x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

World Cup Diary Day 1: Brazil’s football passion at low boil

John McAuley files his first daily diary report from Brazil, where he will be covering the 2014 World Cup.

A Brazilian woman waits at a bus station in downtown Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday. Robert Ghement / EPA / June 11, 2014
A Brazilian woman waits at a bus station in downtown Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday. Robert Ghement / EPA / June 11, 2014

SAO PAULO // Two days in Brazil’s largest city, the city hosting the opening match of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, and you would not necessarily know the showpiece event of the planet’s most popular sport is nearly upon it.

Sao Paulo should be ready, its natives bristling with excitement, but the political and social problems that blight the country cast a long shadow.

Taxi drivers, tradesmen and service-sector workers all seem strangely ambivalent about the whole thing. Yes, shops carry the country’s colours, miniature Brazilian flags decorate cars and vibrant street art urges the national team to deliver a sixth world title, but it is a struggle to find a local to wholly endorse the World Cup.

Perhaps, it is simply not fashionable. Hard to throw your weight behind the tournament when so many problems within the country still exist, and will continue once the Fifa circus, set to pocket £2.55 billion (Dh15.7bn) from the next four weeks, rolls out of town.

For the most part, tourists provide the revelry. In Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo’s popular nightspot, Mexicans and Colombians chanted and cheered throughout Tuesday evening and, presumably, into yesterday morning, too. Australians and Croatians spoke enthusiastically about their teams maybe, just maybe, causing an upset.

Everyone has been made to feel very welcome, although it is obvious the alterations and accommodations – from signposts in English to the hastily constructed Fifa fan zone – have been very last-minute.

Yet football is clearly in Brazilian blood. Even with the socio-political problems and the unrest, the majority of natives still plan to shift focus for 90 minutes tonight.

“Claro que sim,” they say. “Of course.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae