HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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Showing posts with label Vasco da Gama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vasco da Gama. Show all posts

18 February 2014

Curmudgeonly feats of observation

For the first time in a long time, I sat down to watch some football on a Sunday afternoon, Vasco x Flamengo. I have gradually distanced myself from both Vasco and football after the death of a youth footballer at a Vasco training ground in 2012 and from Brazilian football in particular because it is so irresolutely corrupt that it´s hard to enjoy. There is also the really low quality of the games, meaningless competitions and insanely high ticket prices to go to stadiums where the threat of police violence is on a par with the lack of institutional concern for the paying fan. Watching games on tv forces one to listen to the kind of lowest common denominator commentary that actively kills brain cells and corrodes whatever capacity for tactical analysis that I once had. In short, the more I have come to know about and experience Brazilian football the less I care. This is a profoundly difficult existential condition and one that I thought I could rectify on a Sunday afternoon on the couch, watching one of the world´s famous clássicos.

The game was at the Xaracanã and was played at a breakneck pace. The Brazilian championship used to be much slower, but now the ball pings around the midfield randomly until someone gets control for long enough to get hacked down. There is no space left on Brazilian football pitches. In this latest deform the Maracanã playing area was reduced by 16%. Once of monumental proportions, the Maracanã´s pitch would only be the 8th biggest pitch in England. Not incidentally, the field size reduction was mirrored by a 16% capacity reduction (89,000 to 76,525). Not that it matters: there were only 13,000 paying customers in a metropolitan area of 13 million on a Sunday afternoon. Those present were treated to a very emotional game that had a very little technical or tactical quality, but generated some hugely troubling moments during and after.

In the first half, Vasco´s octogenarian signing Douglas curled a lovely free kick that bounced off the underside of the bar and into the goal and then out again. The linesman, trained and paid to stand on the line to see that ball enter, didn´t see it and the goal wasn´t given. Fine, people make mistakes, the game continues. A bit later, Vasco scores, one nil. A few minutes after, Flamengo´s Elano curls a lovely free kick that could have entered the goal or not, but this time the goal was given by the linesman. One one at half time. This was not the correct score, but whatever, these things happen in football. The major problem was the violence with which the Vasco players took up the issue with the six man referee crew. There was so much pushing and shoving and yelling and real, vibrant anger that the Military Police rushed in to protect the refs. This was no surprise to anyone. Yelling and screaming and threatening are normal ways of dealing with things one does not like. Of course it is not just Vasco that does this, but it should be hugely embarrassing behavior for professional athletes to engage in. But in a country where UFC / MMA is the fastest growing sport, what does one expect?

The day after the non-event, in a tournament that means almost nothing, the referee (who teaches physical education in the public school system) is receiving death threats, has had his children´s names and photos published on fayce, his address revealed and is having his second job limited. The violence of Brazilian society appears to be growing every day and is taking its worst toll on the most vulnerable people. This referee can be made fun of, can be put into a lesser division, can have his eyesight examined, but death threats? He´s a working class public school teacher, not a mensalero!  If Vasco hadn´t lost the game through their own lack of tactical nous would there have been as much recrimination from the supposed Vasco fans? Is a person´s life and well-being really worth points in the Campeonato Carioca? The CBF hasn´t offered to keep the goal line technology installed for the Confederations Cup and FIFA doesn´t have much interest in putting chips in footballs, so the threats to human life for not seeing what should have been seen will continue.

Today, February 18, may be a turning point in Brazilian history. We will find out if the Curitiba World Cup stadium has the chance of being ready (my guess is that the hassle of reorganization will overcome construction delays). We will also likely find out the extent of the damage of the fire at the Cuiabá stadium. The former we can attribute to a lack of managerial capacity on the part of Atlético Paranaense. The latter story is more sinister as it may be the case that the construction firm, the World Cup secretariat of Matto Grosso state and a few other officials, knew of but did not publish a report that a fire set by a disgruntled employee in October had caused structural damage to one of the stands. The official report, obtained by Brian Winter of Reuters last week, claims that there was extensive structural damage to the supporting pillars.  The contractor and government officials deny this. One can imagine the scenario: big fire, massive damage, tight deadline. The organizers don´t want to admit that the damage is more than they could repair and even though the lives of 10,000 people in the stands might be at risk, the risk of not having the Cup would be even greater, so let´s just pretend that report doesn´t exist. This is the kind of violence that eats at the core of Brazilian society. If it is indeed true that this report was buried so that capitalist expediency could again take precedence over human life, it is then fair to assume that this is not an isolated incident in Brazil´s World Cup preparations.


09 December 2013

Fim do ano, fim do mundo

The end of another year of football in Brazil exposed the putrid state of every element of the game. This video explains some of it:


The Vasco x Atletico Paranaense match was held in the city of Joinville in Santa Catarina State because Altético´s stadium is under construction, and massively delayed, for the World Cup. Vasco needed to win in order to avoid relegation, but their team is so devoid of talent that staying in the first division another year would have been a sporting injustice. Why are Vasco so bad? Anyone out there remember Phillipe Coutinho, now starring in midfield for Liverpool? Ex-Vasco, he was sold to A.C. Milan on the day he turned 18. Vasco´s youth system has been condemned in the courts and the few times they do manage to produce talent, the boys are sold off to the highest bidder. This is same reason for which Fluminense was relegated. They decided to sell their two best players, Wellinton Nem and Thiago Neves, in mid season and brought no one in to replace them. The political-economy of Brazilian football continues to benefit agents and directors at the expense of clubs and fans.

However, the causes for the scenes above have much deeper roots than just the emptying of talent pools and managerial incompetence (read: Vanderlei Luxemburgo). The torcidas organizadas have long standing relationships with club directors. This is not new or surprising in Latin America. However, the fact that there had been violence between the torcidas of Vasco and Atletico PR and that the Military Police decided not to patrol inside the stadium, leaving it up to a private security force, on a day when the Torcida Jovem of Vasco was likely to be at its most aggressive because of the impending relegation…that is another kind of violence in and of itself. The inability of the state to anticipate pre-announced conflicts or of the responsible football authorities to ensure the safe realization of a game is exactly the kind of violence through absence that has as its inevitable counterpoint a boot in the face and a nail-tipped club in the head. Violence permeates Brazilian football at all levels so why are we so surprised when it breaks out in the stands?

Naturally, in Brazil, no one is going to assume responsibility for any of this. The clubs cannot be held responsible for their permissive relationships with the torcidas, the PM´s hands off attitude may be criticized but not investigated, the CBF is tone deaf, blind and unmoving. The only thing that will happen is that both Vasco and Atletico will receive punishments of short duration that will not significantly alter the status quo.

