Things came to a head: Germany win the World Cup, but at what cost?

All good things come to an end, and this one came to a good end. Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final, with a sublime goal from Götze, who’d come on to replace ace striker, Klöse. 20140714-065432-24872150.jpg The German coach looks like a genius with that single stroke. His legacy is set, as is that of his team. On the other side, Lionel Messi will have to abide the view that his legacy is incomplete because he has not won a World Cup champions medal. That’s a bit of rubbish, in my view, because one player can rarely determine the result of a team match, certainly, it’s hard in football. Messi did not play a spectacular game, but Germany knew what they had to do and managed to corral his runs well, though he nearly slipped the net once.

Germany had few weak links. On the contrary, some players gave up too much body and soul. Christioph Kramer took a shoulder to his head early in the first half, and looked knocked out. As happens all too often, a trainer came on, and the player was led off the field for a cursory amount of ‘treatment’, and then returned to play. Within 10 minutes, Kramer had fallen down, and was then led off the field, looking and walking like a zombie, and was substituted. During the match, the commentators we had did not give any update on his condition. I have not yet seen any reports, either. But, it showed starkly something terribly wrong in football. Head injuries and the risks from concussions are not taken seriously. 20140714-063457-23697244.jpg FIFA has a protocol for dealing with such injuries, but unlike in American football, where the NFL applies it’s rules rigidly, the round ballers repeatedly let the ball drop on this matter. I honestly think it will take a player dying on the field or soon after a match for the issue to be addressed seriously. It was Kramer’s first start during the tournament, and it was a sad end. But, his was not the only instance of dangerous head injuries during the match. Higuaín got a heavy hit from German keeper, Neuer. Also, Schweinsteiger was punched in the eye by Aguero, resulting in a nasty gash to his eye.20140714-064217-24137589.jpg

I noticed on Twitter that the topic got a lot of attention from well-respected football commentators, including former US national player, Taylor Tweelman. But, several mainstream media houses, such as ESPN and Fox Sports seem to be highlighting the issue and FIFA’s negligence. See one scathing piece by Slate. Let’s hope that national federations and professional clubs see the wisdom of protecting players from a needless injury and brain damage.

The consistent negligence regarding head injuries was the one real blight on the tournament, which showcased some simple innovations in match management. We can all understand coaches’ reluctance to rapidly switch their line up, but in the end they have a squad for a reason.

No doubt, Germany proved to be the best team over the whole series of matches. They were nearly derailed twice by African teams, and had Ghana taken a 3-1 lead in their group game, we’d still be wondering what had happened to Germany. But, they showed their mettle by dodging those upsets. Algeria took them to extra time in the round of 16, but quality rose to take that match, eventually. Neuer partly redefined goalkeeping to show its range to include a sweeper role, but he also showed the value of solid shot stopping and ball clearance. Germany was also the most clinical in front of goal. Brazil felt that worst of all. They also showed how to pass fast and accurately all over the field.

This was my third time seeing Germany reach a final game while I was in the host country, and they lost the previous two times. At least, I’m not a complete jinx.

Credit to Brazil, for pulling off the organization. Debt headaches aside, it was a good-looking job. Social issues were not far from the surface, and the amount of security personnel visible on the way to Maracana made clear that the government was not going to risk any mishap, whatever the core merit of grievances. That’s no big surprise. Those issues can’t be removed by demonstrations, but much can go wrong with such demonstrations.

Rio airport was filled with departing fans. Most got to watch the final before leaving, like we did. Almost, timed to perfection. I have to get my head ready to think about another trip to Rio for the 2016 Olympics. Then, Jamaica will have some direct interest, not having to live vicariously.

Teaching moments: Simple actions in Rio that would look good in Jamaica

A ten day trip to Rio, whose prime purpose was to enjoy the atmosphere of World Cup football, is no fact finding tour. But, I’ve had to look at socioeconomic developments and try to assess them quickly for most of my working life. So, let me use that experience to share some observations that could help Jamaica move ahead. They are not in any special order.

Tourists need to be left to enjoy their visits and feel safe. Arriving in Rio, the biggest problem is figuring out where to collect baggage; the claim areas are split, either side of duty free shopping. Once done, passing Customs is simple, with basically no stop. Admittedly, Jamaica has been tagged as a drug haven, so we need stiffer checks to protect ourselves from those who want to try some simple drug running, as part of organized operations or just to get some extra dosh. That hurts our tourism badly, and maybe the only way out is some brutal sentencing, including near immediate deportation. The idea of airport courts seems radical but, it may be what’s needed to frighten the daylights out of the casual wrongdoers. Admittedly, tourists arriving at Montego Bay tend to have lghr checks than arrivals at Kingston, most of whom are residents. That, naturally, sets up resentment from locals. But, evenhandedness is something with hitch Jamaica struggles.

