Tiago Mello was ecstatic when it was announced back in 2007 that Brazil would host the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Living in San Francisco and studying tourism, Tiago was one of some 1.5 million Brazilians living around the world as part of the “Brazilian Diaspora.” Upon seeing the news on TV, he used Skype to call friends back in Rio, cousins in Portugal and his old soccer (football) teammate who lived in the UK to celebrate together.
But, the first Skype call he made was to an Argentine friend, Gustavo. Tiago says, “I wanted to be sure to tell him to his face that they had no chance of winning in 2014.”
Brazil is arguably the spiritual home of soccer and 2014 will be the first time the World Cup is hosted in the country since 1950. To say that soccer is a huge part of the culture is an understatement. Some call it the national religion.
Once the initial jubilation of the announcement passed, the reality set in that Brazil would have to figure out how to host the largest sporting event on Earth. While the country is known for playing soccer as “the beautiful game,” it is also a huge nation is some longstanding infrastructure challenges.
And it has been a long slog since 2007 with protests, building delays and frustration in Brazil about the pace and cost of preparations.
Now, some seven years later, Tiago is a licensed tour guide living back in Rio de Janeiro and has had front row seats to the whole spectacle.
“There’s a lot of bad press out there about the preparations for World Cup,” says Tiago, “And it has been an undertaking. But it will all work out.” He explains, “In Brazil, there is the concept of jeito. Meaning ‘a way.’ Brazilians are experts at jeito and we say, “’There’s always a way.’”
Tiago is still fielding a steady stream of Skype calls from Brazilian friends and family living abroad and his numerous international friends.
“The Brazilians are calling to figure out plans to come home for the Cup,” says Tiago, “But my German, Argentine and Korean friends all just want to call and talk about how they are going to win the Cup.”
“The trash talking is fun for two reasons,” he says with a laugh. “One: we are so busy with the drama of getting ready for the Cup that it’s nice to see all of that excitement around the rest of the world. Two: Brazil is going to win anyway so nothing my friends say really matters.”