The group stage is over and we’re into the knockout stages following today’s rest day. The tournament has now finished in four locations: Cuiaba, Curitiba, Manaus, and Natal but I’m sure the party will continue in full force despite the lack of visiting teams.
With regard to the potential violence of South American fans I mentioned yesterday, an Argentine fan was shot in the leg during a dispute in Porto Alegre (the closest host city to the Argentine border). Brazil previously had a ban on selling alcohol in stadia due to violent fans, this law was rescinded as a FIFA stipulation for hosting the tournament, indicating that there is a propensity for drunken violence at these matches. When it comes to international rivalry, things may get even worse. I’m not forecasting the apocalypse however, be aware of your surroundings and don’t get baited into an argument with rowdy fans from another country.
The heavy weather in North of Brazil proved too much for many fans. There were an unfortunate number of empty seats for kick off due to the widespread flooding and impassable streets. One report stated a 40min drive took 4hrs! This had been a serious concern for matches in both Recife and Natal however the storm has been weathered and there is only one match to go in Recife on Sunday but the forecast is for rain. Just be ready with an alternative route in mind and leave plenty of time to get to the game, this has to take into account both the transit time and the large security queues that could be even longer when have the staff can’t make it for similar reasons. Be aware of your valuables in these instances, tropical rain isn’t a misty shower like NYC or London; you will be drenched to the core in a matter of minutes so be prepared to get very wet, very quickly, while keeping your phone, money, and tickets dry.
The last 24hrs has seen a few security events but none have been in close proximity to fans. The protests in Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia were small, up to 200 people, but it’s only those who are prepared to get tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets (neither of which are much fun) who are now showing up. The police have made it clear that these will be dispersed rapidly and they will not interfere with tourists and football fans. France24 wrote a good report on the summary of events yesterday, read it here.
Two armed men and a police officer were shot and killed during violence in the Complexo do Alemao favela in Rio de Janeiro. There is an inexplicable tendency to want visit the less-affluent parts of Brazil, which is incongruous most tourist activities. Tourists were not piling into South Central Los Angeles in the wake of all the gang violence there but in Rio it seems to be a good idea… If you do venture into the favelas, be aware that you are always a target for crime because your plane ticket may have cost more than they make in a year. Exercise caution, keep your valuables out of sight, and don’t get lost.
On the fan safety front, an Australian fan was ejected when an altercation started with a Brazilian fan. Unsurprisingly, the police took the Brazilian chap’s side. The police are friendly and helpful but, like in most places, if you get in a fight with a local, don’t expect the police to take your side; especially if you can’t muster a word of Portuguese. It’s also a great way to extort a bribe from a tourist.
Today’s fixtures are in Natal (28C, 88% humidity, increasing chance of rain in the evening), Belo Horizonte (24C, 83%, clear), Cuiaba (33C, 83%, clear), and Fortaleza (30C, 83%, dry). Belo Horizonte was recently added to a warning to UK citizens for a high likelihood of protests. Be aware of locations where protests have previously occurred and avoid them. Leave at the first sign of trouble but if you do get caught out, get inside and ride out the storm.
FIFA have announced it plans to beef up security around the Maracanã in Rio following the attempted breach by 87 un-ticketed Chilean fans. This is will come in the form of an increased presence of security forces as there is insufficient time to appropriately enhance security infrastructure. Be aware that this may cause further delays to getting into matches as cordons may be widened and more ticket checks put in place.
Today’s matches are in Belo Horizonte (22C, 81% humidity, slight chance of rain in the afternoon), Cuiaba (31C, 88% humidity and clear), and Fortaleza (30C, 88% humidity, Rain early, not for game time).
There have been no major fan safety incidents reported over the past few days and most of the wrinkles that arose in the first days of the tournament have now been ironed out. That said, be aware that problems may flare up very quickly if protestors choose to march and get violent.
A reminder of previous advice: take a photo of your tickets so if they get stolen, you can show them to security and the thieves can be arrested in the stadium.
Fourteen games into the World Cup Finals and no serious incidents.
The big story yesterday was the weather, particularly the heavy rain in Natal that saw a month’s rain in the previous 48hrs causing flash flooding and landslides. Further heavy rains are forecast for many of the host cities in the coming week so don’t get caught out.
There haven’t been any serious security incidents concerning fans reported since the Finals got underway. There were several protests reported and the response by the police remains heavy handed. The escalation of force from verbal warnings, to tear gas, to non-lethal firearms can be rapid and dramatic. We strongly recommend avoiding these situations and leaving at the first sign of trouble.
Today’s games are in Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, and Cuiaba. Brazil vs Mexico will be a lively match. There’s no trouble anticipated anywhere but there is some heavy weather anticipated in Fortaleza and Cuiaba to be ready to get wet.
The big security event in the last 24hrs was a ‘bomb’ alert around the stadium in Manaus in the mid-morning. Initial reports indicate that a police dog alerted authorities to an unattended vehicle during a routine sweep of the area. After about two hours on site, the bomb squad concluded that the dog detected a residue of gunpowder.
Concerning spectator security, there was an alleged rape of an American Woman in Cuiaba on Friday that occurred at a local residence after the spectators returned there after late night celebrations. In the same city, several muggings were reported during the after-match celebrations, mostly involving tourists. There is no panacea for these events however, taking efforts to avoid threatening environments where you are isolated and without escape routes is always advised and keep some emergency cash and a list of phone numbers and/or address for your hotel separate from your wallet or bag.
There was report of English fans starting a fight mid afternoon in Manaus but every other countries fans seem to be well behaved, even where Colombians outnumber Greeks 10 to 1 in Belo Horizonte. A protest took place in Belo Horizonte before the match, a good distance away from the stadium where the police reacted with resolve to prevent the situation from getting beyond control. Expect these events to continue for the benefit of media consumption but they will be dealt with swiftly to prevent disruption to the tournament and spectators.
The surprise upset of Costa Rica over the tournaments first winners, Uruguay, was met with only celebration in Fortaleza. The most violence seen so far was when Pereira was dealt a red card for Uruguay in the 93rd minute.
Reporting indicates transport is working well throughout the country. Although there was a strike Natal on Friday where only 30% of the buses were running but organisers pulled it together to get spectators to the game using school buses. In other places, Sao Paulo, Manaus, and elsewhere, public transport appears up to the task although it remains difficult at times.
Today’s matches are in Porto Alegre, Brasilia, and Rio De Janeiro at the legendary Maracanã. Porto Alegre is one of the smaller host cities but has good infrastructure to get around, the town centre can appear a bit seedy and it has had an issue with crime so advice concerning situational awareness remains extant. Brasilia and Rio, the capital and the former capital respectively, are both more than capable of hosting world-class events and have the same problems seen in any big city. Big stadiums are rarely found in affluent neighbourhoods so take transport to and from the game and don’t hang around in the rough areas for a drink afterwards.