Monday 10 March 2014

The heady mix – Soccer & Samba!

The fooball World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12. It has already generated much excitment world wide and mong Indian fans.

Yes, the heady mix of soccer and samba; the countdown has begun for the World Cup in the football heaven, Brazil. In just over 3 months time, the Brazil’s football greats will take the stage for a first home World Cup since 1950. And the celebrations will begin.

‘Over 100 days. It’s hard to believe the World Cup is so close. It seems like only yesterday that Brazil was confirmed as the 2014 FIFA World Cup host,’ says Ronaldo, Brazilian legend. The total cost of hosting the World Cup is $3.3 billion on the upgrading of airports; and three airports are being privatized. Brazil is the only team to have played in every World Cup since its inception in 1930. This will be the 20th edition. Brazil is the most successful team in the World Cup history playing in 7 finals, with 5 titles and scoring 210 goals.

Brazil 2014 will be the first tournament where goal line technology will be introduced. Also referees will use ‘vanishing spray’ to demarcate the spot for free kicks and indicate where the defensive wall will stand. The Brazuca – the official match ball of 2014 World Cup was named following a public vote in Brazil involving nearly one million fans.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world by area as well as population. Brazil is the most decorated national football team in the history of the World Cup, with five championships: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. After Brazil won its third World Cup in 1970, they were awarded the Jules Rienet trophy, the original World Cup trophy permanently. Made of 18 carat gold, the World Cup trophy weighs 6.175kg and is 36.5cm tall.

From Pele to Neymar, the country has produced for more than 50 years’ worth of great players. Brazil’s unique style of play was epitomized by some of the greats that wore the famous yellow jersey. The ‘samba boys’ play very skilful, creative, free-flowing, fast paced brand of football. Because Brazilians are often not as big and physically strong as Europeans, technical ability is their key to outwit others in the game. Pele, arguably the greatest football player ever, led Brazil to three of those World Championships. His control over the football is legendary, and is largely credited in putting Brazil on top of World football.

Over 10,000 Brazilians play professionally all over the world. A report earlier this year stated that Brazil is the biggest exporter of football talent. Of the 12,309 international transfers registered worldwide last year, 13 per cent or 1,558 involved Brazilian players who exhibit their unique talent in different countries.

Brazil’s colourful and passionate fans – both male and female go overboard to get the football party and fun to reach exciting levels with their colours, costumes and dress. Though the game is the biggest sport with possibly the most partisan crowds in the world, Brazil is one team that holds a universal charm.

When the side lost the 1950 World Cup in the decisive final group stage match to Uruguay at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, it was treated like a national disaster; the loss was called ‘Maracauzo’ or ‘The Maracana Blow’. The Brazilians often refer to their country as ‘O Pais do Futebol’ (the country of football). ‘Brazil very easily recongnised football in our future and tradition and as an opportunity to communicate to the world that Brazil is a powerful nation,’ states former World Cup player, Leonardo.

Many of the Brazil’s talents emerge from the dangerous ‘favelas’ (slums in urban areas). For them this is the only way out of their daily grind to fame and money. Football is also a favourite activity on the 7,491km-long coastline. The 11-a-side format on the beach is improvised on to accommodate more players.

Christ the Redemer statue stands against the backdrop of the Maraca Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the venue of the 2014 final. About 600,000 fans are expected to visit Brazil for the World Cup. And all eyes will be on the female fans cheering out loud for their favourite teams. They also hold an annual female football fans beauty pageant, Gatas do Paulistao, which surely will heat up the race for being the most beautiful woman fan and  with the World Cup this year, it will be a major attraction and draw big crowds.

Football and Samba are the two passions of Brazilians and have become the country’s cultural identity. With the country’s annual carnival already on in Rio de Janeiro, the home to Brazil’s most popular festivities, there couldn’t be a better theme than football ahead of the World Cup in June and the hosts are in a race against time to get the stadiums ready for the mega event.

India and World Cup:
The closest India ever came to playing in a footbll World Cup was in the 1950 edition hosted by Brazil. But the All India Football Federation announced that the team would not attend the World Cup, citing 'diagreements over team selection, and insuficient practice time.'

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