Saturday, 21 June 2014

13 Reasons Why Manaus Is A Great World Cup Venue

Manaus was chosen to host four World Cup matches - England v Italy; Croatia v Cameroon; USA v Portugal; and Honduras v Switzerland. Here are a few reasons why it's turned out to be a terrific venue for the World Cup.
1) The terrific 'Arena da Amazônia' stadium was designed to look like a traditional tribal woven basket. It's a stunning venue and, as the game between England and Italy showed, the atmosphere inside is sensational when there's a full house.

2) Manaus is literally in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. It has few roads connecting it to the rest of Brazil, and most goods are delivered by ship or plane. This makes it a great destination for doing some rainforest tours while in the city.

3) Being in Amazonas state, it is a city with a high number of indigenous people. The word Manaus actually comes from the name of a tribe. 

4) Manaus is situated on the shores of Rio Negro, but just a short trip downriver is where two rivers clash spectacularly to create 'the meeting of the waters'. Here's a picture on instagram.

5) River sunsets.

6) The people are incredible friendly. English fans visiting the city for their team's game had a great time, helped by what they said were "fun, helpful, brilliant" people.
7) And look at how they decorated the city for the tournament.

8) The local food. Brazilian food is brilliant, and due to the culture of Manaus its food is also unique. 
9) The bars were very enjoyable, according to those who went to the matches.
10) The local mayor, Artur Virgilio Neto, is something of a character.

11) The weather is hot year round. It's winter in Brazil (during the World Cup), meaning many of Brazil's southern states are experiencing temperatures which are colder than those in Europe while the tournament is played. You don't go to Brazil for cold weather. Many said Manaus's humidity would be 'unplayable' - admittedly, while the hot, humid conditions aren't ideal for playing football, it didn't stop teams putting on great performances from start to finish, and they also seemed to recover quickly too.
12) The amazing opera house. Manaus got rich off a rubber boom in the late 1800s, and grand buildings like this are a reminder of that era.

13) The nature close to Manaus is incredible. Whether fishing or bird watching is your thing, Manaus has everything in close proximity to the city.

*As an end note, I must talk about that incredible stadium. At 41,000 seats, it's big, but Manaus does not have a prominent football team capable of filling it after the World Cup is finished. The mayor says it was worth building, pointing to the opera house, which was criticised as a waste of money when it was built but is now a Brazilian national treasure. He says the same could be true for the stadium in future. I hope after the World Cup, the local government can be creative and use the stadium in different ways. Wouldn't it be a cool venue for a big rock concert or something? Jingle In The Jungle!? Time will tell. For those who lost their lives building the stadium, the very minimum their legacy deserves is for the venue to be used. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Fred: A Figure Of Parody Following World Cup Performances

Poor Fred. Brazil fans were flaming mad with their national team’s dire 0-0 performance against Mexico in the group stages of the World Cup, and much of fans' ire was directed towards the Fluminese striker. 

Being British, I love a good bit of satire, me, so after the game, when I saw the following (tremendous) post by Ole do Brasil, saying Fred “bought special World Cup ticket to watch game on the field of play”, I simply had to share. The following text is a translation of what they had to say (which sums up the despondent mood among all Brazil fans at the moment).

At the bottom of the post, I'll also share some if the amusing memes of Fred's dive during the opening match with Croatia, which ultimately led to Brazil winning the tie.

Fred sang the national anthem of Brazil and then disappeared. After that he simply wasn’t seen…

The truth is quite crazy: Fred was not on the field to play football, but simply to watch the match, according to Fluminense's lawyer, Mario Bittencourt.

"FIFA has received a request from Fluminense, who would like to have a representative of the club on the edge of the lawn. They refused. I got annoyed so suggested to Fred that he watch the games on the field, along with the Brazil national team, like a real player. With this special ticket, he will watch all the matches of Brazil on the field,” he said.

The lawyer said Fred was delighted with being on the field: "He's enjoying the experience because it gives the impression that he is a real Brazil player at international level, when in fact that possibility is long gone," he added.

Fred discovered that to play in a World Cup match is much different than facing Madureira (Rio de Janeiro team).