Once on land, tourists in Rio see plenty of signs that security is ready to deal with all problems.

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Rio Tourist Police, on Ipanema beach strip

Municipal and national guards were everywhere in uniform Rio. It was likely that some of the road sweepers or other tourist workers were undercover operatives. They were on hand, visible, and clearly ready. I have no idea at what cost. But, no one wants to robbed or mugged on the street when just trying to enjoy sun, sand, and sea.

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Tourists just want to have their fun
We read stories about how favelas and streets had been cleared of vagrants. News reports yesterday mentioned how protesters had been picked up ahead of the final and that 25,000 security personnel had been added to deal with potential protests at the final. Rio is in a very difficult position, so extreme measures are no surprise. But, in the end, the naive or educated visitor wants to come and go safely, and leave a country to sort out its internal strife.

Like Jamaica, Rio has its vendors. They work the beach strips, selling on the beach, trinkets, drinks and snacks. On the roadside, little cafes and juice bars are dotted around. Massage services are there, too, on the beach. Most vendors take no straight away. Pestering in not common. I did not see if vendors were licensed. But, they went on walking the beach. Most beach visitors just went about their recreation. No one offering them drugs. They could get drinks if they wanted, or play or doze, if not.

I’ve barely seen any police at Jamaican resorts, by contrast. Maybe, they are all under cover. But, we have reports of petty or more serious crimes against tourists. Each incident is a blight, and becomes amplified as a negative story when people get back home. Most people have positive images of Jamaica before they visit. The taxi driver who loves “Bobby Marley” is typical. We need to harness that.

Taxis should be safe and trustworthy . Most visitors do not know their way around a foreign country. They often think they are easy targets for exploitation. So, one way of allaying those fears for the benefit of all is for the popular form of transport from point to point, the taxi, be a reliable service. Rio has a lot of taxis, but they never seemed enough.

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Taxi, with onboard GPS, meter, visible official driver ID

Perhaps, the arrival of all those football fans was the reason for seeming excess demand. However hard it was to get a taxi, each one tended to give the same experience. The driver was licensed: the vehicle had the driver’s badge clearly visible. The vehicle was metered. The cost was clear, and drivers did not haggle over the small number, eg R$11.30 was R$11. The driver wore a belt and each seat had a belt. (One driver, seeing my 10 year old daughter was in difficulty strapping in, stopped to free the belt, which had gotten trapped under the seat. Attentive and courteous.) If uncertain of destination, drivers quickly tried to verify directions by using on board GPS, or checking with another driver. Vehicles were NEVER overloaded: no space, no rider. No exceptions. Naturally, in this age of widespread smartphone use, some drivers tried to stay abreast of social activities. One driver was constantly checking and sending voice messages,though he limited this to when stopped at traffic lights. One driver was one the phone to an acquaintance, but still drove carefully.

We took at least two taxis each day and never saw one accident–at all. Rio has six million people and an area half that of Jamaica. Admittedly, road conditions are far better in a Rio, with several four-lane freeways through the city.

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Rio has good, spacious roads

Pedestrians do not have priority, so that would tend to create more problems, but none were evident.

If visitors feel safe travelling around a strange place, day or night, they are likely to venture out more and further. That tends to mean more spending. We are experienced travelers and have a friend who had lived in Brazil and spoke Portuguese. But, those aspects did not feature much in routine travel. We tried our luck on the streets, often needing two taxis, which did not arrive simultaneously. We never ended up at different places; we sometimes had a long wait to meet up again. We were not really worried. We did some research and ventured out on ferry boats, too. No mishaps. Drivers also gave good advice about when to travel and better routes.

My understanding is that the government did not mount any special campaigns. But, perhaps, the trade associations got members to buy into supporting the events with positive attitudes. Or, people have understood what is good for business.

Free Wifi internet access needs to be widely available. Most traveller know about the high cost of roaming charges, so shy away from making local telephone connections. However, they will do their best to keep in touch with friends, families, and colleagues through email, text messages, including via Whatsapp, and social media sites. You only need to go anywhere with free wifi to see the clusters of communicators. Rio offered free wifi to those who were already subscribers to local telephone services. But, many bars, restaurants, and shopping areas had free wifi. Even some hillside slums, favelas, had free wifi networks.

