Chris McHugh

Freelance journalist / Blogger / NCTJ trainee

Football, Sport

World Cup Weekly: A Jumanji-esque grasp of Amazonian culture


The suits in charge of overseeing Brazil’s World Cup preparations have been feeling the heat from FIFA in recent weeks. But as the standard swirling of rumours, hearsay, and poorly researched speculation would have you believe, that particular brand of heat will be about as intense as a scolding from Steve Carrell compared to what awaits teams who have to play in the Amazonian city of Manaus. 

Back in December, British tabloid and serial peace-peddlers the Daily Mirror did their bit for hyperbole, poetically describing ‘murderous Manaus’ as a ‘crime-ridden hell hole’…  ‘dangerous, deprived and brutal’ and populated by ‘armed and drug crazed thieves’. The Mirror story was the third act of a childish exchange created when England manager Roy Hodgson, whose job is to make the England team win games and therefore identify factors which may or may not have a meaningful impact on the on the players’ ability to do so, gently suggested that Manaus’ tropical climate might not be his opening-game destination of choice.

“From the coaches I spoke to, we all agree that Manaus is not an ideal place to play football,” spat Hodgson at the time in a furious, frenzied attack at which the armed and drug-crazed thieves nodded approvingly. “You have a better chance if you get one of the venues where the climate is kinder.”

Whilst also doing his job by defending his city, mayor of Manaus Arthur Virgilio quickly passed judgement on Hodgson, an act he was presumably annoyed by in the first place. “We would also prefer that England doesn’t come,” he pouted, like a 4-year-old telling his mum who not to invite to his birthday party. “We hope to get a better team and a coach who is more sensible and polite.”

Then came the Mirror article, followed by a charm-offensive jaunt to Manaus by Hodgson which seemed be organised primarily to undo the sterling work of the Daily Mirror considering the England manager had little to apologise for.

Bringing a marginal increase in the sanity of the debate this week was the Miami Herald, who actually bothered to speak to Brazilian people who lived there rather than an English ‘independent travel advisor’ and some tourists on a travel website.

“The Cup will show the world what Amazonas really is. They think we’re Indians, that Manaus is just mata [jungle],” said Omar Vgaz, manager of a local cafe which sits a block away from the ‘pink neo-classical opera house that was the setting for the 1982 film Fitzcarraldo’, a cultural highlight which the Mirror had presumably already visited and decided was a little too neo-classical to deserve a mention.

It was left to State of Amazonas culture secretary Roberto Bragas to come out with the most accurate piece of research of the whole saga. ““The only problem is that England isn’t going to win and that is not my fault,” he winked. Expect the Daily Mirror to run a sting operation on him within the next week.


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