...and people weren't particularly amused with Fred's replacement, Jo, either. Twitter comments (mostly non-Brazilian) were critical of the pairing.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

World Cup Coverage: A New Star Born In Rio?

Rio has been one of the surprise stars of the World Cup so far. Not Rio de Janeiro - I'm talking about Rio Ferdinand, and his performance as a BBC pundit.
British viewers have been exposed to all sorts of commentary during the World Cup, from ITV's Adrian Chiles and Thiery Henry disagreeing in the ITV studio, to Robbie Savage's bizarre interjections in the BBC commentary box. One of the best performances, however, has come from Rio Ferdinand.
He recently announced he will be leaving Man Utd, which is a great shame, so perhaps he's trying to secure a future away from actually playing. Time will tell on that one.
Ferdy has proved coherent, likeable, enthusiastic, charming and, of course, knowledgeable. I also love his #RioInRio Twitter hashtagging. Perhaps the thing that's made him stand out most is his willingness to get involved with Brazil. He's been out and about on the streets, and even watched Brazil's opening game from the family home of his former Utd team mates, Rafael and Fabio, in Rio.
People have been surprised by Rio's engaging punditry, but perhaps there's no real reason to be surprised. He's always been something of a character on the field, and this is something that usually transfers.
Another notable performance for British viewers has been Neil Lennon for his direct approach ("Iran are not a good team" - his first words during a half time punditry debate), while the MOTD duo of Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer are always dependable. Phil Neville's performance, meanwhile, has been notable for its dryness - so much so that literally hundreds of people took time out of their busy schedules to write letters of complaint to the BBC.
If I have one complaint myself, it's that (both the BBC and ITV) have been guilty of  missing the culture a little.   Both stations' coverage begins 30 minutes before each game starts, which gives them little time to talk about anything else other than football. What I'd like to see is 10 or 15 minutes before every game about the venue and the city it's in.
A couple of the venues have recieved decent coverage - Rio and Manaus, for example - but who, after watching the coverage of the matches in Curitiba or Belo Horizonte, now knows anything interesting about those venues?
TV coverage, at least from a UK perspective, has been both good and bad so far. As for Rio Ferdy, perhaps Lineker best watch his seat...

Monday, 16 June 2014

Doubters Proved Wrong As Brazil World Cup 'Best Ever'

About two days; that's all it's taken for the world to fall in love with Brazil and declare the 2014 World Cup one of the best ever. 

Hate to say I told you so, but...*

Before the World Cup started, headlines were along the lines of (and I take enormous pleasure of making sure they stay here as a permanent reminder); World Cup 2014: It's chaos in Brazil; World Cup preparations in chaos as unsafe food found and 'state of emergency' declared in host city; World Cup 2014: Pelé Says Brazil Airports Are 'In Chaos'; World Cup Riots: Brazil in chaos as protestors cripple city; Can Brazil Really Handle The 2014 FIFA World Cup?; Brazil in chaos of crime that may ruin World Cup; Transport chaos, World Cup security fears hit Brazil; Brazil's Cup of Chaos…. It goes on and on and on...
By far the BEST worst headline award goes to the Times; Brazil chaos leaves Fifa warning of the ‘worst’ World Cup. Why? Because it’s proved to be exactly the opposite.

Just a few days in, attitudes have changed remarkably. Here are a few headlines to have appeared since the event kicked off; Brazil passion burns brightly in Fortaleza; Has Brazil proved World Cup doubters wrong? Fans ignore glitches to revel in Brazil's big party. And here’s a statement from Yahoo, no less; Brazil 2014: Four days in, and already on course to be the best World Cup EVER.
There are many reasons why tunes have changed. Firstly, almost nothing has gone wrong. Sure, there have been a few traffic jams etc, but big deal. England fans who travelled to their opener with Italy in Manaus revelled in a tremendous atmosphere, boosted by “friendly, helpful, wonderful” locals. 

