The grass is patchy on brand new soccer fields; protesters and police are clashing in the streets. But the FIFA World Cup should outshine its difficulties in host country Brazil and the awful reputation of its corporate parent, a retired MLS soccer player told Newsmax TV
"You have to trust 'The Beautiful Game,'" former Houston Dynamo forward Calen Carr told "Midpoint" host Ed Berliner in a preview of the great quadrennial contest for global soccer bragging rights.
Carr, joined by lawyer and former sportscaster Bram Maravent, agreed the background noise surrounding the 20th FIFA World Cup
could be deafening. The tournament kicked off Friday amid social unrest that spurred questions about the safety of locals, athletes, and visiting fans alike.
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Said Maravent, "In Brazil, you have a country that's spending $11 billion on the soccer infrastructure," adding, "When there are people that are suffering in poverty, it's very difficult for an ordinary citizen to even understand that."
And then there's FIFA,
an organization so renowned for greed, power, and scandals it's become an international joke.
"It's a culture of excess," said Carr. "The [World Cup] trophy itself — if that's not symbolic: $10 million, it travels around in a Louis Vuitton case, and just outside [in Brazilian cities] there's crime-ridden favelas.
"A lot of the Brazilian national team players come from those places, so it's important and fair of them to ask what happens to the kids who aren't able to dribble their way out of poverty," said Carr. "And some of those questions are being asked right now."
Rumors of match-fixing also trail the Cup to Brazil. FIFA is sitting on an internal report that past matches were likely fixed by bribed referees, according to The New York Times.
Carr said match-fixing phobia concerns him less than FIFA's conduct as the all-powerful — and tax-exempt — franchise owner.
"Brazil had a ban on beer in the stadiums for safety reasons," he said. "FIFA obviously has a huge corporate sponsor in Budweiser. That ban is suddenly lifted, and they basically play by their own set of rules and really take nothing into account. And the real question is what are they leaving behind."
Maravent said it's one thing for a developed country such as the United States to agree to take on a global sporting event and agree to an organizing committee's demands as a condition of hosting.
"They [already] have the infrastructure in place," he said. "But when South Africa or, even to take a recent example, Sochi — they built all these things for the [Winter] Olympics [in Russia] — it does create an economic problem, and kind of a tug of war between those who don't have and the governments who are spending all this money."
For all that, Carr and Maravent both said Brazil — the team — is still a favorite to win the Cup. They both expressed hope that a much lower-ranked U.S. team can at least get through Round One.
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