World Cup Diary: Brazil reinventing, redefining itself one step at a time

SALVADOR, Brazil —

Brazil wasn’t what I had expected. I’ve been here three weeks now, covering the United States men’s national team across this vast and diverse country, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

The image was strikingly similar to that of the country where I covered the last World Cup, South Africa: A shambolic government that couldn’t get anything done by a deadline, inflicting crippling poverty lived in rambling shantytowns, in a country ruled only by lawlessness. But as it was in South Africa, most construction in Brazil has been completed, or at least looked the part, and I’ve never once felt unsafe.

Sao Paulo, where the United States and its press corps have been based, is a confusing place. There is no containing its sprawl, all of it infested with boxy apartment towers — invariably with terraces adorned with flapping Brazilian flags — pricking the blue sky. The traffic is soul-crushing. On a bad day, you can average less than five miles an hour in your cab or bus. Some days, early in our stay, the subway workers were on strike and it was worse still and you just stood there, thousands of running cars frozen in place.

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Ghana star Muntari hands out money to disadvantaged Brazilians

While Ghana’s efforts in holding World Cup favorites Germany to a draw in the group stages has granted them ‘hero’ status on the pitch, their recent excursions off the pitch deserve even more recognition.

After being given special permission from national team manager Kwesi Appiah, Ghana and AC Milan star Sulley Muntari was seen handing out money to one of Brazil’s poorest communities.

Muntari, a key fixture in the Black Stars side, also signed autographs and posed for photos in the Maceio neighborhood.

While Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup has come under question due to the rife poverty throughout the country, the efforts of Muntari and those alike will hopefully go towards highlighting one of the country’s biggest problems.

Thumbs up, Sulley!

(H/T Metro)


Houston Dynamo honor fallen firefighters, support local community


Photo: Houston Dynamo

Soccer teams are often considered the backbone of their communities, but the Houston Dynamo went above the call of duty earlier this week

Less than two months ago, four Houston-area firefighters were lost in a blaze while searching for victims of an early morning fire. The deadliest day in the Houston Fire Department’s (HFD) history, the local community, including the Dynamo, immediately embraced the families of the fallen heroes, raising more than $20,000 for the families of recently fallen firefighters.

While the team visited the stations in which the lost firefighters were based, players wore a special HFD patch during their match against Toronto FC in June. The Dynamo also made sure to help the families in a functional way, organizing a special ticketing promotion as well as raising funds outside of the team’s BBVA Compass Stadium prior to the match:

During an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear emphasized the importance of professional athletes supporting their local communities:

"When the players can use sport to help other causes, it’s doing more than just being a professional athlete, it’s being a part of the community and using their talents to help out others. I think it just shows that the organization has the right mind and the players always do. I think the city of Houston is lucky to have the HFD and also lucky to have the Houston Dynamo."

Here’s to the Houston Dynamo, setting an example for clubs across the nation and around the world.