Brazilian streets are filled with colour, parties have erupted everywhere, and the footballing standard is as high as it’s been in many years. It’s been particularly great to see the amazing atmosphere in the stadiums by fans from all around the world who are having a ball in Brazil.
It also helps that foreign TV crews, such as the BBC, are based in tremendous locations such as Rio’s Copacabana, and have also done some great background documentaries showing what Brazil is about – the good and the bad. 
Brazilians have a saying to hit back at such irony - 'beijinho no ombro' (little kiss on the shoulder). Basically, two fingers up to the doubters and the jealous.
*This isn’t to take away from Brazilians with legitimate complaints against the Brazilian government, but does show that much of what was being said externally was absurd.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Brazilians unproductive, waste time, don’t even go to work – The Economist

Brazilian workers are “gloriously unproductive”. They “waste time” and, “half do not even turn up for work”. Brazilian workers are also “badly managed”. These are just a few of the comments made in an article by The Economist magazine – an issue that has caused a furious response from many in Brazil. 
Some of the comments at the bottom of the article (and on Facebook, Twitter etc) show how upset people in Brazil rightly are with The Economist. For example, ‘EBitencourt’ replied to the article saying, “shame on your racism [to The Economist].” ‘Dr Alberto’ said to the author, “We are no more in the mood to serve as slaves for capitalist gringos. We don’t need this kind of blood sucker. Go home.”  

Ouch! The photo below shows another issue that caused outrage in Brazil (on the right).

Brazilians famously dislike anyone else criticising - even if they do so themselves. This is a strange attitude, but regardless, I completely understand why people are upset with the article and The Economist.

Before I go into why The Economist is wrong, please allow me to flirt with a defence of the magazine. We have to keep in mind who its readers are. They are international investors. What they care about is profits. They want to put money into a country, and expect a return from this. If they don’t get a return, they will ask why. For The Economist, all they care about is keeping these investors happy – so for them, it’s very easy to come to basic conclusions, even if they are inaccurate.

Here’s something The Economist will also be thinking. The British (where the magazine is based) and Brazilian economies produce roughly the same GDP as each other. One has over taken the other in the ranks, then returned back again over the last two or three years, but it’s pretty much the same level of output. Britain has a population of around 60 million, while Brazil has 200 million. These numbers suggest that every one British person creates the same GDP as four Brazilians. This is the kind of simple conclusion The Economist considers when it concludes that Brazilians must be lazy. 

Of course, this is absurd.

Its capitalist readers have a right to be upset right now. Over the last year, not only will they have made no money from their investments in the Brazilian stock market, they would have probably even lost money. For any country to participate in capitalism, it has to accept pressure when investors lose money.

Nevertheless, The Economist’s assessment of Brazilians being “lazy” is way off the mark. It ignores the countries’ unique socio-economics in favour of unfair and untrue ‘facts’ based on old misconceptions.

Of course, you all know the truth. I know it too. Brazilians are among the hardest workers in the world. Brazilians I know are in the office from 7am and don’t leave until 8pm, while the rest of the world relaxes in a comfortable 9 – 5.

Brazilians study more, and harder, than any other population of people I’ve ever met. The importance of having a good university degree in Brazil to get a job proves this. Those who work in physically demanding jobs do so in unbearable heat, and work all day in challenging circumstances.

From what I know, Brazil is a nation of hard workers. The problem is that these hard workers are working hard in a system that keeps them down. Inefficiencies, paperwork, bureaucracy and politics in Brazil mean that people have to work extra hard to get anything done. An example of this is the tax returns small businesses have to produce in Brazil , which are absolutely mind boggling. This is surely a big burden. The Economist clearly has no understanding, or doesn’t care, about any of this.

The key in all of this is politics, which is why I recently said people like Romario could be a shining star in Brazil’s future. If Brazil’s government can get past its traditional hurdles, get on with infrastructure projects rather than arguing about them, reduce corruption and inefficiencies, and just let people get on with work, then Brazil’s nation of hard workers will put the rest of the world to shame. I can’t wait for the day when Brazil throws egg in The Economist’s face.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Romario: The Man For Brazil?

The Brasil Post published a text of mine in Portuguese about Romario, the Brazilian footballing legend, two-time World Cup winner and now socialist party politician. I was thoroughly impressed with things he said against corruption in Brazil so decided to write about it. Here's the English version of the text:

Romario – the first socialist to speak a lot of sense?