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Favela Santa Marta has free wifi

Brazil has benefited from extensive infrastructure investment connected to major international events. Again, the pay off comes through the easy experience visitors have.

Litter is a major turn off. In Rio, garbage disposal was constant. Large bins on the sidewalk, plus cleaners walking the beach strips and streets. Of course, people are dirty, but it need not swamp everyone or everywhere. We saw plenty of garbage in a favela. Bottles and cans get used as missiles. Likewise, roads that need repair trap trash as well as people. The impression left was that Rio was clean, even if sour-smelling. That’s an observation, not a criticism. Big cities have their odour.

Finally, Rio celebrates its street art. Downtown Kingston has recently had much of its murals removed from ghetto areas. The rationale was that this glorified local criminals. Whatever the truth of that, the murals are important local expression. By contract, Rio promotes such art.

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Favela art, Rio

Admittedly, a recent government initiative has sought to regularize favela life, and accepting murals adds to the sense of ownership. Heavyhandedness is often not needed, once respect has been shown by those in formal authority.

No rest for the wicked: From Rio, reggae sounds tinny

Yesterday and today are rest days before the last two matches in the World Cup. The final will be at football’s Mecca, Maracana Stadium. Many fans made their trek to the venues for those matches, and Rio was awash with Argentina fans, who seemed more numerous than Germany fans. No surprise, given relative distances. I presume Brasilia saw an influx of Dutch fans; Brazilians can leave travelling it till later. Those fans I saw were in good mood, mostly decked in shirts other than team colours. They were helping the economy a little more by shopping and taking taxis. The rains did not let up, and drenched Rio all day and throughout the night.

We took it lazily and found our way to a fabulous restaurant, named Aprazível, in the Santa Teresa area of Rio, up a step hill near to Corcovado.

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Santa Teresa, Bohemia maybe

The area has lots of older buildings, and the hills make the area seem more like a European town. It’s become a place for arty types, and has a bohemian feel, with narrow, cobbled stone streets. We just enjoyed some nice Brazilian fare

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Dished to please, galinhada caipira

as my wife and her friend and daughter celebrated The Bahamas 41st anniversary of Independence. We then went to help the economy, too, to dodge the rain and be somewhere less gloomy and cold–a mall in upscale Leblon.

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Bookstore and cafe in the mall

It made for a long day, and we did not get home till well past 9.30pm. My little daughter got to stay up really late, playing cards with one of her sisters.

Rio has been blessed with a lot of technological investment from its hosting of mega events, and free wifi internet access is widespread. So, when we have downtime, it’s easier to do some surfing rather than leaving it all till day’s end. (We are not alone, and the mall was awash with people sitting in groups doing the same. International roaming charges are no joke.) I took the opportunity while my ladies shopped to read up on Rio and some elementary Portuguese. As I caught up with the day, I read, as usual, news from Jamaica. It makes for interesting contrasts to the heavily football-centric focus now in Brazil.

Here, even the not sports news is related to football. The budding ticket scandal, where a FIFA-affiliated hospitality company official, Briton Ray Whelan, has been arrested for selling complimentary tickets and match credentials. Latest news was he’d ‘escaped’ and was on the run. My older daughter wondered if he’d headed to The Amazon rainforest.20140711-065746-25066430.jpg

A blooming ‘would have, could have’ story is coming from the British press, asking if the first penalty kick by Holland, which was initially saved by the Argentina keeper, actually crossed the line. Read and watch a replay. This could just brew into a little more embarrassment, who seem like fly paper in that regard. With much-touted goal line technology, it seems that match officials are still in the trigger whistle mode and not accustomed to waiting and getting a conformation of near incidents. The fans and IT mavens will have a little field day.

In Jamaica, the news has been much about the parched conditions are the drought now biting. For over half a century, that little island has shown how the curse if riches works. Resource rich, but application poor. We have water coming at us from all possible angles, but cannot get it to where people are. Or, we squander nature’s abundance like children and splash and dash away valuable rain water. “No problem, man!” You better sing another song, if the Weather Service predictions of little rain throughout the coming months are correct. What Rio has had for the past 48 hours would do us a treat. I bet people are begging for a tropical storm to come lash the island. I read a few days ago about fields catching fire in St. Elizabeth, the island’s bread basket, then saw a report yesterday about the government ‘implementing’ a J$30 million drought mitigation project (or maybe just recycled news) island wide . 20140711-075112-28272216.jpgHi, Lily, hi low. Oh, the plight of the beggar! What’s that passage about reaping the fruits of our labour? We work at not working, so our basket must stay empty.