A number of important Brazilian footballers have started a movement to reform Brazilian football from the inside. Good Sense F.C. is calling for a reorganization of the football calendar and for a declaration of labor rights for football players. They issued a note regarding yesterday´s violence saying all culpable parties should be found out. This includes the CBF, the Military Police, the private security firm in charge of the internal policing, the emergency personnel, the board of directors of both clubs and the torcidas organizadas. 

18 September 2012

General update


Earlier this year, after Vasco was judged to have maintained some of their youth players in “conditions of slavery” at a clandestine training site, I stopped watching football. In Brazil, it’s impossible not to pay attention to novellas of some kind, but I have found that my decision to drop my active support for Vasco (though I’m still Vasco) has freed me to do other things. It’s actually quite a relief not to suffer the difficulties of fighting for a place in the Copa [your name here] Libertadores, or to get upset when we lose 4-0 at home and the very popular, very good manager is forced to resign. The more one knows about the way Brazilian football works, the more revolting it becomes. Quem conheça a cozinha não come mais.

In some respect, the only way that Brazilians give any credibility to my indignation and revolt against Vasco is by me staying away from the game. If I were to follow Vasco closely after calling them out on the international stage, people would have (and some did) questioned my “claim to authenticity”. As Vasco continues to disgrace its history and delude its supporters by trying to get out from under the judicial decisions that would make them treat their trainees decently, they are also being sued by Romário for back wages of R$50 million. The politics of the Vasco directorship continue in the very same, sad, tired vein as the CBF and Brazilian football in general. Without popular, judicial, or political pressure to change, nothing ever will. If you’re satisfied, keep giving your support as you always have. More Bread and Circus please, hold the bread.

As predicted, the Paralympic flag did not make the same rounds as the Olympic flag. It floated on over to a center for the disabled in Santa Cruz, and that was it. This week, even O Bobo was forced to publish a piece on the nearly complete inaccessibility of the city for people in wheelchairs. With four years to the Paralympics, the new metro cars and 40% of the bus fleet are inaccessible. In more than three years of riding city buses, I have only seen one person try to get on in a wheelchair. Why? It’s nearly impossible! There is only one crosswalk in all of Rio that has a sound alert for the blind. ONE! As I suggested in my last post, if we had the Paralympics first, these “problems” would become priorities.

The BRT Transoeste has now claimed five lives and injured many more since its inauguration in June. On a recent trip along the proposed trajectory of the BRT Transcarioca, it became clear that the entire region will be sliced in half, with street crossings limited to stop lights and pedestrian overpasses. Talk about making things difficult for the disabled and elderly! There is no indication that all the overpasses will have elevators, and even if they were to have them, would they be used? Cariocas are masters of finding the shortest trajectory across busy streets, even if those streets are packed with high speed buses. If no one will go an extra 30 meters to use a crosswalk or an underpass, why will they begin to climb with their bags in the heat of the day? Unfortunately, the Transcarioca will kill as readily as the Transoeste. 

20 August 2012

Minha Preciosa / My Precious

When the Olympic Flag arrived in Rio de Janeiro, the mayor posed for cameras with a coy, obsequious smile as he stroked the wooden box which housed the flag. As he caressed the source of all earthly power, he touched the flag (made of Korean Silk!) with his bare hands: a violation of Olympic protocol equivalent to showing the soles of one’s feet to the King of Siam. The Lords were not happy. In the week following the arrival of the Olympic flag in Rio, the twenty first century equivalent of Cortez claiming Mexico for Spain, the mayor has triumphantly brought this sacred icon of the European aristocracy to Brasília (for the Queen of the Planalto), the Complexo do Alemão (occupied by the Brazilian military and symbolic center of power for traficantes), Realengo (the center of military power in Rio), the Palácio da Cidade (center of non-ecclesiastic power), and to Cristo Redentor (symbol of celestial and economic power). Now that we’ve all had the flag waved in our faces and are duly conquered we can send it to the cleaners to remove the fingerprints. Only if one is a Brazilian journalist working for a major outlet could one not notice the parallels between the way the government slobbers and slithers after the flag and the role of the Olympics in consolidating symbolic, political, social, economic and urban power. We are living in a city governed by Gollum! Five rings to rule them all!!!!

Three signs that all is not well under the developmentalist, consumerist regime that counts as public policy in Brazil: the grocery store around the corner from my apartment was assaulted at 6am Sunday morning. Upset that the manager didn’t have the code to the safe, the two assailants put something that “had the appearance of a grenade” in the mouth of the manager and kicked him in the face. Really? Flamengo is a middle and upper-middle class neighborhood in the center of town. Perhaps we should require that everyone wear five rings to work? The assailants escaped out the back of the store and the supermarket opened for business as usual at 11am.

Sunday brought Vasco x Flamengo to the Engenhão. On the way to the stadium a bus full of Flamengo supporters from Resende stopped at a gas station, were put into a rage after seeing some Vasco fans and started to break everything in sight. They then chased down, stabbed, shot and killed 30 year old Diego Matins Leal, who wasn’t wearing a Vasco shirt. 57 people were arrested. As an aside, there were only 19,469 people at the game and only 15,459 of them paid to get in, meaning that 21% of fans entered for free. The paying fans forked over an average of R$26 per ticket for gate receipts of R$403,835. Those who aren’t entitled to half-price tickets paid between R$30 and R$60, subsidizing everyone else. Between the latent, bubbling violence of the torcidas organizadas, the militarization of stadium space that does nothing to diminish the violence but treats everyone as a potential criminal, the high cost of tickets, the difficulty of access and the terrible Engenhão stadium (which I want to say, again, is no longer called Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, but Stadium Rio -  a fact continuously ignored by the media here) – is it any wonder that the biggest rivalry in Rio can only get half the average attendance of MLS's Seattle Sounders?

And to continue what has been a very depressing post…In the last week two kids have been killed by Rio’s security forces. One, a 15 year old male, was killed outside his home by BOPE as he bent down to pick up the keys that his mom had thrown from the upstairs window. Shot three times, his mother was forced to clean her son’s blood off the doorstep. Yesterday, a four year old girl was killed by Military Police during a raid. In the USA, people make tragic films about these events. In Rio, this is everyday news and a sign that not all is well. 

It would appear that the metrics of security for Rio de Janeiro are indeed linked to the ability of Zona Sul residents and visitors to walk around with an iphone on their way to get some frozen yogurt. For those who live outside the Olympic City, there are daily, deadly reminders that NOTHING FUNDAMENTAL HAS CHANGED. The appearance of new buildings, shopping malls, museums, ageing football stars and the occasional international celebrity only mean that there’s a chance for someone to make money, not that there’s any kind of meaningful wealth redistribution, or shift in paradigm. To the contrary, the wholesale capitulation of the Worker’s Party to private industry has stuffed private hands even further into public pockets.  Three absurd deaths in three days, a supermarket manager getting kicked in the face with a grenade stuffed in his mouth, endemic and systemic corruption, phantasmagoric mega-projects, the decline of popular culture and fawning fealty to a posse of high-handed moralists: the narcotic power of the five rings hides the violence from plain sight.

