Reaching the unofficial midway point of the worldwide leave of absence that happens every four years, there are already a litany of story lines that have made the games of the 2014 World Cup a bit more than a hotly-contested soccer bracket.
From a portion of the Interstate 5 freeway being closed due to unruly Mexico fans, to a Mike Tyson-esque biting (yeah, BITING, like with his teeth and on purpose) incident resulting in Uruguay’s star Luis Suarez being suspended for four months from the sport and fined over $100k dollars – whether or not you are fan, there is plenty to pique an interest. Here are some of the juicy subplots thus far.
HELL NO, GHANA WON’T GO – Just this week, Ghana’s National Team, a real contender for the cup, was threatening to not play. The team had already stopped training and had made it very clear that they would not take the field on Thursday against Portugal unless they were paid. The team had not yet received any payment for their play, at all.
President John Dramani Mahama, along with the intervention of FIFA, had to make sure the team that payment would arrive in the form of $3 million dollars in cash that was flown in direct from Ghana to Brazil. Coach James Kwesi Appiah was literally on standby to be notified when the plane had touched down.
(Update – After all that, Ghana lost to Portugal 2-1 and was sent home)
RIOTS ON THE STREETS OF SAO PAOLO – While soccer and social unrest have always had a sordid love affair, the last year leading up the World Cup in Brazil have birthed an unwavering community of socially conscious protestors that have dismissed their affinity for the sport.
Groups like the 12pm Photographic have released beautifully edited, especially gritty videos of war on the streets as protestors clash with riot squads to express their discontent with the BILLIONS of dollars Brazil has sunk into the Cup.
HOOKERS ON PHONICS – According to a report ran in the Huffington Post, Belo Horizonte. as one of the 17 host cities for the Cup was anticipating some 600,000 guests over the next month. With prostitution being legal in Brazil, the Minas Gerais State Association of Prostitutes in the city was offering free English lessons to help bridge the gap to aide in brokering the gap. The same report cites that there are nearly 4,000 members in the association.
WILL FERRELL and TEDDY GOALSEVELT – Making a surprise appearance at a USA pep rally prior to the US match with Germany, Will Ferrell walked into a small bar in Recife, Brazil and delivered a his signature deadpan schtick as he was introduced as the team’s secret weapon.
Appearing alongside Twitter sensation, “Teddy Goalsevelt”, Ferrell quipped, “”If the game gets close, I will bite,” playing on the recent Uruguay scandal. “I will bite the opponent! I will bite every German player, if I have to.” Met with the enthusiastic chants of “USA” – the guy never breaks character and the fans ate it up.
SMOKE and MIRRORS – According to the Daily Mail, the Sao Paolo opener of Brazil versus Croatia happened in a an arena of some 20,000 seats that wouldn’t pass a United Kingdom safety test. The roof of the Arena Corinthians wasn’t finished as the start of the Cup.
In courting FIFA to bring the Cup to Brazil, officials promised 35 rail options to alleviate transit concerns – there are five. The black eye of poor planning, spotty construction and allegations of worker mistreatment all seem especially bad considering Brazil is set to host the Olympics in 2016