event’s operational costs.
President Dilma Rousseff said in a televised address to the nation yesterday that preparations for the tournament will improve Brazil’s infrastructure and stimulate the economy and that the country is ready to host the games.
“The result and final celebration are worth the effort,” she said. “I am certain that in the 12 hosting cities, visitors will get on with a happy, generous and hospitable people.”
Earlier, Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said Latin America’s largest economy is hosting the event “with the highest expectations.”
“Brazil will offer not only the material conditions to hold a great event, but above all, will show how warmly the Brazilian people welcome visitors from around the world,” he said in comments posted on a government Facebook page. “Those who visit us during the World Cup will appreciate this distinguishing feature.”