15 May 2012

The Vasco Fiasco


The Vasco Fiasco has gained more attention though this blog than it did in the Brazilian media. Last week, I talked with the BBC World Fooball Report about it and comments continue to flow in from all corners. Brazilians are horrified that I would consider leaving my team, expressing concern that I’m not staying with Vasco. In Brazil (as in other parts of the world) rejecting a team is a radical thing to do and those who think that this is not tormenting me deeply are very much mistaken.

To reiterate what happened: Vasco were found by an investigator to have maintained their youth trainees in slave-like conditions. I found this revolting, horrifying and immoral and in my disgust wrote, “I am not this Vasco, I reject this club.” This is a point that needs some clarification and along the way I hope to plumb the depths of footballing identities in Brazil.

I am not, as some have suggested, choosing to leave Vasco for another club, pick up another mantle, or start watching the NBA playoffs. I understand and am deeply impacted by what I write about. There is no need to justify myself, the depth of my knowledge of Brazilian football, or the relative profundity of my Vasco-identidade.

My rejection of this Vasco suggests that there is another Vasco. I believe this to be true. While the realities of Vasco’s project of social inclusion and racial democracy were probably never as pure and altruistic as we would like to believe, within the well-documented history of the club as a place where Rio’s most disenfranchised were able to use football and the Vasco club as a vehicle for social inclusion, there are elements of truth. What is perhaps more important is that we believe that this possibility exists and that we act to ensure its realization. Leaving Vasco makes this impossible, but it is also impossible to “cheer” (está impossível torcer) for a team whose labor pool is re-supplied with slaves, or indentured servants, or voluntary serfs. Leaving is torture, staying is moral turpitude, doing nothing is impossible, so I write. Mas que adianta marcar gol de letra em posição de impedimento? But what good does it do to score in an offside position? [losing all lyric sensibility in English, btw]

That Vasco physically and psychologically abuses its youth trainees in the name of economic expediency kills the club’s claim to its own history and shoves in our faces the cruel mechanisms of football’s political economy. We are all happy to ignore these realities while watching games, stressing out about results, arguing about the merits of our clubs. Yet critical reflection upon our own identities as football fans surely must lead us to the point where we take some responsibility for the Darwinian cesspool into which tens of thousands of young Brazilian lives are thrown in order to produce the nucleus around which our identities cluster.

This is my major point of contention. I am Vasco but I do not, cannot and will not torcer for this team until I know that the institution has been reformed and that youth players compensated, educated, and cared for to the highest possible standard. Ignoring the current practices legitimates them. If installing world class facilities requires a few years in the second or third division, tudo bem! I prefer to lose with well-fed, well-educated, and well-cared for players than to have a championship trophy hoisted onto the tombstones of teenagers. Rejecting Vasco is radical, but not nearly as radical as SLAVERY!

The commentaries on the original post are clearly not random but reflect more general ideas that legitimate slavery in Brazilian football. The “love it or leave it” attitude is easy enough to ignore. The earnest apologists are a bit more difficult. One recent comment said that there is “a media bias against Vasco’s president” therefore the findings of the public prosecutor’s office “need to be questioned”. Or that the trainees “don’t have contracts” so they can’t be considered slaves. WTF? Slaves have contracts? Is Vasco only football? Are Vascainos so ready to trade results for human dignity? Emotions are so tightly wound around Brazilian football that it makes conversations about identity and reality nearly impossible, prompting knee-jerk reactions that allow the club directors to hijack identities for profit and power.

The way forward is difficult. If Vasco is to have any claim to its own history it must again make decisions based in values that are not associated with the market, that are not aligned with the interests of the “elite clubs”, that are founded in conceptions of human dignity and social justice. It is the responsibility of all Vascainos to reshape the club so that these values will be represented on the field, in the boardroom and in the bodies and minds of our youth. 

25 April 2012

Stop Crying, Vasco doesn't need you...


The central issues that I am processing in relation to this Vasco fiasco are reflected in the comments that were left on the site. The first says – “Stop crying. You aren’t and never were a real Vascaino. Vasco doesn’t need “Vascainos” like you”. The second – “You say you’re no longer Vasco as if an American had the legitimacy to say that, how ridiculous. A real Vascaino is born Vasco, you don’t become Vasco because you discovered Brazil.” The third – “in Brazil you can change your wife, your job, your state, etc. everything but the club. To love a club is to defend it to the death. I think you still have time to reconsider your position.” (Is this a threat?) The fourth, by a Botafogüense – “Really nice logic, the only people who can be Vasco were born in Brazil and who will die (and perhaps kill) for Vasco. With fans at this level it is better that you abandon this team.”

The lies and abuse that Vasco has spread around are made possible by the kinds of comments above. Love of the team, by this sick logic, allows the directors to do whatever they want, collect trophies and money at the cost of young lives. The culture of “undying love” that people are “born with” and that “others” “outsiders” “Americanos” [sic] have no legitimate claim to, no matter how profound and “real” their sentiments, places the team above reproach, allowing for the possibility of slaves to be used in the pursuit of three points or another star on the jersey. Questioning the team is to question one’s self, something that the Vascainos who commented above are not willing or able to do.

My position remains the same. This should be an international scandal especially in a country that is preparing to host the World Cup. The directors of Vasco should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. There should be a general investigation into Brazilian football training structures as we know that Vasco is not the only team that profits from unpaid labor in sub-human conditions. The CBF and FIFA will not take a position on this, unless pressured to do so.

The law of the land is one thing in Brazil, football is another. Until the two are brought together and these “true” Vascainos start to examine how much human blood they are willing to sacrifice for their club, the violence will continue.

22 April 2012

Tchau Vasco


I became Vasco when researching Temples of the Earthbound Gods. In the 1910s and 1920s, Vasco fought the elite clubs of Rio so that the working class, illiterate and sub-altern could play football and receive something for their labors. The all-white clubs of Botafogo, Flamengo, America and Fluminense did not have to pay their players because they were daddy’s boys exercising their right to exercise vigorously. They had sponsors but instead of wearing the names of companies on their shirts, they carried their wealth in their names and residential addresses. The smaller teams from the suburbs paid their players a bicho, an animal, sometimes a leg of a cow, or a chicken, or some eggs – something to pay them back for the energy and time expended on the field of play. This was unacceptable to the nascent Rio football federation which disguised its racism and classism behind statutes of amateurism.

When Vasco won the second division in 1922, the big four of the time decided that they wouldn’t play against the blacks, mulattos, Portuguese and poor whites from São Cristóvão, forming a separate league that lasted for TEN YEARS. This apartheid system was only resolved with full professionalization in 1933, six years after Vasco had built a monument to its project of social inclusion, the São Januário. Vasco’s role in opening football to all social classes, the beauty and symbolic power of the stadium and a wealth of other non-rational reasons made me Vasco. That’s over.

