Trecker’s Brazilian Travels, Day 1: Appropriate starting point

June 12th, 2013

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

BRASILIA, BRAZIL

Dawn. The city lies below the 757, an outpost on a craggy steppe. It looks like a toy, or maybe a prop until the plane descends further. The arcs of the city form two giant wings – or perhaps Orion, clutching a bow and firing an arrow toward Brazil’s coast.

Brasilia was to be Brazil’s great leap: a city that erupted whole cloth,  perfectly planned. It was to be a utopia of sorts, but it is not. It is, however, an architectural marvel, a modernist edifice that fifty years after its construction has the power to shock and amaze. It is also one of the places I had always wanted to visit.

I’m here because the Confederations Cup, something of a modernist construct itself, will kickoff here this Saturday. There is a lot of pressure on the hosts both on and off the field. Brazil’s staging of the 2014 World Cup has been somewhat star-crossed; budgets have been blown, strikes have been waged, protestors have marched and there is a weary sense that the government funds have been looted by this tournament.

The magnificent Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, which I can see from my balcony, cost half a billion dollars to build, an astonishing sum in a nation that is still on the edge of the first world. Brazil doesn’t always have clean water or power, and the favelas sprawl across the cities like newspapers on New York pavement. Should this nation be spending nearly $4 billion to host this thing? Probably not.

However – and this is a bigger thing than mere words can communicate – this nation is soccer. Read that again. Brazilians don’t love the sport – they are the sport. We Scots sowed this game around the planet, and on grouchier days I’d argue our claims for creating it, but I admit there’s no nation more intertwined with the beautiful game than Brazil. It is simply the lifeblood of this country; everyone watches it, everyone plays it, and everyone argues over it. One hoary old joke has it that Brazil has the most coaches in the world – 196 million and counting, all of whom know more about what the national team should be doing than their current manager.

And that’s a major reason why Brazilians are sucking it up and braving through some real headwinds. They’ve taken a real beating in the world media over their crime rates, the price gouging in Rio, and the failure to get the basics for the World Cup done in a timely fashion. Brasilia was built in under five years – a miracle. The 110-odd projects proposed for this World Cup? They’ll be lucky if they get twenty of them done.

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

I would argue Brazil has done us all a huge favor: they’ve proven that the nonsense we hear about big tournaments providing tangible benefits to the locals is bunk. Brazil, and Brasilia’s residents, are not getting new roads, new buses, or a monorail. What they get is lots of folks coming to visit who think Portuguese is Spanish, who complain about the prices, and who exhibit a bizarre fear of walking after dark in their well-lighted cities.

It’s all somewhat surreal, and since Brasilia is surrealism made tangible here on Earth, it’s only fitting we start right here.

This piece is part of a series of pieces sponsored by the new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. The pictures that accompany this blog post were taken with it. I’m traveling across Brazil this month, and you should tell me what you’d like to hear about. Tweet me at @JamieTreckerFOX or use the #heytrecker hashtag @FOXSoccer.

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

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