The late, legendary Liverpool boss Bill Shankly is best remembered for a quip in reference to the relevance of football in our daily lives.
“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death,” said Shankly, “I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Shankly was as famous for his dry wit as he was for his football and, almost certainly, did not mean it literally. Either way, I would not recommend that anyone shares that view with over a million protestors who have taken to the streets of Brazil of late.
The FIFA Confederations Cup is a dress rehearsal for the more glamorous FIFA World Cup, which is generally held a year later. On the field, there is a lot to get excited about as the likes of Brazil’s Neymar and Spain’s Andres Iniesta have given a glorious appetiser for what might be in store in 2014.
Unfortunately for FIFA and the Brazilian government, the people of Brazil seem to be just getting warmed up too and they want more for their money than a few step overs and golazos.
A public protest by around 30,000 people on 15 June 2013 in Brasilia against the corruption associated with the 2014 World Cup has spread throughout the country and now involves over a million citizens and issues like a perceived lack of investment in education and health and the dishonesty of local politicians.
Brazil has become a petri dish for the beautiful and ugly side of the game at the same time.
I travel to Brazil today as part of a “DIRECTV Road to Brazil 2014” media tour and will write, for Wired868 and the Trinidad Express Newspaper, on both sides of the world’s most popular sport in the land of the game’s most successful international team.
At the time of writing, reigning World Cup champions, Spain, are preparing to meet European neighbours, Italy, in the Confederation Cups semi-final. The winner will face Brazil in the finals on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.
Italy is with playmaker Andrea Pirlo and maverick star striker Mario Balotelli. For coach Cesare Prandelli, it must be like trying to drive to work without a steering wheel and front tyres.
Spain, the most perfectly balanced and artistic football team since Brazil’s 1970 version, is the overwhelming favourite to get to the final.
Should the Spaniards advance, they face a resurgent Brazilian team lead by two former World Cup winners in the form of head coach Luis Scolari and assistant Carlos Albert Parreira. Not to mention Brazil’s extraordinary showman, Neymar, who has shown that his slippery tricks are not just Youtube fodder but can lead to trophies too.
For good and for bad, Brazil is at heart of football once more. Wired868 plans to take you along for the ride.
Editor’s Note: Wired868’s FIFA Confederations Cup coverage is brought to you courtesy of DIRECTV.