I have long argued that if there is going to be any meaningful change to and in the world of football, we have to start understanding the acts of fandom as political. Putting on a team jersey is never neutral but rather an incorporation of one’s self into a larger community, a larger historical trajectory, a complex of actors and agents that are invariably connected to political economies and urban spaces that make one sleepy imagining their extent and intricacy. Nonetheless, they exist.  I would never, ever pull on a shirt that had the letters CBF (the Brazilian football confederation) on it because of all of the reasons I have explained ad nauseam in these pages. If there are to be political consequences that result from our individual actions, football is a fine place to start thinking more deeply.
São Januário loses his head. It appears not much has changed.

The report that Vasco has maintained a secret training ground where its young, poor, semi-literate players are kept in conditions of slavery, with the full knowledge and consent of the board of directors, after a year of negotiation with public prosecutors after a 14-year old boy from Minas Gerais died because there was no medical staff on site…it makes me sick. 

Vasco has turned away from everything that it stood for while at the same time using the words “inclusion” and “democracy” to promote their brand on a uniform. In short, Vasco is selling its history as a hollow commodity while at the same time exploiting the very people this history pretends to connect with. I repeat: Vasco was trying to hide their “slave-like” training camp for more than a year after one of their youth players died from the conditions at a different site. The board of directors smiles and struts around repeating the old mantras while marching to the drum of maximum exploitation.

We know that Vasco is not the only Brazilian team that engages in these kinds of practices. Brazilian teams make 28% of their profits from the sale of players, most of them never play a full professional season in their native land. The global political economy of football begins with the pipe-dream of becoming Dani Alves or Ronaldinho Gaucho, passes hopefully through concentration camps where swarms of piranha-like agents and coaches break and bend Brazilian adolescents to be fit for export while neglecting human rights and individual dignity. When those unpaid, ill-treated adolescents do actually break, or don’t bend enough, they are discarded on the scrapheap where tens of thousands just like them squirm and cry, their young lives already wrecked by the impossibility of their own dream that may not have even been theirs to begin with. 

We prop up these dreams every time we pull on that shirt.

I am saddened, horrified and angered.

I am not this Vasco.

I reject this club.
.



04 November 2011

Finados

Orlando Silva is out of the Ministry of Sport and is under federal investigataion for shuffling cards under the table. Nothing surprising, but the top communist post in Dilma’s government appears to have been less than equitable in his redistribution of state funds. Silva has been replaced by Aldo Rebelo who was involved in some small scandals in the Lula government. Far from squeaky clean, Rebelo’s brother was named in the scandal that brought down Silva. It is unclear if Rebelo has ever kicked or thrown a ball in anger or what his qualifications are to head the government’s primary ministry that will deal with the World Cup and Olympics. More of the same, de novo.

After saying he was going to radically reduce the taxi fleet by some thousands of taxis (and had this put into the Master Plan) the Glorious Crown Prince of Rio has decided to increase it by six thousand. How does he do this? Executive decree. What is an executive decree? A handy tool taken from the box of authoritarianism. What is authoritarianism? The dominant regime in Rio.

Has there ever been a city preparing for mega-events, trying to sell itself to the world as a place of business and leisure that has an much violence and open gunfire in the streets as Rio? Yesterday, in Santa Teresa, there was a gun battle between traficantes and the Military Police after the latter arrested some of the former. The attack on Santa’s UPP is the latest in a series of battles between insurgents and the coalition forces and was probably related to the monthly payment scheme that the two sides had worked out (where the UPP bosses received R$50,000 a month from the traficantes). Last week in Maré, one of Rio’s biggest drug bosses was gunned down in an intense firefight. BOPE has been occupying a part of Maré for a couple of weeks as they prepare to install their headquarters in the region.

The state government appears to be massaging their homicide statistics to show that their public policies are working, but there has been a commensurate increase in “deaths by other causes” as well as disappearances. Between 2007 and April of 2011, 22.533 people disappeared in Rio de Janeiro.

One of the people who should not have disappeared from Rio is State Deputy Marcelo Freixo. Freixo has been under death threat by milicias for years, but recently those threats have escalated and he gone to London at the invitation of Amnesty International to give a series of lectures. Ever sympathetic to the allies of the Crown Prince, who had a sit-down meeting with the milicias about van transport last week, OGlobo mocked Freixo in today’s paper saying that Freixo really isn’t under threat but that his departure was “already scheduled”. From Freixo’s twitter page:
Não recebi qualquer contato de autoridade do gov do Rio para falar sobre as ameaças que recebi. Tratavam como se o problema fosse meu.
I have not received any contact from the Rio government to talk about the threats I have received. They are treating the problem as if it were mine alone.

Naked and repeated death threats to state representatives, open gun battles in some streets, a mayor that governs through executive order, insane traffic problems, rampant real-estate speculation… all made better by the announcement that FIFA is going to offer tickets for the first round of World Cup games between US$20 and US$30. The above link is an interview with FIFA VP Valcke, who is honest in his answers but after reading the interview I’m pretty sure that this is going to be a disaster of a World Cup in terms of mobility. His response to the reporter’s question about a Brazilian fan having to travel more than 10,000km to see the team play was “At least he will be able to say that he traveled.” As I described in an earlier post, the sheer number of air miles is going to overload the Brazilian system completely. My recommendation: stay in the north-east (Recife, Natal, Fortaleza) and paddleboard between the cities.

The Campeonato Brasileiro is headed to a dramatic conclusion. This is the most disputed title in some time with as many as 6 teams with a chance to win it. Happliy, Vasco da Gama is level on points at the top of the table (with Corinthians) four games to play. For the first time in recent memory all four of Rio’s big teams have a chance to win. Vasco’s path is the most difficult with games against Santos, Botafogo, Fluminense, and Flamengo.

Oh the Maracanã.  The contract process for the area surrounding the stadium was just suspended. There are plans to privatize it before 2013 and Eike Batista wants to use his toupee to cover the stands. The final supporting beam of the old roof has been removed and with the implementation of the UPP in Mangueira, the stadium is completely surrounded, as if it had just robbed a  case of beer and was running down the street into a BOPE nest. Hopefully the Policía Federal will have the courage to surround the band of crooks at the CBFdp, but they apparently weren’t able to get much out of Dr. Jowls when he talked to them the other day.
This is the last post for awhile as I will be attending Think Tank 2: Sport Mega-event Impact, Leveraging, and Legacies in Vancouver. The title of my paper for the think tank is The Mega-event city as neo-liberal laboratory. Here’s the abstract:

The production of sports mega-events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is occurring within the context of profound political, economic, and social change. As Brazil’s economy and political structures have stabilized over the past quarter century, the country has assumed an increasingly important role in global affairs. The dominant trends towards neo-liberalism in the global political-economy are being reproduced within the context of a state structure that has traditionally occupied a central role in the national economy. While transitions to neo-liberalism at the national scale will take time to implement, it is within the urban context that agents of global capital are able to shape most effectively space and social relations to maximize accumulation strategies. In this sense, sports mega-events function as mechanisms for the implementation of neo-liberal modes of governance within urban contexts. This paper will examine the processes through which mega-events in Rio de Janeiro are using the city as an active laboratory for new models of neo-liberal governance that are accelerating the transformation of Brazilian society.

