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Brazil Kicks Off A Troubled World Cup Tournament

As the World Cup kicks off, Brazilians are on the streets in protest. We talk soccer, Brazil, and Brazil’s problems.

Members of the Homeless Workers Movement march in front of Arena Corinthians stadium during a protest demanding better public services and against the money spent on the World Cup preparations in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP)

Members of the Homeless Workers Movement march in front of Arena Corinthians stadium during a protest demanding better public services and against the money spent on the World Cup preparations in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP)

Soccer fever is about to happen in Brazil.  The World Cup 2014 opens Thursday.  Before it ends a month later in Rio, there will be global delirium.  But hosting the World Cup – which was supposed to be a rising Brazil’s great coming-out party, like China with its Olympics – has turned out to be a lot more complicated than planned.  Protests all over Brazil saying build schools, hospitals, not stadiums.  Strikes and gridlock in Brazilian cities about to greet the world.  World soccer itself tarred with corruption allegations.  This hour On Point:  the World Cup rolls into a roiling Brazil.

– Tom Ashbrook


Vincent Bevins, Brazil correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Runs the “From Brazil” blog for Folha de Sao Paulo. (@Vinncent)

George Quraishi, founder and editor of Howler Magazine. (@quraishi)

Taylor Barnes, journalist based in Rio de Janeiro for USA Today Sports and the Christian Science Monitor. (@tkbarnes)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Soccer, Made In America — “Mr. Klinsmann, whose contract runs through the next World Cup in 2018, insists he cannot turn the U.S. men into a soccer superpower single-handedly or quickly. But he isn’t letting up. In February, he ran a full-length, intrasquad scrimmage in high heat and humidity of Brazil. ”

Los Angeles Times: Stadium for World Cup opener gets an incomplete on test run — “Brazil’s government has been locked in disputes with FIFA, soccer’s ruling body, over delays to stadium completions, as cost overruns have soured part of the Brazilian population on the event and provided ammunition for ongoing street protests. Before the game, thousands of the famously working-class Corinthians fans shouted protests outside about the high cost of tickets to the new stadium.”

The Economist: Cheering for Argentina – “In the year since, the protests have become more overtly political, and more extreme—putting off moderates such as Mr Filho who had at first bulked them out. Again, the authorities have been partly responsible. After the initial panic, little changed. Talk of a constituent assembly, for example—an idea floated by President Dilma Rousseff in response to calls for political reform—came to nothing. ”

How To Watch The World Cup Tournament

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    It shows you the depth of the country’s domestic problems that even in the most soccer mad country in the world, hosting a World Cup is not enough to appease the masses. It’s also a striking illustration of Brazil’s political maturity. You can bribe them into pacification with a sporting event like so many other places.

  • Charles

    This is not so unlike situations that occur here on a regular basis.
    You have politicians who are more beholden to their corporate benefactors and their thirst for personal glory that they sacrifice the well-being of their own constituents.
    We regularly witness prominent sport team owners shaking down cities for new stadia at the taxpayers’ expense, under the threat to move their team.
    The people of Brazil need food, medicine, and public transport more than they need sport complexes that will be defunct in 10 years. Similarly, the people of Charlotte, NC need good schools and good jobs, but we spend tax funds on renovating a billionaire’s football stadium.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Glorious delirium.
    –Tom Ashbrook

    Glorious bacterium, too. I’ll bet.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    I guess Pelé’s son, Edinho, won’t be kicking out the first ball. Or the first pile of freshly laundered reals.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Maybe Brazil should have asked China for help. China pulled it off without crashing trains,* spreading infectious diseases, societal collapse: in spite of world class pollution and rampant corruption. And still: world class poverty. China has a lot to offer Brazil.

    * That was later. See: “Great Leap Liu” {Liu Zhijun, Minister of Railways}

  • Jon

    can any reporter talk about any positive aspects of the world cup to the Brazilians at all?

  • TFRX

    Football is the greatest game in the world.

    It has to be to survive FIFA’s running it.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Especially when played in England. Go Arsenal. Hoober Doober

    • hennorama

      Hey! An on-air mention! Well done, TFRX.

      • TFRX

        Well, I have posted this bit of received wisdom every time soccer has been mentioned on the show. Can’t claim to have invented it.

        But thank you nonetheless.

        • hennorama

          TFRX — at times, persistence pays.

