Not all of Brazil singing from same song sheet

THE traditional steady drip of negative or embarrassing stories leading in to a major global sporting event has reached tsunami proportions for the World Cup starting in Brazil on Friday.

Not even the 2004 Olympics in Greece could compete, and that took place in buildings not dissimilar to those still around from the original event a couple of thousand years earlier.

As if home-country legend Pele writing a song for his compatriots was not humiliating enough, Brazil has had to contend with outcries over budget blowouts, unfinished stadiums and unsuitable kick-off times.

And while the Brazilian public is in uproar over the disproportionate amount of money spent on this World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the global soccer community is staging a similar revolt over the increasingly-dodgy process by which little-known but large- resourced Qatar landed the 2022 tournament.

The only surprise about this development is that nobody is asking similar questions about the equally wealthy Russia getting 2018.

Only yesterday it was reported that major sponsors adidas, Sony and Visa had demanded that FIFA carry out a thorough investigation.

The all-powerful Sepp "Can't touch me" Blatter can ignore most of the planet but when the money men start asking questions, he may actually have to answer. Having said that, FIFA investigating FIFA probably won't come down too hard on FIFA, so don't hold your breath.

Despite his song, Pele appears to be hitting all the right notes, siding with those protesting against pumping $12 billion into the tournament at a time when many Brazilians are living in poverty.

The triple World Cup winner's undying popularity in his homeland even saw a life-size statue commissioned for the stadium hosting the final, although authorities admitted it would not be installed in time for the tournament.

Asked why he wrote his song when official ones had already come out from Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin, Pele replied: "I heard the one by Ricky Martin but I didn't like it."

There speaks the voice of reason.

Conclusive proof that modern sport is more about spin than substance came with the announcements of FIFA's official slogans for team buses.

Who really needs a reliable centre-back, tricky striker or astute coach when you could strike fear into your opponents with the statement: "My passion is football, my strength is my people, my pride is Costa Rica."

Aside from the abundance of unnecessary exclamation marks and capital letters, the 32 offerings range from the obvious "The past is history" to the scary "Samurai, The Time Has Come To Fight!" and the bizarre "Elephants charging towards Brazil!"

Germany's "One Nation, One Team, One Dream!" sounds uncannily similar to the sort of propaganda the country was spouting 75 years ago, Russia's "No one can catch us" appears to be aimed at its Ukrainian neighbours while the Korean Republic's "Enjoy it, Reds!" seems to suggest they're not expecting to hang around very long.

Australia's offering "Socceroos: Hopping Our Way Into History!" prompted many to suggest the second word should have one less "p", as history is not on the team's side.

The slogans for the past two campaigns were "Socceroos Bound For Glory" and "Dare To Dream". All they were bound for in 2006 was the customary early exit while the 2010 dream had a bit of a nightmare start with a 4-0 thumping by Germany.

However, when it comes to spin not even FIFA can compete with Australia's finest.

Only the AFL could put a positive spin on Friday's announcement that 15 of its players were caught taking stimulants last year.

If 15 riders in next month's Tour de France were caught taking stimulants, (a) they'd all be named, (b) they'd all be banned, and (c) fans throughout Australia would say "well what do you expect in cycling, glad that doesn't happen in footy".

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