June 1st 2014. Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. I´m standing at the desk of a hostel after returning from 3 days in the Amazon rainforest. As I attempt to check in for my final two nights stay in the city, the receptionist shows me a bill which amounts to more than twice what I had paid for my previous two nights. At first I’m taken back, even slightly angry, and as I ask why it costs so much his reply is simple, ¨It’s June 1st. It’s the Cup.¨ Despite the fact that the competition doesn’t start for another 11 days, and Manaus doesn’t actually host it’s first game for almost two weeks, the month of June began today and that means everything is now priced at premium rate. So, without any further question or argument I promptly pay.
There are reasons for my swift u-turn regarding this blatant and bold profiteering from the hostel. Firstly I have already met the owners and because of that I realize something important. For this middle-aged couple the next two months represent two of the most important months of their entire lives because, after spending 17 years living and working in Manaus, the money which they will make will allow them to return to their hometown of Bonito in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Without the lucrative revenue of football fans they would likely have been stuck in Manaus continuing to offer cheap competitive rates to the many backpackers who stop off in this jungle city on their way into the rainforest. For them, this tournament is truly life-changing and will offer them the golden opportunity of a better quality of life, closer to relatives in a home they can retire and live into their later years in.
Upon arriving in Manaus in the early hours of a weekday morning, I was greeted at the airport by Luis who was working on the rainforest tour I would later take. Luis, a fifty-something man of short stature, had a surprising attitude towards the impending tournament. While smoking a cigarette outside the architecturally sharp and modern airport terminal he began to talk about the recent protests and general feeling of anger that many Brazilians have felt towards the World Cup. ¨These idiots who protest and complain, they know nothing. They are stupid. People here complain about schools and roads and hospitals and so on. I´ll tell you, they could build the best hospital in the world right in the middle of Manaus and you know what would happen? Within a month it would be ruined. That is what the people are like here. They have no respect for these things.¨ I was shocked to hear this. Up until this point, every Brazilian I had spoken to over the previous two weeks or so, had complained about the government, about lack of infrastructure about corruption, about FIFA. Yet here was a Brazilian who appeared not only to be in favor of the World Cup, but also seemed to lay the blame for the social and economic issues that Brazil suffers at the feet of it´s general population. I was skeptical. I couldn’t tell if he was simply in a bad mood or if he genuinely felt this way. As he finished his cigarette, Luis looked for a bin to dispose of the butt. After a minute or so of scanning the walkway outside the terminal, walking round the huge concrete pillars, huffing and sighing he looked at me and said ¨You see? You try and be polite and you can’t even do that here.¨ He threw the cigarette butt on the floor and we got in the car.