15 August 2011

Football Explaination 101


Dále Vasco. This week the absurdly translated Bullet-Train from the Hill (A Trem Bala da Colina) beat Palmeiras 2-0 in the Copa Sudamericana and 1-0 in the Brasileirão. I make no secret about being a Vascaino and those who aren’t can’t figure out why, those that are nod their head in knowing appreciation of a shared sentiment (que não pode parar). A few people have asked me what these different tournaments are and how they all fit together. I’ll use Vasco as an example.

In 2011, Vasco da Gama will play in 4 different competitions, some simultaneously: Campeonato Carioca (divided into the Taça Rio and the Taça Guanabara), Copa do Brasil (which they won), Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, and Copa Sudamericana.

The Campeonato Carioca is a three division competition that is restricted to professional teams in Rio de Janeiro State. All of the other Brazilian states have similar competitions. Teams move between divisions through the globally recognized and recognizable system of relegation and promotion (top teams in lower divisions move up, lowest teams in all divisions move down or out). When Vasco won the second division in 1922, América, Fluminense, Flamengo, Botafogo, and Bangu, formed a separate league so that they would not be forced to share the field with players from lower social classes who were challenging the false notions of amateurism and social exclusion. Rio had a apartheid system in football from 1923 until full professionalism was instituted in1933.

The Copa do Brasil is a playoff system between 64 teams that qualify by either winning their state leagues, being in the CBF’s (Brazilian Football Federation) top ten ranked teams, or by riding a pack of botos between Manaus and Belém. Vasco won this year’s tournament which automatically qualifies them for the Copa Libertadores next year, more on that later.

The Campeonato Brasileiro, or Brasileirão, is a four division affair that extends across the length and breadth of this great land. Vasco are playing in the Serie A for the second consecutive year (2010, 2011) after competing in the Serie B in 2009 (for having finished in 18th place in 2008). Ironically, the trauma of going to SErie B might have been one of the best possible things for Vasco as they were able to get some of the dead wood from the previous administration out of the front office and the Rio fans, whatever their faults might be, certainly come to the aid of their team when they’re struggling. Vasco had the highest attendances of any team in Brazil in 2009.
Vasco is also in the Copa Sudamericana, and were randomly pitted against Palmeiras twice in the same week. Once for the Copa, once for the Brasileirão. The Copa Sudamerica is open to almost every team in the top flight of Brasilian footy. A top 14 finish qualifies. The bottom four drop out of the league so there are only two teams in the first division that don’t qualify for extra pay days with TRAFFIC Sports (who own the transmission rights to all South American continental matches). Why have less footy when you can just make up a reason for teams to fly all over the place to play 10pm Wed night games? Similar to the newfangled Europa League and the oldfangled UEFA Cup, no one really takes this Cup seriously until the semi-finals.

The 2012 Copa Libertadores beckons, and this is a much more serious matter. Like the UEFA Champions League this features the top teams from all the domestic leagues in CONMEBOL who play two round robin rounds before moving to a home and away knock out round where away goals count more than goals scored at home. That is to say that if Vasco were to play LDU to a 2-2 draw in Quito and also drew 1-1 at the São Januário, they would progress to the next round by virtue of more away goals scored. If they lost 3-1 away and won 2-0 at home, they would also go through. Got it?

The winner of the Copa Libertadores in 2010, Santos F.C., will dispute the World Club Championship with the other winners of the confederation tournaments. Usually this is a showdown between the European champion (Barcelona) and the South American. However, much to the delight of Gremistas, in 2010 Inter Milan won after beating Congo’s TP Mazembe who had shocked Internacional of Porto Alegre in the semi-final.

That more or less takes care of the club competitions. This scenario repeats itself around the world with variations here and there. In the USA, for instance, there is no system of promotion and relegation. This, in part, owes itself to an antiquated exception in the anit-trust laws that gives monopoly power to the “Major Leagues”, who are able to set significant barriers to entry in to their relatively closed circuits of capital circulation. In Argentina, when a major team gets relegated, they change the entire league structure. As the bosteros of San Lorenzo put it to River: cambiaran a las reglas cuando ibas a la B, la platea te regaló un teniente-coronel, vos sos asi, vos sos gallina, junto com Boca sos la mierda de Argentina!

07 February 2011

Ocupações, demolições, e concentrações, oh my!

Sunday in Rio started off with the occupation of seven favelas in the center of the city. The expansion of the Rio State Government’s UPP project continues to successfully remove armed drug traffic from select favelas in the city. The popular consensus is that the UPPs are making the city a safer place but some lingering questions remain. The city government continues to remove favelas in the paths of the ill-conceived BRT lines and are meeting with some stiff resistance from residents. This is in complete concordance with the Olympic Plans for the city. And to complete the rational for the title of this article, the UPPs are concentrating drug traffickers and drug trafficking in other parts of the city and state.

OGlobo’s mission is not to report fully the story but to spin what the government is doing in such a way as to make it more palatable to the middle and upper middle classes. This is why OGlobo continually refers to the occupation of favelas via the installation of UPPs as “The War of Rio”. It’s not a war, porra! These are military actions to gain control of strategic areas of the city. The general hope is that once the presence of the state is installed through violence (or the threat of), that other state functions such as education, sanitation, water provision, and health care will begin to appear. So far, these programs have been limited to massively centralized, top-down projects. It will take years to evaluate the effectiveness of these new projects. The concentration of military force and urbanization projects in the Olympic Zones of Rio is compounding the already grossly unequal urban, social, and economic geographies of Rio.

The economic and geographic logics for the occupations are clear. UPPs function to install the state in the areas within the so-called Olympic Rings of Rio traffickers so that:
 1) New consumers can be added to the market. Form Ancelmo Gois today, “Mintues after BOPE occupied the São Carols yesterday, an elite troop of Sky salespeople (a cable provider) disembarked in the carioca favela. They set up headquarters on top of the hill…to take advantage of the presence of the law in the community that will put an end to the pirating of cable services.” Nossa senhora. So now, when BOPE goes into a favela they have embedded commercial interests? This is not the first instance of this trend. Light, the electricity provider, is giving away free refrigerators in the Complexo do Alemão, as long as the new consumers legalize their electricity service.  By pacifying the favelas, the state opens up new markets for service providers. That they act in such a concerted manner is reflective of the general logics of capital accumulation (insert your favorite David Harvey quote here:).

