RIO DE JANEIRO - Football fever is building as Brazil prepares to launch the 2014 World Cup on Thursday, but celebrations in some areas are subdued compared to previous years.
The weekly “feira,” or street market, in Vila Isabel, a working class neighborhood near Maracana Stadium. Shoppers look for bargains, but they say prices keep going up.
This neighborhood was always known for its fierce football [soccer] fans, according to vegetable vendor Luiz Henrique.
“In the old days, there used to be a competition for the most decorated street, and this street [Jorge Rudge] won many times. There used to be so many people out on the street that you couldn’t even get through,” said Henrique. He said people cannot afford the decorations anymore.
Retired schoolteacher Vera Lucia Gatti said many are angry with the government for spending billions of dollars on stadiums while hospitals and schools have been left to deteriorate.
“So I think the money should have been spread around, some for the Cup, a little for the schools, a little for the hospitals," she said. "This was the way to go, but it wasn’t done that way.”
Some Brazilians have demonstrated against the World Cup and say they will boycott the games. Strikes by transit workers also threaten to disrupt the tournament that is expected to draw some 800,000 foreign visitors.
Some hope the international attention will lead to change in Brazil. Henrique doubts this.
“You know, a country like this with so many corrupt people that you can’t trust anyone, where even the most honest person in politics is on the take, there is no law. So for me, there is no solution,” he said.
Gatti said Brazil’s leaders need to change.
“As far as the Cup goes, if Brazil wins, great. There’ll be happiness. I will be, too, of course," she said. "But if those who govern do not change and begin to spread the wealth around, nothing will be solved.”
Almost everyone here believes Brazil will win the championship. There is little hope, however, that this World Cup will bring anything more than temporary joy.