  • TFRX

    Does caller Michael, he of the eight jerseys, have a current USA jersey?

    I hope not, as the USA uniforms have been much better in the past.

    • JS

      You don’t like the Bottle Rocket Popsicle look?!?

      • TFRX

        First, since you’re saying “bottle rocket” I’ll take this as deadpan–and a good deadpan at that.

        Nothing about it says “USA”. Maybe if the blue were navy, like the flag, like every other international/Olympic thing I can remember. And more of it.

        As others have said, the USA look wasn’t locked into place, but there were a couple of things: The sash and the centered number on the front. (FIFA WorldCup regulations require one dominant jersey color, so this is not allowed.)

        (PS Mexico is doing some weird stuff and may not even be wearing their classic green white red kit this tournament. But that’s for fans of Mexico to hash out.)

        • JS
          • TFRX


            The Croatians get to brag with that neat checker motif–it’s really a winner for football and ice hockey.

          • JS

            I think we should take our lead from the Norwegian Curling Team

    • Kathy

      I’d settle for a lousy kit and a better group. This is going to be ugly.

      • TFRX

        Yeah, but it’s expected-ugly.

        Not like losing to Iran in ’98, or about all of 2006.

        • Kathy

          I don’t believe that there was a World Cup in 1998. I’m absolutely certain there wasn’t. If there was, we certainly weren’t part of it. In fact, I mostly don’t remember there being a year 1998. It was 1997 and then it was 1999.

          That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  • hennorama

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that bribery is going on in here!

    With FIFA, twas ever thus.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      FIFA is the Portuguese word for Baksheesh. HD

    • TFRX

      Now Hanno, I’m sure we’re dealing with honest people running these various national Football Orgs.

      I was already scratching my head about Qatar, least of all the “we’re going to ship these stadiums to other countries when Qatar 2022 is done”. Now I know, and shoulda suspected.

      (Honest, as in, once bought, stays bought.)

  • DCSmith

    That last, very excited, caller mentioned that FIFA’s profit is tax free? How does this work? What does Brazil get? (Other than revenue from tourists patronizing local business) Do they get a portion of things like ticket sales, and stadium ad revenue?

  • Philip Trostli

    Your current caller Julianna is right on point, exactly what I meant to say.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    FIFA and International Olympics “management” always look like the board of directors of Sopranos, Inc. I wonder why that is.*

    * Be suspicious of folks whose last names end in vowels (e.g., Corleone, Obama).

    • JS

      Sometimes Romney?

  • Kathy

    Oh god, here we are with Landon Donovan again. Yes, he’s a good player, but his skill on the field is dwarfed by the skill of his publicist.

  • hennorama

    Tom, please … we all know that Brazil’s economic problems, like all problems in the world, are President Obama’s fault.

    • brettearle

      And, while we’re at it, let’s levy partial fault on the First Lady, as well. [And, if the kids were of legal age, we could throw them in, too.]

      • hennorama

        brettearle — TYFYR.

        I disagree: Blame CANADA!

  • keruffle

    What’s up?
    Puts all
    In debt
    4 poor
    Jet set
    No regret
    Asian fix
    Penalty kicks

  • TFRX


    Until very recently, Tom, tradition held that when the World Cup was played in the Americas a team from the Western Hemisphere would take it, and when played in Europe, a European side.

    So, Brazil? Unless Uruguay again, like in 1950?

    The tournaments in Japan/South Korea and South Africa had no precedent. We’ll see in Qatar.

  • hennorama

    The sound of the caxirola can’t be any worse than that from fans (and mascots, etc.) pounding the glass during Stanley Cup games.

    • TFRX

      A lot of that has to do with placing the microphones for TV broadcast.

      Plus, wouldn’t you have that over a crowd that only cheers in response to the exhortation of the PA system? I sometimes have to explain to non-soccer fans that the crowds chant and sing on their own.

      • JS

        What I can’t stand is the incessant music played between every stoppage of play (in the hockey playoffs). Don’t they think people can sit there for 30-60 seconds and not need to be blasted with loud music? Hell, if they do get bored they will probably just eat and drink more like good Americans.

    • JS

      I for one loved the Vuvuzela

      • hennorama

        JS — well, it is a word that’s fun to pronounce, and evocative of the sound it makes.

        • JS

          Borrowing from an old David Letterman skit, it would work great on “Words that sound funny when said by James Earl Jones”

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