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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 22 September 2020

Letter from Brazil: I'll buy FIFA-branded water but not locals' World Cup conspiracy theories

The tournament isn’t going to paper over the cracks, writes our man in Brazil, Mikey Stafford.

Children watch the World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia in an alley at the Mangueira slum, in Rio.
Children watch the World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia in an alley at the Mangueira slum, in Rio.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THIS MORNING, I’M sad to report, I purchased a bottle of water produced by one of FIFA’s sponsors.

It is not a sign of my undying loyalty to the official partners of the World Cup, it was a decision I made for two reasons.

Firstly, I was thirsty.

But I also calculated that I may not drink the entire 1.5 litre bottle before heading to the Arena Fonte Nova this afternoon and it would be nice to have water with me, rather than shell out twice as much for a bottle one-third the size in the media centre.

Yesterday my water, bottled by a company other than a famous purveyor of brown sugary water, was confiscated by security staff as I arrived for Spain and Holland’s pre-match press conferences.

That is the FIFA way. The only way. They will try to sway you, but if that doesn’t work they will just impose their will. By hook, or by crook.

My little concession this morning just feeds into the governing body’s bigger victory. Kool-Aid is too sweet for me, but they have me drinking their water.

My grievance is but a microscopic drop in a giant bottle of Brazilian frustrations that is threatening to boil over in the next month. Yesterday protesters clashed with police in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, while another motley crew of malcontents in Rio de Janeiro did what countless television viewers have dreamed of — they threw rocks at Adrian Chiles.

“We did try to explain to them that none of this is our fault at ITV Sport,” said the presenter.

chilesstoned Chiles and co in the ITV studio last night.

Roy Keane’s sometime GAA-watching buddy has witnessed more disaffection than this reporter, but that is not to say that I have not met Brazilians who are unhappy with the cost of the World Cup — it’s just none of them have been angry enough to throw rocks at me so far.

While eating lunch in a local restaurant on Wednesday one young man suggested Brazil would win the tournament because they had already paid for the privilege, and it was a theory being peddled in the bars around the Arena Fonte Nova last night after Brazil’s referee-assisted 3-1 win over Croatia.

I tend to leave the conspiracy theories to Jim Corr and find it fanciful that the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, having already shelled out billions on stadiums and infrastructure at the behest of FIFA, would further line the associations’ pockets to guarantee success.

What is without doubt is that Yuichi Nishimura bottled it. The Japanese referee who enraged Brazilians in 2010 by correctly dismissing Felipe Melo in the Selecao’s quarter-final defeat to the Netherlands was more generous last night when adjudicating in an Arena de São Paulo turned yellow by partisan home supporters.

Neymar’s first goal, with his weaker left foot, was a sweet strike but the Barcelona attacker could easily have been sent off for elbowing Luka Modric in the face. His second came from the penalty spot after Fred — big, burly Fred — fell in a heap in the penalty area after Dejan Lovren placed his hand on his shoulder.

photo1 Source: Naoise Waldron

With the score at 2-1 Croatia had a goal disallowed after Ivica Olic jumped with Julio Cesar and headed the ball back across goal, after the Brazilian keeper had already let it pass through his fingers.

Any one of those decisions would have been harsh, but the three together was a quick-fire combination to the Croatian solar-plexus and grist for the conspiracists’ mill.
Of course Brazil will be happier place if Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team win the World Cup — this was evident from the streets of Salvador last night — but it won’t solve the country’s many social problems.

Entering the fan zone in the historic town centre last night my girlfriend noted that every male was scanned with a metal detector on his way into the square and the heavy police presence on every corner was hard to avoid.

The only time people stopped cheering at the big screen was to shout abuse at the serious-looking helicopters passing overhead. In São Paulo even a good portion of the lucky 62,000 at the opening game were chanting abuse at Rousseff.

Anyone who thinks a sixth World Cup will magic away this country’s problems is not giving Brazilians enough credit. Call it naivety but I don’t think FIFA have rigged the World Cup.

I’ll drink their water but I’m not swallowing that.

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About the author:

Mikey Stafford

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