The stories swirl about the Commissioner of Police’s sudden resignation and retirement. Just in his 50s, and giving every sign of being ready to sail on into the sunset of 10 more years. Then, brap. Just so,he says “Nah! I want to go fishing.” Was he jump or was he pushed. He doesn’t seem the jumpy type. Let’s leave it there. But, read Mark Wignall’s column from last week, which puts the skeptical case well.

Eyes have also focused on the latest exchange rate developments. My reading is that the central bank governor did something normal, but some want to see it as extraordinary. He intervened in the market to maintain ‘orderly conditions’. Governor Wynter reportedly said the rapid rate of depreciation within the last few weeks was not justified by any fundamentals in the market. Jamaica just got a kiss and hug for being teacher’s pet from the IMF MD, and successfully launched a US$800 million bond. That would suggest that speculative pressure on the exchange rate should lessen, and it’s rate of depreciation slow. The Gov did something extraordinary by announcing the intervention. That could be a classic ploy of signaling to the market that enough hanky panky has gone on. Forget about the rate having reached a bottom. Jamaica doesn’t have the dosh to slosh into the market and defend a level, and Mme Largarde won’t accept it, either. So, keep on with end Lamasse breathing.

Jamaica is over twice the physical area of Rio, with about half the population. It’s not been blessed to sit within a huge land mass, or to have seen years of intense economic and social change. It’s a place with hopes but woeful vision. Rio and Brazil are almost the opposite of great hopes and too much vision. It wouldn’t take the wit of many people to fix Jamaica’s woes. But wit we use to be twits.

Paqueta: a step back in time

The island of Paqueta is the kind of place that is all too rare these days. It is close to a large urban area but shares little in terms of how it has developed.
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In particular, Paqueta has no motorised vehicles; only bicycles and horse-drawn carriages are supposed to move people around.

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Horses still provide the driver power

Truth is, you’ll see a few trucks belonging to the municipal government, clearing garbage. You’ll also see a tractor pulling a makeshift bus. But, that’s about it. What parts of Rio have on Sundays and holidays, Paqueta has everyday.

It was once the weekend getaway spot for Rio’s rich, but now they apparently sneer at going there. If true, more space for visitors to Rio during the World Cup.
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The ferry was full heading there in the early afternoon. Many were locals, but many were those foreigners still in Brazil for the remaining World Cup matches. Costa Rican fans were ‘licking their wounds’, after their team lost its quarterfinal on Saturday. Argentina’s fans were in boisterous mood, heading into their match against Holland on Wednesday. German fans, likewise.

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Pick your ride

Brazilian fans, which were just about everyone else, were just still lapping up the goodness that comes from being hosts and still in the hunt.

Paqueta has little more to offer than its tranquility, but that’s worth a lot these days. We had lunch in a hotel restaurant that had been open since the 1920s.

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Old phone

It had on display some technologies from the various decades: manual calculator, typewriter, old telephone, etc. It also offered some simple solid fare to eat. After a few days eating meat like Brazilians, I needed my meatless Monday. Fish was a welcome change, with a huge salad. It also offered the litre bottle of beer.

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Beer by comparison with other liquids

My older daughter and I chose not to rent bikes after lunch, for fear of buttacheitis, but walked on the beach instead, admiring the calm of the sea and some of the old buildings. We then sat to watch the sun start to set.
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A mother was trying unsuccessfully to get her daughters to stop rolling in the sand and head home. Some fishermen sat without shirts sharing a bottle of what looked like white rum. The beach had stone chess tables, and I could visualize moves being made decades ago.

We took our pictures, several minutes apart, and gawped at the stunning mountains in the background. I don’t know what my daughter was thinking, but I imagined living here centuries ago and wondering who lived in those mountains or what was happening on the mainland. I would have had my fishing and been content.

The sun set for the day, but thankfully it will rise on Tuesday to greet this sleepy island unchanged.

A day in the life of a Rio favela. Jamaica, are you watching?

The idea of tourists taking a guided tour of a Rio favela struck me as tacky. The idea of my being one of them seemed far fetched. So, what was I doing being driven in a van up a hill for a tour of a favela? I was being a team player during World Cup 2014. Out local guide quickly changed my attitude.

