With legends like Ronaldo and Pelé at the country’s disposal, it is difficult to argue against Brazil’s footballing credentials when they were awarded the chance to host the biggest football tournament in the world back in 2007.
But even back then concerns were being voiced about the organisation of a tournament in a less developed country, and these issues continue to pervade the news headlines today, with just over a year before the tournament commences.
Some are now questioning, perhaps somewhat unfairly, whether the host country and its local organising committees across the nation are ready to welcome the world of football to their doorsteps in 2014.
Here, we assess some of the biggest fears being addressed in the press today:
Rio’s long-standing reputation for violent crime continues to bolster and the grizzly tales of gun crime show no sign of being silenced as the tournament approaches.
With security concerns being raised so early on, Brazil made huge pledges and promises to clean up its act and make the streets a safer place to be. However, there are now suggestions that a paramilitary police campaign to regain control of the infamous ‘favela slums’ that lie on the outskirts of Rio, has actually just pushed the problem out of mainline sight.
Claims that the scheme has improved safety levels have been crushed by many, who suggest that the benefit is only felt by the cities wealthiest suburbs. Despite these measures being taken, unfortunately, it is still the case that murder and armed robbery statistics remain at levels that would be considered alarming in Europe. Indeed, recently there were reports that two Brazilian football supporters were shot by two opposing football fans in the northeast of Brazil near the Arena Castelao World Cup stadium in Fortaleza.
Reports such as these continue to feature in the press around the world, making security the prime concern for visitors to Brazil next year. However, interestingly, the majority of concerns voiced by the press are being attributed to the safety of our England football stars – after claims that the Copacabana team base in Brazil is known as “Murder Central” – despite the fact that they will have armed protection with them at all times. In addition, the public have been warned that even in this beautiful tourist area with a heavy police presence, theft is not uncommon.
The larger cities in Brazil have an infrastructure to support millions of inhabitants on a day to day basis as well as thousands of cultural tourists from around the world. However, FIFA has, on more than one occasion, expressed alarm about repeated delays in readying the football venues such as the 71,000 seat Brasilia stadium, which is still not complete today because of problems in preparing the pitch, despite it being a key stadium for the Confederations Cup in June. The Brazil Football Confederation and the local organising committees continue to reassure the governing bodies and the public that they will be ready in time…..only time will tell.
Interestingly enough, however, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, has claimed that a certain part of Brazil’s infrastructure has made planning a World Cup in the South-American country an easier feat than in another country. He has claimed that the political infrastructure in Brazil – with a lesser sense of democracy, meaning there are various levels of government – makes the organisation of the tournament a simpler task.
In recent years, officials in Rio have been tackling gang-related crimes including drugs and prostitution. They claim to have made huge steps in the right direction thanks to their strategy of breaking up the hillside “favela slums”, which are ruled by criminal gangs (as mentioned previously). However, just this year a horrendous case of gang rape came to light where an American student was lured inside a public transit van in the area, which has now turned attention towards the country’s growing sexual assault problem. Statistics, in fact, show that counts of rapes have risen 150% since 2009 in the region. The reigniting of this safety concern has lead to increased talk about the safety of hundreds of thousands of fans travelling to the beautiful country next year and questions about whether local officials will be able to guarantee public safety.
There have also been concerns about the presence of organised crime due to the strong gang culture across Brazil. Issues such as the falsification of tickets, as well as match-fixing and bribery have been raised on numerous occasions.
As the Confederations Cup – supposedly a practice run for the FIFA World Cup – looms this year, all of the above concerns remain. The world is hoping that FIFA will work with organising committees across Brazil to smooth out the remaining issues in order to put on the greatest showcase of footballing talent in one of the most culturally diverse tourist destinations in the world.
The tournament should be a celebration of culture and sport with visitors – from officials to politicians to footballers and the fans – all embracing the country’s culture and helping to create a lasting legacy following on from the event.