 2) Real estate values can be unlocked. The mere mention of the installation of a new UPP increases real-estate prices in the targeted favelas and their surrounding neighborhoods. (insert favorite Raquel Rolink quote here).

3) The new security regime of Rio can be broadcast to the world announcing that the city is safe for accelerated capital accumulation. While I don’t think that UPPs are only a Potemkin exercise, the ostentatious displays of power are not only for local audiences. What is not reported in the national media is that while the international showpiece city of Rio de Janeiro is becoming safer, the entire northeast of Brazil is exploding in violence. The cities of Salvador, Natal, Recife and Fortaleza will all receive World Cup projects and all have seen dramatic increases in violent crime in recent years. The massive investments in the South-east of the country not only increase geographic and social inequalities within the cities themselves, but extend this inequality to other parts of the country. This is one of the issues that we’ll be taking up in the Mega-events observation project.

4) Armed drug trafficking will become increasingly concentrated in other parts of the city and state so that the police will be able to more easily eliminate it. From p.12 of today’s paper: “Traffickers from the Complexo de São Carols and the favelas of Santa Teresa, knowing that the occupation was coming, fled to Rocinha, Costa Barros, the favelas in Caju, and communities in Enenho da Rainha…Residents of Santa Teresa were adamant in saying that traffickers had fled once the governor announced that the favelas would be occupied.” Ok, fine, they’ve left for other communities. But is that the end of the story? What is happening in the places where the traffickers go to? Are these places becoming more violent? I assume that a higher concentration of violent people with more weapons would make for a more hostile place to live. The map below would suggest the same. Is the government working to identify how the dislocations of armed and violent drug traffic to other parts of the city and state are negatively affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the same way that OGlobo crows about the numbers of people “benefitted” by the UPPs? Given that the demand for drugs is never, ever going to diminish, how will the government “regulate” it? Are they trying to move the sale of marijuana to the middle class kids of the Zona Sul? Why is “Toke” the sponsor on the jerseys of the referees in the Campeonato Carioca? (para os Brasileiros, em inglês, “Toke” quer dizer dar uma tapinha num baseado). Perhaps this explains some of their bizarre decisions.

5) To demonstrate that the city, state and national governments are inveting massively in public works that work for the public. However, the total investments in urbanization of favelas and the occupation of communities in Rio will probably only total around R$2-3 billion, while the spending just for the Maracanã reforms will be around R$1.5 billion and the proposed budget for the Olympics is R$ 30 billion. So while it is laudable that the government is finally putting some money where its mouth is, they are talking more to FIFA and the IOC than to the people, communities, and entities with whom they have a longer standing and more substantial contract.

The movement of drug trafficking and drug traffickers within Rio de Janeiro is making the coming Battle of Rocinha and the Battle of Vidigal even more complex than they were. These battles will happen either this year or next. Maybe before the Jogos Militares in July? (Will someone please correct their English on this site? Nossa. “Meet the history of Santa Cruz air base”.  I offered to help, but received no reply).  

In happier news, Vasco da Gama finally won, giving them 4 points after 6 games.






31 January 2011

Vasco da Gama (1) x Flamengo (2), Campeonato Carioca 2011

With all of the writing about mega-events I rarely take the opportunity to write about football, which is more than a passing interest.

Contrary to produced and received wisdom, the biggest fixture of the Rio football calendar is not Flamengo x Fluminense (Fla x Flu) but rather Vasco da Gama x Flamengo. Known as the “Classico das milhões” (the derby of millions) Vasco x Fla happens four times a year and in the ‘classic  years’ of Rio’s football drew eight of the twenty largest crowds in Brazilian history

Vasco entered yesterday’s game having lost their first three games of the Campeonato Carioca. Flamengo had won all of theirs. Two teams going in opposite directions.  Vasco fired its coach who had been sabotaged by the two star players, Carlos Alberto and Felipe. This sabotage took the form of intentionally losing games, which is a pretty sinister thing. There is also speculation that the players are trying to end the presidency of Roberto Dinamite, who scored 700 goals for Vasco as a player. Are Dinamite’s political rivals paying players to lose games so that he is weakened come election time? Whatever is going on, Vasco is totally lost at sea and entered the day at the bottom of the table with no coach, no captain, no confidence, one goal and zero points from three games. Uma situação cumplicada.

Flamengo just signed Ronaldinho Gaúcho and appears to be rolling in cash. Even though they just escaped relegation in 2010 after winning the league in 2009, they looked comfortable in their first three games. In the lead up to the game the platitudes and clichés were flying, as usual – “Vasco sempre é um rival cumplicado” “Clássico é Classico, não dá para prever”, etc.

It’s high summer in Rio. Game time temperature at the stadium was 38°C, and probably much, much hotter on the field. Contrary to the ‘classic’ years, there were only 15,000 people in attendance. The reasons for the radical drop in attendance are too complicated to explain succinctly.  The broadcast team for PFC2 (owned of course by OGlobo) continually referred to the Fechadão by its original name, Estádio Olímpico João Havelange. That’s not the name anymore. It was changed to Stadium Rio last year in an empty appeal to internationalize this sad spaceship of a sporting venue.

The expectation was that Vasco were going to lose, badly. When David hit the first goal, there was no surprise, almost a relief that the anticipated had arrived. When Thiago Neves took advantage of a lovely through ball aided by some lazy defending and chipped over Fernando Prass just before half-time, it was basically over.
Contrary to expectations, Vasco did not lie down and die in the second half, but upped the intensity of the game once substitutions were made. One of the problems I have with following Brazilian football really closely is that the players are never around for long enough to become familiar with them. I would like to be able to report about how the insertion of Misael for Allan and Márcio Careca for Ramon changed things for Vasco, but I can only say that they did, and from the 20th minute of the second half on, Vasco were the better team.

One of the delightful things about watching games in Brazil is also one of the most frustrating. The commentators don’t tend to provide much depth to the game, but come up with some gems once in a while. They are also biased. For instance, instead of saying that Vasco had improved and were stringing passes together and looking good, the commentator (whose name I forget) said: Flamengo perdeu o meiocampo. Flamengo lost the midfield. Porra! Porque não poderia ter dito que Vasco melhorou? A small thing, but important.

The gems were the following:
Regarding one of Vasco's players: Ele é um jogador de pequissimos recursos. He is a player with limited resources. A damning condemnation of a professional footballer.

Regarding the lack of substitutions at half time: Flamengo não mexeu porque não precisa, Vasco porque não tem noção. Flamengo didn’t make any changes because they don’t have to, Vasco because they don’t have a clue.