I wonder - if Romario wasn’t Romario, and wasn’t a Brazilian football legend – what would be the likelihood that he would have been ‘silenced’ by now? How many politicians before Romario in Brazil have been able to talk so openly about corruption without any form of retribution? I guess that’s the advantage Romario has as a politician, yet still also someone in Brazil’s book of legends.
The other night, I watched Romario give an interview to the BBC’s Stephen Sackur for its regular ‘Hard Talk’ programme. The programme, broadcast to a British audience, displayed his hard hitting views on a range of subjects; corruption in politics; corruption in Brazilian football; corruption in Fifa; the poor state of Brazilian club and grass roots football; disabled rights.

Romario’s key message was this: because of all the money lost, or used to “make elite politicians rich,” while hospitals, schools and security in Brazil is in disarray, he said, Brazil has already lost the World Cup – regardless of how Neymar and co perform.

You know, Romario might be the first socialist in a very long time to make quite a lot of sense. The man speaks the truth about Brazil and its problems. He is a Brazilian who loves Brazil, loves football, and enough to enter politics to try and solve it. And yet, he thinks Brazil has got the world cup so very wrong. He doesn’t shy away from the problems – knows there is so much to improve, and some things that are almost beyond repair under the current regime of leaders.

Many people misconstrued his comments about Pelé being an imbecile. He clarified that Pelé's comments that people should not use their democratic rights to protests made him sound like an imbicile. He’s right that the two things are very different.

It’s about time a high profile Brazilian stood up. Gringos like me, of course, will have huge problems sharing these opinions. It’s something I find curious about Brazilians actually. If I’m on a table of people saying that Brazil’s hospitals are bad, for example. If I nod my head and agree, people will then say I am wrong and do not know what I am talking about because I’m a gringo. But I’m agreeing with your opinions! AM I not allowed to do this just because I'm a gringo? It’s a bizarre Brazilian trait. One thing I think Brazilians spend too much energy on is getting angry when a gringo says anything negative about Brazil – most of these things are things you also complain about. Use this energy to focus on, and fix the problems democratically.

Anyway, perhaps Romario is just what Brazil needs. He’s allowed to voice his opinions on the problems – he’s Romario. People will listen to him, because he’s Romario. And because he seems to love Brazil, he is someone who should be taken very seriously.

About the World Cup, Romario made a prediction outside of politics. The front runners to lift the big trophy will be between Brazil, Germany, Spain and Argentina. Let’s all pray it’s not the latter.


Now, it seems Romario really appreciated my comments. After publication, he posted to his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts with the following.

Endorsement direct from a man of Romario's stature is about as good as it gets. Translated, he said: "I appreciate the words of journalist Shaun Cumming about me, about my courage to say what many see and say nothing. 

"As legislators understand that I can contribute to my country with my projects, but it is also my responsibility to monitor and report the atrocities I see happening. 

"I'm not here to stay silent."

I'm not anyone to tell Brazilians how to vote, but what I will say is that Romario certainly talks a lot of sense, talks bravely, and also genuinely appears to want to make a difference in the things he is passionate about.

Monday, 3 March 2014

10 Reasons Why I Love Brazil

Some foreigners have opted to share their frustrations about living in Brazil online. There are many examples, and while some make valid points, I thought I’d write about the things I like most. This was first published in Portuguese on the Huffington Post Brasil –

1) Brazilian adventurism. Brazil is a place to explore boundless wild and beautiful landscapes unlike anywhere in the world. Furthermore, Brazilians have a thirst for exploring and doing new things. Here’s my example; I am terrified of heights, but one time in Rio I caught the bug to do something new, and was convinced to go hang gliding. It was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done, (There’s a video of the event on my YouTube channel. And here’s going to be my next Brazilian passion: SUP surfing.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Carnaval 2014: Day 1

The Best Of Brazil on Instagram - click on each photo to visit each photographer's page:

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Great News For Europeans Flying To Brazil

Last week, KLM announced it was partnering with Gol. This is great news for people planning to travel to Brazil from Europe and across Asia. One of the biggest complaints from foreign travellers to Brazil is navigating Brazil’s internal connecting flights. I recently wrote about this – so KLM’s parntership should help to provide a more seamless end-to-end flight booking.

