x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

AGL World Cup 2014 perspectives: Pressure to win nothing new to Brazilians in the UAE

The Emirates were the third most popular destination for Brazilian footballers in 2013 so John McAuley asks the Brazilian players and coaches in the Arabian Gulf League what it means to see their country host the Fifa World Cup.

Many Brazilian players have found a home in the AGL and while they will not be playing for their national team next month, Al Wasl’s Ricardo Oliveira will definitely be watching. Antonie Robertson / The National
Many Brazilian players have found a home in the AGL and while they will not be playing for their national team next month, Al Wasl’s Ricardo Oliveira will definitely be watching. Antonie Robertson / The National

The route from Brazil to the UAE was direct and popular well before the likes of Etihad started offering non-stop flights. The legendary Mario Zagallo coached the national team in 1989, while Emerson Sheikh was playing for Al Ain years before he won the 2012 Club World Cup with Corinthians.

A Fifa report published earlier this year on the global transfer market listed the Emirates as the third most popular destination for Brazilian footballers, with 34 players arriving here in 2013. Only Portugal (106) and Japan (50) – countries with strong links to South America’s largest country – have imported more.

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Last season, more than a quarter of the 14 Arabian Gulf League clubs finished the campaign with Brazilian managers in place and a third of the league’s non-Asian foreign slots were filled by players from the country.

Yet, with Brazil hosting the World Cup next month for the first time since 1950, the UAE’s Brazilian contingent are looking keenly towards their homeland, ready to take in a tournament set against a backdrop of spiralling costs and social unrest.

Here, The National caught up with five of the Arabian Gulf League’s most prominent Brazilians to get their thoughts on what they hope will be remembered solely as a carnival of football.

Ricardo Oliveira (Al Wasl)

“It’s not a good moment to have a World Cup in Brazil. You know the situation in my country: we should be making investments in education and health, because this is what Brazil really, really needs. So it’s not the right time to build new stadiums, to spend billions on them, and then, after the World Cup, everything will be forgotten. The people are not happy with this situation – the protests started long ago – so I pray to God that we don’t have any bad news during the tournament.

“Yes, it’s been a long time since we had a World Cup, but the people aren’t happy. There aren’t sufficient hospitals, education in schools or security. We have so many problems. The president says the security is OK, but in my opinion, and in the opinion of other Brazilians, it’s not. You don’t put the army in the streets without fear something will manifest. This is not security. If you put the army out, it’s because something is wrong.

“As a Brazilian, I will support my national team and I wish the best for them, but I care only for the problems in my country. Brazil is not only this summer, not only dance, not only carnival, not only football. We are more than 200 million, so we have to care about the people’s futures there also.”

Grafite (Al Ahli)

“Our preparations for the World Cup have not been easy, with the many troubles about its organisation. Even the logistics, with Brazil being so big, are a problem. Brazil is similar in size to Europe, but at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, they had the infrastructure and the transport – trains, airports. In Brazil, you can’t move easily from Sao Paulo to Manaus because it’s 3,000 kilometres.

“Twelve host cities means it’ll be really hard, but I trust in the government and hope they can organise a good World Cup. I hope, too, that the team have a big chance to win the title at home. It’s still a young side, but they have a really good chance. Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Argentina will also be strong – and Argentina will benefit from playing in South America without the pressure of being at home. But I still trust my country.

“For us Brazilians, it’s a big celebration, even despite the fact the Brazilian economy is not so good at the moment. Many people have gone to the streets to work towards something better, because we don’t have good transport, good health care and good accommodation. During the World Cup, everybody around the world will look at Brazil and I hope people understand this is only for 30 days. After the 30 days, life should continue.”

Edgar Bruno (Al Shabab)

“Everybody in the world knows we have some problems in Brazil regarding the stadiums and the infrastructure, but when the football starts and the matches begin, the people there will go crazy to support Brazil. I support my country always and I want only for Brazil to be champions. We lost the famous final in 1950 and I’m sure all the people in Brazil want to forget about that this time, to make a new history. With the current players we have, we have a new chance to take this World Cup. I hope we do it.

“However, there is so much pressure on the team because they are at home – more than normal and before it was already really high. That said, last summer Brazil won the Confederations Cup and I think this victory will help them handle the pressure. They played well then and showed people they have the talent to win the World Cup. If they weren’t successful at the Confederations Cup it would have been different; the pressure too much.

“I believe they can win it this time. The squad is good enough, and they will have every Brazilian around the world and everybody in Brazil supporting our national team. It would be a big party.”

Fellype Gabriel (Sharjah)

“We are expecting Brazil to win this World Cup, as all the people in the country have been waiting for this moment to be playing at home. We wish everything will be OK and that Brazil can become champions.

“Since 1950, the Brazilian people have been wishing for one more chance to play the tournament at home, but we know it will be very difficult because the quality of many teams is very high. Primarily Germany, Argentina and Spain, who I believe have a higher chance of success. But, of course, Brazil also.

“Our country is going through a difficult time regarding the political problems with the government and the elections, but if Brazil win then that can help make things more calm.

“I won’t go to a stadium, instead we will meet with my family and watch the games on television, like we do at my house for every World Cup. The World Cup goes beyond just results on the pitch. It will be a success if Brazil win, but also away from the football – if everything is OK and there is no confusion or disturbance. The Brazilian people need Brazil to be champion – they spend too much money – so we expect a win.”

Paulo Bonamigo (Sharjah)

“I am very hopeful that Brazil is going to have a good World Cup, which would be really good for the Brazilian people. The last World Cup hosted by Brazil was in 1950 – a long time ago – and since that time they have won five world titles. So this provides a chance for Brazil to become champions again.

“It means a lot to bring a big competition, a big party and a big event to Brazil, but it would be better if the Brazilian government had done a little more with respect to infrastructure, such as improvements in airports, roads and hotels. The result is we have some things that are not yet ready. But we have to hope that it all goes well.

“People who are involved with football in Brazil are really enjoying the idea of having a World Cup there because it has meant there has been improvements in the older stadiums, together with the construction of new stadiums. However, many people have still taken to the streets to protest against the World Cup because they wanted to see improvements in schools, roads and hospitals.

“I will try to go to some games. All Brazilians love football and it would be a success if Brazil conquered another title.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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