sexta-feira, junho 20, 2014

Sabotage at the World Cup

Unbeknownst to the happy Dutch in full orange gear, the massive amounts of friendly Australians, the hopeful Hondurans and the Bon Vivant French that invaded the Beira Rio over the last week, they have been sitting on what has been an ongoing battle that was long ago decided, but that continues to be fought to this day. At least by one side.

You see, the Beira Rio sits in the middle of the fiercest soccer rivalry in Brazil (The GreNal *) and probably one of the top five on the planet. A rivalry that has led to sabotage during the World Cup.
*GreNal is a combination of the names Grêmio and Internacional.

Everything in the State of Rio Grande do Sul is 'Grenalized'. EVERYTHING. The Colors Red and Blue have been Grenalized (no player from either side can use cleats that resemble the rivals color. Rival colors are not allowed on respective teams scoreboard). The sponsers on the clubs jerseys have been Grenalized (both teams have the same sponsers as nobody wants to sponser just one and lose potentionally half of the states population). Websites have been Grenalized (Grêmio once claimed to have the best website in the State), Buses have been Grenalized (yes the Best bus once was a talking point), you name it, its been Grenalized. When Fifa installed blue seats, blue lights and blue signs at the Beira Rio for the World Cup this was front page news in Porto Alegre and ammunition for jokes by Grêmio supporters.

Even the airport has been Grenalized! Have you been to Porto Alegre during the World Cup? If so you may have noticed the Salgado Filho Airport has various spots that are 'decorated' with Grêmio logos. Thats right, Grêmio is paying for advertisements of its logo at the airport so foreigners can see their logo as they arrive in the city! Apparently this is some sort of "victory" for Grêmio. Here is a photo of an elevator at the airport. The logo can also be found at the food court of the airport and other spots.

Even the decades have been GreNalized. These two teams don't just exchange good years and bad years with each other, they usually go by decades. In the 40's Inter dominated by far, but in the mid 50's when Grêmio built their new stadium the Olimpico, Grêmio took over. Their dominence lasted until 1969 when the Estádio Beira Rio was built. From 1969 to the end of the 70's, it was Inter's decade. Inter won a string of 8 consecutive Campeonato Gaúchos (69-76 & 78 total of 9) and 3 Brazilian Championships. Grêmio in that time period won just two Gauchos (77 & 79). The 80's and 90's were Grêmio but since 2000 it has been all Inter (winning most Gauchos, 2 Libertadores, 1 Sulamericana, 1 Recopa and 1 World Championship). It seems like there is only room for one at a time in Porto Alegre.

And that brings us to the World Cup.

From day 1 that the World Cup was suggested in Brazil a fierce insiders battle began to see which Porto Alegre team would host the World Cup. Unlike most of the rest of the venue cities, Porto Alegre does not have a City or State owned stadium. The two stadiums in the city are owned by their two biggest teams. Each team had political and media insiders pushing forward their agenda and trying to block any attempts from the other side. It got nasty and dirty. Apparently all was fair just to have the bragging rights of saying your stadium would be seen by the world. Even better, that the rivals stadium, name and colors wouldn't. The World Cup as everything else was being Grenalized.

In the end a few years after all kinds of political twists and turns Internacional won this 'Grenal' for the apparent reason that Grêmio's new stadium, The Arena, was still on the drawing board while Inter's Beira Rio already existed and was in a prime part of the city. The decision was made, but for the Gremistas, the fight wasn't over.

Inter celebrated by making Tshirts, putting up billboards, ads in papers anything to rub it in. Grêmio responded by continuing to try to revert the decision with political maneuvers. As late as a week before the World Cup was to be played at the Beira Rio many Gremistas still held hope that the games would be transferred to the new Arena Grêmio (A week before the World Cup the fire department had not given the Beira Rio a final OK). Any gaffe or issue at the Beira Rio would be enough for some to get their hopes up. Instead though, Grêmio had to settle having their Arena be used only as a training facility for some passing National teams.

So when the teams of France and Honduras entered the Beira Rio and waited,waited and waited for their anthems to play any Inter fan knew that this was not likely a mere coincidence. The anthems never played and instantly all over the press and social media the Beira Rio became a big punchline especially for Gremistas. Even though the stadiums sound system had worked perfectly for months and minutes before the anthems, only now. with the world watching, it coincidently chose to have problems. Fifa stated that there was an issue with a broken cable. Quite possible. But the question is how did this happen? Did the cable break itself? 12 Stadiums in Brazil and innumerous world cups and this happens suddenly and only at the Beira Rio? My first thought as that of many was "This was Sabotage!".

All could have been forgotten and ok if it weren't for yet another incident happening during the Netherlands Australia game that went mostly unnoticed by overseas media. It was a cleverly planted inside joke that only Brazilian fans would get.

In 2010 Internacional won the Libertadores and earned the right to play the Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. The hope and desire of all Inter fans was a final between Inter and the Italian Inter Milan. An all Inter Final. Soon after the Libertadores a Grêmio fan posted a video on youtube claiming that he could not take it any longer. He was sick and tired of Inter winning everything and that he could not imagine Inter again winning a World title. The video rant went viral and showed the Gremistas frustration at the time. But relief came to all Grêmio fans when Inter failed to beat the Congo side Mazembe in the Semi Finals and the all Inter final never happened. It was Nationally considered at that point the biggest embarresment to date in International Brazilian Club soccer. To top things off the Mazembe goalie Kidiaba celebrated his teams goals with a unique butt hopping skip across his penalty box. This celebration became Gremistas favorite reference over the last 4 years. Even repeated occasionally by its players in GreNal matches as a goal celebration.

Here is where more evidence pointing towards sabotage at the Beira Rio comes into play. When the Netherlands scored their 3rd goal against Australia at the Beira Rio, the scoreboard showed a video of Fuleco, the world cup mascot, celebreting Kidiaba style with a butt hop all the way to the corner. Coincidence that a rather obscure goal celebration that symbolizes Internacional's embarrasing defeat to Mazembe makes it in the Fifa scoreboard video? Coincidence or a pre-planned effort by insiders to 'stick it to Inter' during the World Cup? This otherwise apparently innocent Fifa scoreboard video made headlines throughout Brazil's major media networks. Even Globo their largest media empire reported on it. See here, here and here for just a few of the articles written about the Mazembe-like video.  Here is a video capture of that moment on the scoreboard.

And here is the original Mazembe Goalie doing the celebration with the hashtag "Suck it Inter".

Almost seems far fetched if it wasn't for the history between not only the two clubs but their fans. Did I even mention the GreNal a few years ago when Grêmio fans carried into the stadium temporary bathrooms installed in the hallways of the stadium during some remodeling and threw them onto the field and lit them on fire...during a game?! Nothing in this rivalry is far fetched! Here is footage of the hideous act by the Grêmio fans during that GreNal.

So after all this, still think that there may not be a Grêmio hand someone in the local World Cup comitee chain of command and within the people working at the stadium? I can guarentee you there is. The National Anthem fail was no mistake and I am pretty positive that somewhere down the line the addition of the Kidiaba celebration was suggested and or added into the Fifa scoreboard video by someone connected to Grêmio.

The question that remains now is what other surprises await us in the last 3 World Cup matches to be played at the Beira Rio?

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