Confederations Cup Challenges

Brazil won the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament by beating Spain in the final at the end of June. Yet the question remains: “Has the country passed the test to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup?” Rebeca Pedrosa and Lucas Lacombe, MEI’s Associates in Recife, assess what went well and highlight the challenges still to be tackled in the north-eastern region of Brazil…..

More than a football tournament, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup was seen by FIFA and the local organising committee as the dress rehearsal for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Football-wise, Brazil showed it is still one of the best teams in the world after wiping out the world champions Spain in a fabulous 3-0 win. It was the country’s fourth Confederations Cup title and third one in a row, after previous wins in 1997, 2005 and 2009. This victory has cheered up Brazilian fans who, after a long period of defeats and draws, had lost faith in their team. With its confidence boosted, the whole country already foresees another trophy at next year’s FIFA World Cup.

The president of FIFA, Joseph Blatter, congratulated Brazil for the competition and its organisation: “The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup was the best version of the tournament ever played.… I’ve never seen anything like that.… We will have an absolutely outstanding World Cup next year.”

The Confederations Cup focused lot of attention on the north-east host cities – Recife (Pernambuco), Salvador (Bahia) and Fortaleza (Ceará) – because of the newly-built stadia and major local investments. These three regional capitals had the privilege to host high quality games – including a semi-final and a game for third place – hosting top teams such as Spain, Italy, Uruguay and Brazil. And, just like in the rest of the country, the football experience lived up to expectations.

MEI associates, Lucas Lacombe and Ricardo Demarchi, experienced both the opening game at the Arena Pernambuco (Recife) and a Confederations Cup game there and they were impressed. They commented: “The multipurpose stadium offers a great supporters’ atmosphere while being close to the pitch and hearing players kicking the ball. The VIP experience is also great with a spacious lounge, comfortable seats and comfy private executive boxes.”

The special secretary for the World Cup of Pernambuco (SECOPA) is very optimistic about the future. According to the organisation’s executive secretary of institutional relations, Gilberto Pimentel, the two FIFA competitions will surely bring numerous benefits to the state of Pernambuco. He said: “Until 2014, the public investments in infrastructure will reach R$2.1bn, a figure without precedent in the history of our state. The strengthening of the institutional image of the state, international visibility through the visits of tourists and journalists, the acceleration of urban modernisation, the qualification of products and services, and the professionalisation of sports projects as well as the attraction of new ventures will be the main legacies."

Still a Long Way to Go

The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup has however had its negatives. The main downside that has had a big impact on international visibility for Brazil has been the unpredicted riots that shook the country for over a month taking the tournament hostage and disturbing many games. Some of the 1m protesters blamed the federal government for investing too much money on the sporting event and forgetting health and education. Meanwhile, FIFA’s secretary general Jérôme Valcke asked to reinforce security in order to finish the tournament. “We are the wrong target. It is not our responsibility,” he said. The upsurge nearly jeopardised the future of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and has thus put pressure on the Brazilian government to strengthen security and safety by next year.

And if this was not enough, the six host cities and especially the north-eastern ones also suffered from a huge lack of organisation skills in major events. Firstly, the ticketing system malfunctioned with some supporters experiencing problems accessing their tickets which resulted in empty seats at some games. More importantly, Recife, Fortaleza and Salvador suffer from a lack of decent public transport networks. Accessing stadia turned to chaos on game days with long traffic jams often worsened by the tropical rains prevalent at this time of year. And once supporters were at the venues – which were under FIFA control during the tournament –they complained about long queues at the bars and some lack of guidance within the premises.

Overall, the tourism sector was not fully prepared as taxi drivers, restaurants and even some hotels still lack basic English language skills thus hampering the famous Brazilian hospitality. These negatives have been pointed out by Brazilians and foreign visitors alike but more critically by the international press such as the BBC or AFP.

The riots showed that Brazilian people are not fools and expect major sporting events to bring sustainable economic and social legacies to the country and not only to a few individuals. This therefore offers a great opportunity for foreign companies and investors that want to bring their expertise and help to get things right next year, especially in the north-east of the country.

Without a doubt Brazil will most certainly deliver a great 2014 FIFA World Cup by relying on its ‘footballistic magic’. Yet, the country still faces major challenges if it wants to really impress its people and most importantly the world. So, will Brazil be the real FIFA World Cup winner? The answer will be revealed on 13 July 2014.

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