After melhorando muito seu desempenho em campo, Vasco marcou e quase virou o jogo. A draw would have been lovely and just, but it did not come and Vasco have written a new page in their long history. They have never lost four games to start the Campeonato Carioca. This is the worst start ever. And while it is good and interesting to be living through a historical moment, it’s not exactly a happy time to be a Vascaino in a city where your major rivals have won all of their games.

There were numerous encouraging signs from Vasco in the second half yesterday. They’ve got some talent and were able to cut through Flamengo with some ease as the second half wore on. There are some major defensive lapses, particularly on the wings and there isn’t much hope that Carols Alberto and Felipe are going to rejoin the team after being “afastados” be Roberto Dinamite. Vasco has no coach and whoever decides to take up the task is going to be entering a caldron of political intrigue, a team without cohesion, and a relegation battle to fight. Then comes the Brasilieirão.

Flamengo has booked their place in the semi-final of the Taça Guanabara where they will meet the loser of Fluminense x Botafogo this weekend. 

23 August 2010

C.R. Vasco da Gama x Fluminense Football Club

The Vasco x Fluminense clássico came at exactly the right moment. Fluminense, bankrolled by the mega-health provider Unimed, are on top of the Brazilian league. Vasco, recently promoted and sitting mid-table, have been building momentum, slowly regaining their standing as a proper football club. The Maracanã, home to the biggest matches in Rio, was stuffed to capacity for the last time before the long, expensive, and painful process of reform for the 2014 World Cup. Sunday afternoon kickoff, cool temperatures, a nearly full moon, and 80.000+ people going to the same place, at the same time, for the same thing. No matter how many times I go to the Maracanã, there’s always something new to report.

On the metrô it’s relatively easy to get to the Maracanã, though there is no explanation at all as to why the old system of changing lines at Estácio sill functions on weekends and holidays. The only information available is shown in this photo. This creates confusion and leaves tourists wondering where to go. I saw several foreigners jump off at Central when they thought they were following people going to the game.  Over the loudspeaker at Cinelândia there was an announcement that Fluminense fans should use the São Cristóvão station, and Vasco fans the Maracanã stop.

The spectacle of state power is increasingly evident at public events in Rio de Janeiro.  The Military Police were keen to show off their ability to fly circles around the stadium in a helicopter with snipers hanging out the doors. Personally, that doesn’t make me feel any safer, just worried that the helicopter will crash into the stadium.

The state is also there to take away beer, but only if you are selling it. Drinking beer around the stadium is fine, but selling it is not. This creates a petty game of cat and mouse between people with sacks full of ice cold beer and the guarda municipal charged with clamping down on something that is so much a part of human culture that it simply cannot be repressed. It’s a joke. Beer sales have been banned at the Maracanã and the Engenhão for more than a year now, eliminating a secure source of money for some and taking away from the basic stadium ritual of red meat and alcohol that has fueled such events since Roman times. Fans should have the right to drink beer.
 

Emoção total. Woah. The torcidas organizadas of Vasco and Flu put on an incredible show. This is the brilliant part of Brazilian football and when a place like the Maracanã is your local ground, it’s really worth the R$30 (US$18) to go to a game. Even without the beer, it’s an astounding display.

Football and the stadium experience as vehicles for socialization and community identification. Besides Flamengüistas, there was not a single segment of Brazilian society that was not represented in the Maracanã yesterday afternoon. Young, rich, poor, old, middle-class, middle-aged, gay, straight, trans, tucanos, petistas, verdes, Zona Norte, Zona Sul, Zona Oeste, suburbio, baixada, morro, asfalto. Despite immense problems, Brazilian football stadiums continue to be key sites of social reproduction.  


The Law of the Fan and a full stadium. These two things are basically incompatible and yesterday’s game exposed the total failure of the 2005-2007 architectural reforms as well as a lack of organizational capacity and a lack of common sense amongst the common folk. Before I went to the game, I knew that the lower section of stands was going to revert to the condition of the geral, the old standing room only section of stands eliminated in 2005. I had seen this happen on other occasions when the crowd was over 80,000 but had been in the arquibancada. Being in the cadeira comum section wasn’t so nice.

I like to stand during games as it keeps me more involved in the action. I appreciate that not everyone likes to, or has the physical capacity to stand for two or more hours. When SUDERJ decided to do away with the geral they were ostensibly doing so with the idea that they would create a more comfortable environment for fans. Yesterday’s game proved the opposite. Everyone who had purchased a ticket for the lower section of seats was obliged to stand if they wanted to see the game.

By allowing people to stand in the aisle in front of the first row of seats, the police created a situation that was irresolvable. Either they could try to force everyone into a seat, or they could just let things go. The latter decision was much easier and so the people in the front row of seats had to stand on their chairs to see over those in front of them, the people behind them did the same thing and so on until everyone had to stand. Once the game began, hundreds of fans started screaming “Senta! Porra! Senta!” and throwing wads of toilet paper at those in front of them (the irony here being that the paper had been recently thrown in celebration). Of course, no one responded by sitting because they wouldn’t be able to see the game. After being hit in the head, and face, and back with various things I decided to move into the aisle where no one could reasonably yell at me for not sitting, as there were no seats. This repeated itself endlessly around the lower ring of stands and when I moved position for the second half, the old fellas sitting near me had to sit every ten minutes or so to rest. Fans should have the right to the seat they have paid for. 

The hundreds of millions of dollars of reforms undertaken by the state government completely failed to deliver comfort and the guarantee that if you buy a ticket for a seat that you will have the right to sit in that seat and watch a game. Instead of a space that allowed those who wanted to watch the game standing to do so, we have (or had) a space that obliged everyone to stand. The victims of this situation are those who want to sit and watch a game and those who prefer to or who are obliged to stand, but end up getting hit with insults and objects from their fellow fans. Fans should have the right to a well-organized stadium. 

The culture of the geral didn’t die because the space of the stadium was reformed. Those standing in the front were males between 15 and 35. It’s difficult to get them to move to a seat without swinging a stick. Will this kind of problem be resolved by throwing more money at the stadium? Probably not, but as it is, it's totally disfunctional (despite Oglobo's myopic lamentations). 

Regardless of the problems with seating, the Maracanã is not a great place to watch football. Every spectator is far from the action on the field. The sightlines are not great and the condition of the pitch is always in question. The Maracanã is a great place to immerse one’s self in the spectacle, to get caught up in the emotion and transformative power of sport, to participate in rituals that bind distinct communities within the larger matrix of Brazilian society. 

Oh yeah, the game. Absolutely brilliant. 

29 March 2010

Casaca, Casaca, Casaca-saca-saca

Vasco (3) x Fluminese (0) Campeonato Carioca, Taça Rio, 28 Março 2010-03-29

Judging from the number of hits from the English speaking parts of the Americas, I am going to write this one for the northerners.

