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BRAZIL BEAT: Even Pele stuck in Sao Paulo traffic

June 17, 2014
Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — If there is one thing even Pele cannot beat, it's the traffic that plagued many of the country's cities as Brazilians rushed home from a half day of work to watch their national team play Tuesday.

"It's funny. For the first time in my life I had to watch the first half in a car!" Pele told Globo TV from a World Cup watch party in Brazil's biggest city of Sao Paulo, famous for its mind-numbing traffic jams even on normal days.

Brazil tied Mexico 0-0 on the pitch and put its demanding fan base through the wringer.

Pele said having to be confined to a car made it even worse.

"It was an incredible pain," he said. "I though oh, my God, how did we get stuck in this traffic? We just had to sit there!"

— By Bradley Brooks — www.twitter.com/bradleybrooks

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BROKEN PROMISES

CUIABA, Brazil (AP) — Hours before kickoff in the second World Cup match staged in Cuiaba, excited Russia and South Korea fans were in high spirits as they flocked toward Arena Pantanal to watch their teams' debut in the tournament.

About five kilometers south in the remote city in western Brazil, it's a very different story.

A handful of workers in thick, blue overalls trudge along a seemingly abandoned railway line, towels over their heads to shield themselves from the sweltering heat as cars whizz by the adjacent highway and planes land in the nearby airport.

This represents the other, less romantic side of the World Cup for many residents in Cuiaba and all across Brazil — the broken promises, the delays, the disappointment.

Costing more than $600 million, a 13-mile light railway system was meant to be helping football fans get around the city during the World Cup, including to the stadium and the airport.

Back in January, however, officials acknowledged that what was widely seen as the crowning jewel of the city's World Cup infrastructure projects — albeit not one requested by world governing body FIFA — would not be ready in time for the tournament, or indeed for the rest of the year.

From the looks of things, being ready for the start of 2015 seems to be an optimistic assessment.

— By Steve Douglas — www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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BEATING TRAFFIC

SAO PAULO (AP) — The U.S. team decided not to compete with Brazil on Tuesday — the traffic jam caused by the Selecao's game against Mexico.

A day after beating Ghana 2-1 at Natal in their opener, the Americans scheduled an afternoon training session at Sao Paulo Futebol Clube's Barra Funda complex, four miles from the downtown hotel where the U.S. team is staying.

But traffic ground to a halt in Sao Paulo as people left work early to go home or get to restaurants and bars to watch Brazil's match, which started at 4 p.m. local time. With the drive taking as long as two hours, the U.S. team decided to push back its departure 45 minutes. With the help of a police escort, the team bus made it to Barra Funda in about a half-hour.

— By Ronald Blum — www.twitter.com/ronaldblum

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DISCOUNT DIPLOMACY

OLINDA, Brazil (AP) — The nearly 500-year-old coastal community of Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage site where narrow, cobblestone streets climb a hillside past stucco-sided buildings painted in cheerful shades of yellow, orange, green and blue, finished off with white trim highlighting old-world architectural detail.

There, one might find a handful of residents wearing Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox shirts or baseball caps commemorating the team's 2013 American League Championship Series victory. It won't be long before someone strolls by in a Tyler Seguin Bruins jersey.

Call it discount diplomacy.

Greg Conley, who jokingly refers to himself as "the clearance ambassador," has been to 15 straight Olympics and is now in Brazil, at his eighth consecutive World Cup. Before he leaves for such trips, the 50-year-old Boston native hits the clearance racks, where he often finds bargains on dated sports merchandise, allowing him to stock up.

Ellsbury no longer plays for Boston, and Seguin was traded away by the city's pro hockey team, so their gear is now deeply marked down.

This year, Conley chose a seaside hotel in Olinda, just north of the World Cup host city of Recife, as his base in Brazil.

Conley finds his travels more rewarding if he can offer gifts to those who act particularly friendly or helpful, be it with directions, ordering food or navigating language barriers.

"My philosophy about the Olympics and World Cup is that this is a party, and seven years ago Brazil was awarded the honor of hosting this party, and all of us are guests at their party. My grandparents always said, 'It's best to show up at a party with one arm longer than the other,'" Conley said in his unmistakable Boston accent, pronouncing "arm" like "ahm" and "longer" like "longah."

"Bring wine, cheese, or in this case a Jarrod Saltalamacchia Red Sox shirt. It's the thought that counts. It puts a smile on people's faces."

—By Brett Martel — www.twitter.com/brettmartel

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MESSI'S HOMETOWN

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — They traveled for 50 hours by bus from Lionel Messi's hometown, Rosario, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Argentina star.

On Tuesday, 120 teenage boys from the Renato Cesarini football academy clustered around the entrance of the team's base in Belo Horizonte, all wearing Argentina's blue and white-striped shirt.

After some negotiations with security guards and team officials at the gate, it was agreed that 10 of them would be allowed in to watch Argentina practice.

Named after the late Argentina player and coach Renato Cesarini, the academy has seen several national team players rise through its ranks, including Javier Mascherano and Martin Demichelis.

Messi, however, did not. The Argentina captain moved to Spain and FC Barcelona at 13, which has made it difficult for him to win the hearts of many of his countrymen, despite all his accolades.

The teenagers from Rosario, though, expressed no doubts about Messi's Argentine heart as they jealously watched journalists pass through security.

"People think that because he went abroad he doesn't play with passion for the national team," said Ezequiel Luna, a 17-year-old defender. "But he keeps it well inside. He wears the Argentina shirt with pride."

— By Karl Ritter — http://twitter.com/karl_ritter

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Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Sports/world-cup-2014

 
 

 

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