Amazon city is World Cup winner
The Amazon jungle city of Manaus was the big winner at the World
Branded ”the place ideally to avoid” by England coach Roy
Hodgson this week, the humid, steamy city far distant from the
soccer hotspots of Brazil became the tournament’s must-see venue on
Manaus got lucky beyond its dreams despite being awarded just
four group-stage matches at the 44,000-capacity Arena Amazonia.
England vs. Italy tops a four-match World Cup bill on the
opening Saturday, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal comes to play
the United States on the second Sunday.
Two more European visitors must also trek northward: Croatia vs.
Cameroon and Switzerland vs. Honduras.
Miguel Capobiango, World Cup coordinator for the Amazon state
governor’s office, told The Associated Press: ”We won the World
Some team coaches did not share his enthusiasm.
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is now rethinking his team’s
plans of training more than 1,680 miles away near Sao Paulo. His
fellow German Volker Finke, the Cameroon coach, described the
prospect of playing in Manaus as a ”little bit of a problem.”
Hodgson steered clear of making strong statements Friday after
previously igniting the Manaus mayor’s anger.
”I have never been to the Amazon. It will be a very interesting
experience, not just for me but for the team,” Hodgson said after
”We would also prefer that England doesn’t come,” Manaus mayor
Arthur Virgilio had said on the eve of the draw. ”We hope to get a
better team and a coach who is more sensible and polite.”
Naturally, the draw fulfilled England’s long-shot odds of
opening the show for Manaus on June 14.
”He’s one of the few people in the world who is not curious
about the Amazon, who doesn’t want to know Manaus,” Mayor Virgilio
said of Hodgson.
As a keen reader, Hodgson probably already knows that English
influence runs deep in the history of Manaus. British businesses
came to the Amazon for its rubber, invested in architecture copying
the style from back home, and workers left behind the soccer clubs
they created more than 100 years ago.
”We have plans that you can come and fish for piranhas,”
Capobiango said of the city nestled near where the Amazon and Negro
rivers join at the ”meeting of the waters.”
The Manaus area is also known for alligators, snakes, famously
big spiders and potentially a few mildly hostile locals.
”There will be more people cheering for Italy than England. It
is normal. But this first game will finish this trouble,”
Capobiango said of any lingering feeling between the major’s office
and the England camp.