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Carlos, our guide

Carlos was so humble, and unassuming; he was not blasé, and he was not pompous or annoyed about what he was showing.

Call a favela a slum for simplicity sake. As in any country, where masses of poor people live, certain characteristics appear. So Favela Santa Marta was little different at first sight.
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It was Sunday afternoon, and most people were just cooling out. Lots of little children were playing–football in an area covered with artificial turf, running around playing tag, using the tourists as shields as we walked along.

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Atop the favela

Adults were in small groups on roof tops bars, one group getting ready for a birthday party for the lady bartender. Other groups were listening to funky music and grilling meat. Some just cooled out in bars along the narrow passageways.
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The first contrast with Jamaica that struck me was that no one came with a begging hand. Now, it could be that the community, which is organized in many clear ways, has come to shun that behaviour, but it’s a habit that’s generally less evident in Rio than in Kingston.

We walked around and marveled at the views of Rio from the high and steep hillside dwelling.

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Amazing view from the hillside

It did not take much imagination to think that one pressure to change the area would be its desirable location. Gentrification may not be far away. It may be closer since recent efforts by the government to make favelas more like normal areas: improving water supplies; introducing ‘police pacifying units’, and using government organizations to run more things and push away control from drug and criminal gangs; forcing people to pay for their use of electricity and cable TV. I had to look at my wife and smile at the thought of JPS’s recent tussles to deal with electricity theft in Kingston. The good and bad of both sides were easy to see. The favela was wrapped in electrical cables, much of it looking jerry-rigged, but with some standard fittings for street lights. We saw the new digital metering boxes. We heard about cases of overcharging of customers. Some wondered about fire risks.

My mind is never far from risk:reward issues. I looked at the piles of garbage caught in narrow areas where water pushed things but could carry them no further. Kingston’s gullies are wide and we avoid such piling up in many areas because of that.
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Garbage collection, and many social services face peculiar problems in a Rio favela, perched on a steep hillside, where the way in and out means steep movement up and down. You cannot do much except deliver in bulk at the bottom and get things redistributed upwards. Likewise, getting material down must be in small amounts. I looked at the newish fernicular railway that made the climb and descent much easier for people. It was easy to see how that one provision could and had transformed daily life.

Michael Jackson had visited this favela and made his video song ‘They don’t really care about us’. Though, I knew the song, I had never seen the video. We were given a viewing in a little store that sold MJ memorabilia.

My first reaction was “Those are Rasta colours,” as I saw the typically tight choreography. My second reaction was several thoughts, including wondering which politicians had seen allowing this as part of a strategy to help push change. I know that The Pope and President Obama have been well-publicized favela visitors. They’re now chic. Rudi Guiliani had sent materials from NYC to help develop this favela. Things were moving in a good direction, it seemed.

Our tour organizer had stressed at the outset that the favela would be safe. As we stood perched at the top, where we started, and looked from a pavilion down, we heard a loud crack and saw smoke. “It’s only fireworks, folks, don’t worry,” he said quickly. No one had ducked or screamed, but I wondered if he’d gotten an OMG moment. He seemed well at ease in the community, joking with kids and our guide. He told me that he was not from a favela, but had befriended people from there when he’d arrived in Rio, feeling more affinity with them than with the crowd he met in Copacabana.

We are not going to be major agents of change with our favela visits lasting 90 minutes, and pressing some cash into a few hands. I live seeing kids playing, and naive as it may seem, that’s usually one thing I try to use as a gauge of how life goes. Kids are not good at faking it. The little girl who carried a plate covered in foil to a table by a bar was deadly serious. That salad was for the party, not me. The boys who crashed into my legs, running from each other had not seen me as anything other than another object. I saw boys flying kites from high roofs. I did not have some idyllic notion that they would be with parents on comfy sofas watching Brazil play Germany on Tuesday. I visualized a mass, gathered around a TV or in a square crying out “Brasil! Brasil!” I visualized them all crying when the final whistle was blown, whatever the result. Tears taste the same, whether of joy or pain.

Our tour organizer said later that Brazil will beat Germany, but feared that they would meet Argentina in the final. Why? Brazil may lose, to their arch rivals. Argentina supporters had already been strutting after their quarter final win. No. Lose, yes, but not to Argentina. He did not want that blight on his children’s lives. I was stunned that this young man focussed on the generations to come. But, he was a football apassionado, if I can use that word. He was a fan of Flamenco, the red and black colours ruled his vision and thoughts once he saw them. It is a simple thing in many football-crazy countries. Everything comes back to that. Much of life’s significance and personal pride gets reduced to that.

