ROME (Reuters) - Former Brazil great Zico has joined the chorus of people criticizing the organizers of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, lamenting a missed opportunity to showcase the country amid massive protests against the cost of the event.
Many Brazilians are livid at the amount of public money being spent on stadia in a nation that in many areas sorely lacks basic public services for its citizens.
People are also angry at high taxes and corruption among authorities.
“Brazil hasn’t managed to take advantage of this opportunity. There’s been no planning and no project,” the former Udinese playmaker told the Corriere Dello Sport.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets during the Confederations Cup last year over the high cost of the sporting extravaganza, as well as against taxes, inflation, corruption and poor public services.
Since then the protests have continued, and last week demonstrators angered by the cost of the event burned tires near the $450 million Sao Paulo Corinthians Arena, which will host Brazil’s opening Group A match against Croatia on June 12.
“Let’s hope that there aren’t any problems, but when you finish the stadiums only a few days before the event it’s inevitable that there are worries,” said Zico, who starred in the flamboyant Brazil side that thrilled during the 1982 World Cup before being defeated by Italy in the second round.
“The stadiums have been built in large part with public money, and the people are not happy about this, as when the organizers won the right to host the World Cup they said that public money would only go towards infrastructure projects.”
Three-time World Cup winner and special advisor to the organizing committee, Pele, said that protests and stadium delays were putting the tournament at risk and “25 percent of foreigners” had already canceled their trips.
“Brazil has had the time to plan a development of tourism, but it hasn’t made the most of that, and the World Cup has brought us very few new things,” the 61-year-old Zico added.
“Fans are sad, worried. It’s upsetting because I wanted to see my people happy. Everyone wanted it to be a big party, but there simply hasn’t been the right spirit to organize one.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly