FIFA World Cup fever is upon us

The opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer games began on Thursday afternoon June 12, 2014, amid a swirl of protest. Performers included Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and a bevy of samba dancers. The ceremony included a tribute to the music of Brazil and dancers performing in traditional costumes.

After a 64 year wait, Brazil is finally playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Credit: Adidas)

After a 64 year wait, Brazil is finally playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Credit: Adidas)

In Brazil, soccer is not only the national pastime; it easily ranks as a national obsession. But after a year of protest, many are beginning to wonder what legacy this year’s games will leave behind.

Protests over spending

It’s been 64 years since Brazil hosted the World Cup so one would expect that the populace would be thrilled to play host again. Yet strains on the economy have led many to object to the $11 billion-plus budget allocated for the games. They say that those funds would be better spent on schools, health care and infrastructure.

Protests have been a regular event in Brazil over the past year. CBSNews.com described the atmosphere in a June 12, 2014, post, “World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil amid parties, protests.”

According to the article, “The demonstrations in recent months have paled in comparison those last year, when a million people took to the streets on a single night airing laments including the sorry state of Brazil’s public services despite the heavy tax burden its citizens endure. Those protests were largely spontaneous and no single group organized them.”

The article described incidents that included the use of tear gas and stun grenades to disperse more than 300 demonstrators on a main highway leading to the stadium. Police also had to deal with protestors in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. A few protestors sustained injuries from rubber bullets. Included among the injured were several journalists.

Soccer lore

National sports events have long been a focus for intense human drama and social protest. Soccer games are no exception.

If you want to learn more about the history and lore of soccer be sure to check out the book, Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore, and Amazing Feats by Donn Risolo. It is available for free for a limited time at Questia.

“For passion and sheer drama—not to mention number of eyewitnesses—the World Cup is the greatest show on earth. Since it began in 1930 the quadrennial world championship of soccer has grown into a sporting behemoth that, over four weeks, attracts a cumulative global audience of more than 26 billion,” Risolo observed.

In the book, Risolo covers much of the rich history of this exciting game including funny, ironic and outlandish stories. The stories describe how Brazilian players were paid in cattle by their cash-strapped club, the Mexican prison warden who celebrated a World Cup victory by releasing all of his prisoners and how one player banked a shot into the goal off a passing seagull.

World Cup drama

The big drama in this year’s World Cup saga began at the 1950 games when host country Brazil lost to Hungary in a defeat that still rings painful today.

James Masters described the historic perspective in his June 13, 2014, article for CNN.com, “World Cup: Neymar double gives Brazil a nervy opening win over Croatia.”

So confident was Brazil that they would win the 1950 tournament, medals were engraved and newspapers were published declaring Brazil the champion.

“And then, it happened — the moment that brought about what would be known as Brazil’s ‘Hiroshima’ moment. Brazil goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa allowed an effort from Alcides Ghiggia to roll underneath his body and into the net — Uruguay was crowned champion,” Masters explained.

Disgraced and scapegoated, Barbosa suffered for his error until his death in 2000.

Flash forward to 2014 and the opening tournament of the 2014 games. Brazil faced off against Croatia and won after coming from behind. Despite concerns about the cost of the games, it’s a good bet that most Brazilians are filled with pride for the victory.

Brazil’s next game will be against Mexico on June 17, 2014, in Fortaleza.

Read more about sports, soccer in particular, at Questia.

Are you following the World Cup games? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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