The first of The CabinMan’s musings on The 2014 World Cup, or “Through the Eyes of a Futebol Novice”:
A quick note before we proceed: Ordem ou progresso is a play on Brazol’s national motto Ordem e progresso which means “Order and Progress” in Portuguese, while Ordem ou progresso is “Order or Progress.”
Now is as good a time as any for The CabinMan to reflect on week 1 of Copa do Mundo, or The World Cup. The CabinMan loves passion, and much of our planet – outside of the United States – is passionate for football. Brazil is home to the World Cup, and its status is that of religion. As such, there are growing signs that the religious devotion to futebol is undermining social services. This has been expressed in angry protests aimed against the government spending on hosting the World Cup while ignoring the needs of the poor.
Hosting a global event is a Big Deal to the up-and-coming BRIC nations (India in a deft twist hosted the FIDE World Chess Championships – a gambit with much less downside for rioting and runaway spending), and for Brazil this is a tune-up to hosting the Olympics in 2016. This is doubling-down on the so-called Host City Curse, which is especially vexing to developing / second-tier nations (Greece ’04 Summer, Montreal ’76 Summer, and with the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia following the Sarajevo Winter Games ’84). The current lemmings hope to avoid the curse by attaining the “Barcelona Effect” which endowed the ’92 host city with public infrastructure beyond shiny stadiums and massive debt. Yet even Spain has been buckled with a churlish recession, high unemployment, internal fissures (Catalonian autonomy), and a 5-1 meltdown loss to the Dutch to open group play at this World Cup.
Against this backdrop, Brazil opened the Cup against Croatia by surrendering an own goal in the early stages, but came back to claim a solid – though less than stellar – 3-1 match. The own goal seemed to put the entire host nation on a suicide watch – not everyone was for runaway government spending, but national pride was suddenly at stake. Neymar, Brazil’s brilliant striker – who would make a great Portlandia character for Fred Armisen – put the country back on its axis with his left foot.
Thus, the Copa was underway and all – for at least that moment – seemed right with the Mundo.