Brazil is on a high. World Cup now. Olympic Games in 2016. The world loves Brazil and she can return it in bucket loads. Favela life may get more than a sweet smell and wash over from that. Maybe, some jobs. Maybe, some wider interest. Maybe, some cleaning up and more consistent flows of public interest and money.

I asked about land ownership, drugs, alcoholism, sex trading. I did not hear much that surprised or shocked me. Alcohol is a bigger problem than drugs: people had seen the effects of the latter and were afraid of it. Land titles were not easy to create, but evidence of ownership was available. Of course, sex sells and is bought. Duh! I should have asked about whether the favelas are becoming the hip place to visit for ordinary Brazilians. I suspect not yet. The alleyways don’t lend themselves to casual visiting. More likely, favela action creeps down the hill into streets, bars, clubs and bedrooms. Everyone loves Samba.

Jamaica can take many lessons from the process of repositioning favelas. Slums have stigmas, but they contain lives as valuable as any. They often have great creativity. Living on little does wonders for ingenuity. Getting out and ‘moving ahead’ may be in some minds, but getting by is more likely. Few people really like to suffer all the time. Those who say people should get out of the favelas are good examples of those who see instant fixes in life. You can get poor in a hurry, but getting out from under the rock of poverty isn’t usually easy or fast.

Jamaican garrison politics depends much on being able to control through attrition, so pressure to maintain ghettos is strong. Our criminal elements have not yet been displaced by administrative structures, not least because they cannot deliver services as well the Dons can. So, we can look to Brazil, but our journey won’t be the same. But, baby steps may be starting to happen.

Coin toss time: Brazil 2014

This is the week–June 12, to be precise. Kick off for the Brazil 2014 World Cup. These events have become mired in stinky, sticky stuff for many years. I don’t follow that very closely, but glance at much of it. What has been hitting the fan and spraying off onto walls and neatly pressed clothes?

Cameroon were in a spat about bonus pay, so were refusing to travel to Brazil. Well, a fool would have known that would not last long. However, it was resolved, Samuel Eto’o was not going to pass up a last chance to show his Chelsea team boss that age ain’t nothing but a number.

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Eto’o was too funny after his age was questioned by his club coach.

The players settled their dispute with the government and Fecafoot (the national federation), and will receive 5.8m CFA francs (about US$ 12,000) more than the 50m CFA francs originally offered to each player for their participation in the tournament. The federation had to borrow the funds privately to pay the bonuses, pending money from FIFA months after the tournament.

Cameroon’s coach, Volker Finke, must be thinking what next? Anyway, the lads headed off to Brazil and are already happily snapping selfies on their smartphones.

Lots of teams played friendly matches to warm up for La Mondiale. Jamaica got a face planting by France in Lille on Sunday, 8-0. The Jamaican newspapers were full of guff, talking about ‘humiliation’, as if Jamaica, who made it to the big dance in 1998, in France, were in the same league as les Blues, who won the World Cup that year. Really? Jamaica limped in last in their group qualifying, and didn’t register a win: that was humiliation, not being beaten badly by the likes of France.

But, Italy did the strangest thing, playing against a top Brazilian club side, Fluminese, and winning 5-3. We were treated to Mario Balotelli sporting two different coloured football shoes, along with another haircut.

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Mario ‘two coloured shoes’ Balotelli, keeps his hair on while playing Fluminese.

But, wasn’t that playing with fire? What if the local team had been on the phone with Brazil’s coach, ‘Big Phil’ Scolari: “So, which of them do you want seriously hurt, and which ones just banged up?” Italy’s coach, Prandelli, might have had a few players looking like chopped salami in a deli. Maybe, I’m just an old, cynical player, but my mouth would have been watering at the prospect doing ‘my part’ for my country. 🙂

Finally, for now, two points. First, teams have moved a long way in preparing for matches. England have done extensive preparatory work. This included team players being given iPads that contain a Brazil 2014 scouting app specially developed by the Football Association and tailored for each member of the squad’s needs. Makes you wonder: Candy Crushing Italy, before the first game.

What about nutritional preparations for the World Cup? Reports suggested fans would find local food will be much more expensive than usual. An app, Ju$to, has been created that allows price comparisons. I thought I would travel with some popular fare from Jamaica. Patties? Grace prepared meals? No, bully beef, produce of…Brazil. Well, here’s how it may be made into something very appealing.