Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there were riots and protests on some streets of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and other cities of the South American country.
The demonstrators were protesting over what they perceived as the needless, massive expenditure of the Brazilian government in preparations toward hosting the games.
These protests somewhat stirred up concerns in many quarters as to whether Brazil would be able to stage a credible World Cup.
Some cynics even predicted a disastrous outing for Brazil – the favourites for the Copa Mundial (Spanish word for World Cup).
The Brazilians lost to the Germans in a semi-final match with a scandalous 1-7 margin and they were later defeated by the Dutch 0-3 in the contest for the bronze medal.
In spite of the agony of the humiliating defeats, the Brazilians remained unwavering in their determination to stage a credible competition to the very end.
At the end the World Cup on July 13, the hosts were magnanimous even in defeat but the impeccable record of Brazil’s National Manager, Luis Philippe Scolari, was consequently tainted.
“However, instead of the anticipated violence which often accompanies such national calamities; Brazilian cities remained quiet, as the fans accepted their country’s defeat in good faith,’’ Ubani added.
“This is, indeed, a lesson for many rabble rousing fans all across the world,’’ said Felix Abayateye, the Sports Editor of the Ghanaian Graphic, who was also in the “Samba country’’ for the competition.
Duro Ikhazuagbe, the Group Sports Editor of ThisDay Newspaper, who was somewhat nervous after the ouster of the hosts from the competition, shrieked: “You guys must watch your backs, the Brazilian fans may become unhappy about the loss and start acting funny.’’
As it turned out to be, the Brazilians did not react negatively to their country’s loss, as they remained good sportsmen and women throughout the competition.
The last time Brazil hosted the World Cup was in 1950.
However, there was an isolated case of torching a bus in a remote neighbourhood of the state of Sao Paulo but the incident was not widely captured by the media.
Brazil is a multi-racial society with 200 million inhabitants and it occupies more than two-thirds of the South American sub-continent.
Brazil is a tourist destination with thousands of tourists trooping into the country daily from all corners of the world, as Brazil has several scintillating tourist sites, including the giant statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) in Rio de Janeiro.
For the average Nigerian visitor to Brazil, Brazilians have little reason to complain, as they have excellent infrastructure – good roads and stable electricity — scholarships up to university level and free health care for everyone, including foreigners.
The country’s telecommunications infrastructure is superb and this, no doubt, left many foreign journalists, who had anticipated delays in transmitting reports, utterly disappointed. Their story lines eventually changed.
Many of them had tried to pressure FIFA to put in place “Plan B’’, which would facilitate the relocation of the tournament to another country, because of their erroneous notion that Brazil would be unable to deliver the venues in good time for the competition.
Perhaps, the major complaints by many journalists and fans were the frequent travels, though expensive but comfortable, through many “jungles’’ which definitely left deep holes in the pockets of virtually all those who came to Brazil for the World Cup.
“Those were the only issues to talk about. I admit the tours were quite expensive but they helped many visitors like me to see the many sides of Brazil and understand its rich cultural heritage,’’ said Paul Ogazie of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), who was on his last assignment, prior to his retirement from service.
“I was able appreciate the people and what the country has to offer to its citizens. This I will relish for the rest of my life,’’ said Kunle
Solaja, a journalist and sports historian, who used the opportunity presented by the World Cup to present his latest book — “Going for Goals”.
Mumuni Alao, the General Manager of Complete Communications, publishers of Complete Sports magazine, said that the 2014 World Cup enabled him to appreciate Ahmed Musa, the Super Eagles’ striker, whose two goals against Argentina lifted the hearts of Nigerians in Porto Alegre.
The goals helped to ensure Eagles’ qualification for the second round of the tourney, akin to the Eagles’ achievement 20 years ago at USA `94 World Cup.
Mumini had publicly apologised to Ahmed, a player he had vilified in write-ups as deficient in delivering vital goals.
But in Porto Alegre, Ahmed, known for outpacing opponents only to fritter away chances, did not disappoint fans as he scored twice and merely failed to score what could have been a hat trick.
In the match against Argentina, Ahmed cut short the Argentines’ celebration by scoring in the second minute after Argentina had gone ahead.
Ahmed’s goals had since been adjudged among the greatest goals of the 2014 World Cup by FIFA, the world soccer governing body, in its technical evaluation.
For Samson Siasia and Waidi Akanni, former national soccer stars, it was indeed an opportunity for them to have closer interactions with a variety of Nigerian sports journalists, who they had, on many occasions, misunderstood.
Perhaps a sore point at the World Cup was the unacceptable behaviour of players from Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria, who chose the global gathering to engage their countries’ football authorities on issues relating to unpaid allowances.
Out of the five African teams, only Nigeria and Algeria advanced to the second round. Nigeria lost 0-2 to France, while Algeria lost 1-2 to Germany, eventual winners of the 2014 World Cup.
Cote d’ Ivoire won only one match and failed to advance beyond the first round, while the Algerians became the cynosure of all eyes when they donated a substantial part of their World Cup earnings to charity.
At the end of the World Cup, Brazil was the winner off the field. The World News Report said that a record 1.35 million visitors from a total of 203 different countries flocked to the South American country during the competition.
Above all, a study by Brazil’s Institute of Economic Research Foundation (FIPE), which was commissioned by the country’s ministry of tourism, declared that not less than 9 billion pounds (about N2.5 trillion) was injected into the Brazilian economy during the period.
Indeed, Brazil was the real winner of the 2014 Copa Mundial.