I make no secret of my footballing allegiances: Carolina RailHawks, New England Revolution, USA Nats, Celtic, Brighton and Hove Albion, St. Etienne, Ajax, Barcelona, Boca Juniors, Argentina, São Raimundo, Figurense, Vasco da Gama. I understand myself, and football, well enough to know that this list is conditioned by geography, emotional experiences, media, conscious and unconscious choices, caprice and accident. The only way to rank this list would be to put some electrodes on my head and show me a series of goals for and against and evaluate my emotional reaction. I don’t pretend to understand it myself, but everyone in Rio wants to know why eu torço pelo Vasco. Torço, porra, e já.

Until yesterday, I had never been to a game in the Campeonato Carioca (which I describe here). But Vasco were playing at a reasonable hour, the Rio State Football Federation (FERJ) managed to get their act together enough to use the Maracanã for a clássico, and so on Saturday I went to Fluminese F.C. to buy my ticket, knowing that on game day tickets are not available at the stadium. The cheapest ticket was R$40 (and sócios were not entitled to a discount).

I took the Metrô, which has recently changed to eliminate the need to get off at the Estácio station in order to change from line 1 to line 2. Except for the weekends. Of course there was no information about this, so when the train went to Praça Onze, I assumed that I had boarded the wrong train, went back to Central, and then didn’t get on the next train because the shiny new flat screen tv in the station said that it was headed to Saens Peña, not towards Maracanã. Incredibly, there was someone there to explain that I needed to look at the small sign on the map on the inside of the train to know that on weekends, the old transfer system is still in place. Anyway, I can’t decide if my confusion resulted from familiarity or from ignorance, but at least 4 other people asked me for help in getting onto the right train to go to the game. The cars were full of people headed back to the Zona Norte after a day at the beach plus Vasco and Flu fans headed to the Maracanã. 

Crossing the bridge from the Metrô to the Maracanã, one always enconuters cambistas, selling tickets. But who do they think they’re kidding, scalping tickets for a game that was 69,000 people short of a sellout? More curious, FERJ was actually selling tickets on the day of the game! I was dumbfounded. One never knows just what system is going to be in place for a given match.

Walking up the rampa monumental, which is one of the few elements of the Maracanã that will not be completely renovated for the World Cup because it is tombado (lit: entombed) as a cultural patrimony, there were a series of signs that were not present when I last visited. These signs say: Use Collective Transport; Don’t buy tickets from scalpers; In the end, you are a fan of the World Cup; Celebrate in Peace. Ironically, one of the biggest concerns that FIFA has with the Maracanã is the lack of parking. More irony stems from the fact that the scalpers are there because FERJ and the teams can’t figure out how to sell tickets effectively. These new signs also point to the use of the stadium as a disciplinary space, something which Gilmar Mascerenhas and I wrote about some time ago

I saw dozens of Vasco fans wearing the new 3rd strip which ‘only’ costs R$199,90 (US$120). The jersey is modeled on the Maltese Cross that fronted the armor of the Knights Templar as they protected Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. My first introduction to the Templars was in Umberto Eco’s book Foucault’s Pendulum, which I though was pretty cool when I read it 20 years ago. However, my fascination with a Christian military order protecting religious fanatics on their way to the newly sacked Jerusalem has taken a more critical turn. I can understand the economic logic that C.R. Vasco da Gama has in launching a new kit for R$199,90 (of which only about R$8 goes to the club), but the symbolic logic is a bit of a stretch for me. One of the cool things about Vasco is that they are never afraid to reach back into the middle ages in search of iconography that will rally the troops, as it were. The launching of the new jersey has political overtones within the club as there's some confusion between the current president Roberto Dinamite and the former, disgraced president Eurico Miranda. I was shocked to see a banner supporting the latter, and have taken the liberty of making a small alteration. One wonders what the Vasguaçu torcida is getting from Miranda. 
  
The Maracanã is both amazing and ordinary, one of the most well known sporting venues in the world that is part of the everyday reality of the city. Of course, it’s always like this. For people living in Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, the Holy Land wasn’t something to be continually amazed about and maybe it wasn’t even wholly Holy, but ask a Templar how he felt about getting there. I’m getting used to the Maracanã, but I always find something new to occupy my attention.

The obvious: there are yellow lines behind all of the seats in the arquibancada. Not so obvious: these were the old seats, replaced in 1999 in preparation for the World Club Championships (for you ManU fans, this was the FIFA competition that Sir Alex sacrificed a run at the FA Cup for). What’s surprising here is that 11 years and hundreds of millions of dollars of reforms later, the lines are still there.

The obvious: reclining in a green seat just isn’t possible. Not so obvious: this forces people to lean towards the field actually forcing them to pay more attention to what is happening on the field. What’s to come: all of these ass-catching seats will be replaced with chairs so that World Cup fans can consume their spectacle more passively. This is going to further diminish the capacity, but no one is saying by how much. FIFA demands, millions obey.

The obvious: the luxury boxes aren’t particularly luxurious and have terrible sight lines, especially those stuck behind the enormous television screens installed for the 2007 Pan American Games. Not so obvious: these luxury boxes increase the heat of the stadium by cutting off air flow, make the rampas monumentais unusable and more than doubles the amount of time it takes to empty the stadium. What’s to come: the luxury boxes are going below the upper level of stands, which will bullox the lower seats (installed in 2006), which will then have to be demolished and built anew. FIFA demands, millions pay.

 

The obvious: leaning slightly back in your seat on a clear night, the elliptical form of the roof makes both the sky and the stadium seem connected, huge, único. The roof catches sound and whips it through the stadium augmenting the noise, but also letting it escape into the city. Last night, the roof framed an azure sky as the moon passed overhead and Christo celebrated a goal on his perch. What’s to come: the roof is going to extend to cover the lower section of seats, cutting out the sky, reducing a majestic arc to a doughnut hole. FIFA demands, culture disappears, architecture suffers. 

One final curiosity: because of a long standing tradition of keeping the hand in the till, FERJ and the CBF are now required by law to report how much money is taken in and how many people were in the stadium. Last night's match had a total renda of R$383,500 and a paying audience of 13,096. This means that every person who paid did so at an average of R$29.29. However, there were officially 19,607 people in the stadium, dropping the average ticket to R$19.55. This also means that 33% of the people in the stadium didn't pay to get in! You have got to be kidding me. The logic here is baffling and perhaps some people from MBA soccer can buzz down here and help me with this. Charging more for tickets reduces attendance, which dimnishes overall revenue, so in order to increase attendance, more people get in for free? Did the Templars come up with this system for transporting people to the Holy Land?

Whatever about the Templars, the new kit did the trick for Vasco in the second half and they overwhelmed Fluminese who deserved better from their strong first half showing. With so much going on in the stadium it's kind of hard to concentrate on football but next time I promise some kind of match report.  

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