London England Fans Forum – Thursday 15th May
The final London England Fans forum before Brazil ‘14 had to be moved to a new venue to accommodate a packed house of fans along with TV crews from Sky News and BBC. Attracted by an all-star cast fans piled into New Moon in Leadenhall Market anticipating top tips, views and opinions about the forthcoming tournament. Through the course of the evening we heard from Alex Ellis, British Ambassador to Brazil; Sue Branford, Latin America Bureau and contributor to Brazil Inside Out; Alex Bellos, Author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life and Jethro Soutar, Editor of The Football Crónicas.
Guest speaker and star of the evening Alex Ellis fought off tough competition within government to secure his post, which began in July 2013! One of the key questions that surfaced throughout both our forums and the world media is whether the 12 stadiums selected for the tournament will be ready for kick off on June 13th. Alex was keen to get across that many of the stadiums have already been in use for well over a year and have seen plenty of pre-tournament action. Whilst other venues may be pushing the deadlines a little bit closer than FIFA would have liked, the Ambassador was keen to assert that ‘things can happen incredibly quickly’ in Brazil when need be.
When quizzed on what Brazilians thought of ‘The English’, it was interesting to hear that Brazilians focus on domestic football and that a lot of the locals will not be overly familiar with the Premier League, apart from Chelsea due to it being home to a number of their favourite football stars. England is widely known as the home of football and according to Alex, the most senior court in Brazil displays the iconic image of Pele and Bobby Moore from the 1970 World Cup!
Over Alex’s tenure he has also seen a wholesale change to the World Cup protests which have dominated the media coverage during the build-up. The Ambassador was keen to stress that at the beginning of his tenure, the protests were wide scale and peaceful, but ‘when violence erupted, the large scale support stopped’, leaving a small group of highly politicised demonstrators. The general feeling is that when the World Cup kicks off, football will take over and the protests will die away.
When the football does finally begin, Jethro Soutar is confident that Brazil ‘14 will provide the platform for South American teams to shine, predicting that Argentina will lose to Brazil in the Final. It was interesting to hear too that over 250,000 Argentineans are expected to travel to Brazil, despite the fact that their ticket allocation for each group game has been set at 4,000 – something that has not gone down well since Canada have been allocated over 13,000 tickets. Chile is another of the South American countries that has received a ticket allocation of 4,000. This is slightly problematic for the Mayor of Salamanca who promised to take over 1000 locals to the World Cup if elected. Like most politicians, its looks like the Mayor may be following a pattern of over-promising and under-delivering!
Sue Branford originally intended to go to Brazil for 2 years and ended up staying for 10, so is a huge advocate of the World Cup, but also well placed to give an insight into the protest movements and the daily problems faced by the Brazilian people. Inequality is extreme in Brazil and there is no doubt that many England fans will see elements of crime and certainly street beggars in the host cities. Sue believes it is difficult to predict whether the inequalities and tension is likely to bubble over during the protests but believes the likelihood of this happening would certainly increase if Brazil were to be knocked out in the early stages of the tournament. From an English point of view, let’s hope the Selecao progress through the Group stages in second place, which might not only hold off the riots, but also set up a potentially mouth-watering quarter final with England!
Alex Bellos believes that the quarter finals is about as far as England can hope to progress. Brazilians, however, are confident of winning the first World Cup on their own soil for 64 years – partly due to their success at last year’s Confederations Cup and partly because of Neymar, who they believe to be their first striker in 10 years that truly plays ‘The Brazilian way.’
Speaking about ‘The Brazailian Way’ off the field, Alex talked extensively about a rich and diverse country; muddled and chaotic at times (as we have seen with the tournament preparation) but also a country where ‘anything that has the appearance of a nightmare is always fine in the end – you just need to chill out.’ The analogy of a Brazilian bartender pouring a Caipirinha is a good example of what England fans can expect from the World Cup – the waiter may have no idea about what constitutes an official measure and you may have to wait a while, but when your drink does arrive, it will taste great and you’ll have an amazing time.
Judging by what we heard from Alex and the speakers at all of our pervious forums, England fans are certainly set for an adventure this summer. Brazil is a vast country with people who are as diverse as the natural resources of the Amazon and an impressive landscape; although some locations are slightly less glamorous than others, particularly Manaus, an industrial city that was concreted over the jungle as a result of the rubber boom in the late 60s and only accessible by air or water. And it’s not just the cities and climate that is diverse; Brazil boasts the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, an Arabic fast food chain that is more popular than McDonalds and a language that is easy on the ear but challenging to master. Brazil is not without its problems however and England fans need to be safety conscious –but on the whole the experience of Brazil will be one of a lifetime and the people, football and culture should be embraced by all fans travelling to the World Cup.
Should you need advice during the tournament EnglandFans are advised to Tweet questions to @FCOTravel. You can also visit the Gov website: www.gov.uk/government/news/world-cup-2014