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Looking Ahead: Brazil Should Not Host 2014 World Cup

Thursday 11th July 2013
This week, Bruce Halling looks ahead to next year's World Cup and, given the events of the Confederations Cup, gives his thoughts about Brazil's capabilities of hosting the tournament.

It is now just under a year until the next World Cup. The qualifying stages are taking shape, with many teams having either qualified or being on the verge of qualifying and will do so over the next couple of months, and can therefore begin planning for the tournament in Brazil. Yet, the question I find myself asking isn't about who look like early contenders for the coveted trophy, but rather whether the tournament should even be held in Brazil in the first place.

I have had my doubts for quite some time. As a fan of a number of other sports, it certainly has not escaped my attention as to the problems Brazil has with crime - particularly in their major cities - and the issues this can cause when big sporting events are held in the country. As an example, when the Formula One World Championship goes to Brazil every year, the teams have to employ extremely tight security to keep the drivers safe, with several drivers over the years having been the targets of attempted attacks by gunmen in the city of Sao Paulo. Professional footballers and their families will undoubtedly be just as likely a target when the World Cup comes to town next summer, evidenced by the fact that Julio Cesar's wife was a victim of such a robbery during this year's Confederations Cup.

Speaking of the Confederations Cup, that could hardly have gone down as an overwhelming success for the tournament organisers given the scenes of violence that provided a backdrop for the tournament. For those not in the know, there have been a number of violent clashes in Brazilian cities between protesters and police recently, as Brazilian people demand an end to Government corruption and seek vast improvements to public services. The amount of money being spent on next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics - said to be in the region of twenty-six billion pounds - is also under great scrutiny from protesters, who say the costs of bringing these lucrative events to the country are simply too high. Over a million people took to the streets of Brazil in over seventy towns and cities around the country during the Confederations Cup, and you can guarantee that as the World Cup draws nearer, the protests will only intensify.

The event that told me that without a shadow of a doubt that the competition should be moved was the recent incident in an amateur game in the state of Maranhao, where a referee stabbed a player who refused to leave the field of play after being sent off and was then attacked and decapitated by an angry mob. Of course, I'm not suggesting that this should be seen as indicative of what would regular occur in the game of football in Brazil, but it does leave me concerned as to what could potentially happen during the tournament, given the highly volatile mood of the country. Suppose there's a semi-final between Brazil and Spain, which is tied at 1-1, and the referee awards a highly contentious penalty to Spain in the 90th minute. That could be enough to spark a full-scale riot inside the stadium, and if that were to happen, the repercussions for Brazil, FIFA and the game of football in general would undoubtedly be vast and damaging.

Ultimately, it comes down to one key matter - safety. The Confederations Cup was close to an absolute disaster on that front, with many reports of the lengths teams went to in order to keep their players safe. Most teams spent the entire tournament locked up inside hotels, and would travel to matches as inconspicuously as possible so as not to attract unwanted attention, and at least one team is reported to have been under considerable pressure to withdraw from the competition entirely. Next summer, the number of teams in Brazil will quadruple, and while it will give some idea as to the lengths teams may need to go to in order to keep their personnel safe in the country next year, there is a whole extra element that needs to be taken into consideration - the spectators. Millions from around the world will come to Brazil next summer for the tournament, and there has to be serious questions asked as to what Brazil can do to guarantee their safety - if indeed they are even able to do so.

I should make it clear that I have nothing against Brazil as a country or indeed its people, but I genuinely don't believe that next summer's World Cup should go ahead in the country. My personal view on the situation is that as the tournament draws nearer, the protests will only continue and to intensify, and this will certainly not be a good thing for anybody, and while of course everyone involved with putting this tournament on could well just be bloody-minded and make sure that it happens come hell or high water, but at what cost would this come to the country and it's people?

What's the alternative?

That in itself is a very good question, because there are very few countries in the world who would be suitably equipped to deal with the challenge of hosting the World Cup if FIFA did decide to move the tournament at short notice. My personal belief is that FIFA do still have a window of opportunity to make a decision of this magnitude, but it is one that is closing - and fast. For me, the obvious thing to do would be to move the tournament to the United States, as it is the closest country that has the infrastructure in place to cope with a relocated tournament, and of course they have experience of hosting a World Cup, having done so in 1994.

Will this actually happen? I highly doubt it. From the Brazilian perspective, there has already been so much invested in trying to make the tournament a success and I can't see them just accepting that they are failing without a fight, especially in mind that it would have major repercussions for the 2016 Olympics - how can you justify holding the Olympics in a country that just two years previously wasn't deemed safe enough to hold hosting the World Cup?

Of course, I hope I'm wrong and that isn't given consideration over the fundamental issue of safety, but money has a strange way of talking to the powers that be and I genuinely fear that the tournament will kept in Brazil for all the wrong reasons. FIFA needs to address this and come up with a solution, and they need to act sooner rather than later because from the evidence of the Confederations Cup, Brazil is a country that just won't be capable of successfully hosting next year's World Cup.
Bruce Halling
Bruce is a 24-year-old self-confessed Football League addict and author of the 'Road To The Promised Land' column. He is a passionate Southend United fan who has witnessed the Shrimpers' rise to the Championship as well as their more recent fall back to their current position in League Two. Though he doesn’t get to many games as a spectator, he has worked at Southend, Colchester United and now Queens Park Rangers as a steward, so is never too far away from the action on a matchday. Away from football, he is a Politics graduate and currently jobhunting. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucehalling

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