The following text shows how much of a vast network of routes Air France-KLM now has in Brazil: As of summer 2014, Air France and KLM will increase their offer by operating 41 weekly flights from their hubs at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol. Next to Sao Paulo & Rio de Janeiro, Air France will operate as of March 31, 2014, a new route to Brasilia with three weekly flights. Air France intends to operate a regular service between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Sao Paulo by Airbus A380 as soon as the airport receives the authorization from the authorities. All these flights will connect to the GOL network with over 50 destinations.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Rio Trafficker Says His Boss Is A Corrupt Official

Ross Kemp is a huge Brazil fan, saying Rio is one of his favourite places in the world. His documentary series, Gangs, covered the city seven years ago, and his latest series, Extreme World, has brought him back. I have a large amount of respect for his journalism and think his two documentaries on Brazil have been tremendous. I highly recommend checking them out.

Broadcast on Tuesday 25 February, the show explores Rio's vast numbers of crack addicts. I wont go into huge amount of details, other than say Brazil, and Rio, have an enormous problem. The country is dealing with what one Brazilian lawyer said is an army of crack zombies. The drug, and addicts, represent the single largest threat to public security. Here are a few takeaways from the documentary:

  • The government is sending crack addicts away from places where tourists might visit, including favelas close to Zona Sul. Pacification has shifted dealers and users off to crack dens in dark alleys in the centre, or in northern, unspecified favelas. This is aimed at keeping crack addicts away from World Cup and Olympic tourists.
  • The stats are scary, and also suggest a lot of money is being made by someone in the chain. The drug dealers once had a self-imposed ban on selling crack, but are back in business. The biggest victims appear to be children, with many homeless.
  • The dealers say they have a conscious, unhappy about what it does to customers, but can each earn R$30,000 per month.
  • But they aren't the only ones involved. They are being encouraged to sell the drug by a higher entity. As one says in the show, other people are making much more money than them. Someone is taking the drugs to them. Until this high-level corruption continues, the dealers say, the crack problem will never go away. This should be Brazil's focus.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Adidas Brazilian Bunda T-Shirt

Globo reports that Adidas is selling the below shirts in the US just in time for the World Cup, but I've no way of verifying if these are official or not. Click on the photo for the original story. I'll let you make your own conclusions...

About Belo Horizonte: World Cup 2014

For fans travelling from Europe and elsewhere to Belo Horizonte for the World Cup (BH), they'll find a city that is stunning, fun, and largely safe city to visit. The name Belo Horizonte translates directly to English as ‘beautiful horizon’, and it's easy to see why. 

The city is built in the backdrop of stunning mountain ranges, and some of the city is even built on top and around lush mountains. It has a tropical climate and has a unique culture among other Brazilian World Cup host venues.

Belo Horizonte’s stadium, the Mineirao, can be found in the city’s northern Pampulha district. It is one of Brazil’s most famous stadiums and has hosted many a famous game. Ominously for England supporters, BH is where the USA beat them in the 1950 World Cup 1-0 – a result that was absolutely shocking at the time.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Carnaval And Brazil's Sex Appeal

Carnaval 2014 is almost here. Curiously, a vast number of people who find The Brazil Blog through Google do so by searching the words ‘Carnaval’ and ‘sex’ together, so I thought I’d explore this a little more. 

Undoubtedly, sex and pleasure is a large part of the lengthy tradition of carnivals the world over, nowhere more so than Brazil. The way Brazilians dance (so-called ‘twerking’ was a common dance in Brazil for a long while before Miley Cyrus appeared), and the countries’ obsession with pay-per-minute sex motels are perhaps the most obvious signs. But there’s much more that you’ll see from Brazil from even after few short days in the country – just take a look at primetime TV!

I recently read a book – Peter Robb’s A Death In Brazil –, which puts Brazil's sexualisation into some historical context. The book is well worth a read for those planning a trip this year, and shows how many things in Brazil lead to sex.