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Volume 10 No. 25

World Cup

Police in Rio de Janeiro on Monday arrested Swiss hospitality and ticketing company Match Services CEO Ray Whelan "in connection with an ongoing investigation over VIP ticket scalping at the World Cup," according to Brian Homewood of REUTERS. Whelan "was arrested at the city's beachfront Copacabana Palace hotel as a result of a probe into the illegal resale of tickets for the ongoing tournament." Whelan's name, they added, "came up repeatedly in telephone conversations and other documentation that last week led to the arrest of 11 people." At the time, Rio police said that the probe suggested a FIFA official "had helped the detained ring of ticket scalpers." According to Match Services' web site, the agency "is the professional services company appointed by Fifa to provide ticketing, accommodation and event information technology" to FIFA. A Match spokesperson "could not immediately be contacted for comment on Whelan's arrest" (REUTERS, 7/7). The AP reported Match "is the main provider of hospitality packages for the World Cup" and paid $240M for the rights to sell corporate hospitality at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Re-selling World Cup tickets for profit "is illegal in Brazil and against Fifa rules." FIFA said earlier on Monday that "it had provided police with lists of telephone numbers for its staff and that of its service providers," which included Match. The hospitality company earlier "distanced itself from the ticket scalping scandal" in a statement which read, "Match Hospitality will be fully assisting the police in investigating the matter. It is important to highlight that so far no Match Hospitality staff member has been implicated with anything" (AP, 7/7).

Brasilia "has been one of the focal points of the World Cup," but there "will not be much football for the country's capital to look forward when the tournament leaves town following the third place match on Saturday," according to Brian Homewood of REUTERS. When the Brazilian championship re-starts later this month, the federal district "will be represented by just one team, Brasiliense, playing in the regionalised fourth division." The glistening new Brasilia national stadium, popularly known as Mane Garrincha after one of Brazil's greatest players, "is likely to go unused by the local side as Brasiliense stage their matches in a more modest arena, popularly known as the Alligator's Mouth." Brasiliense coach Marcos Soares: "It's a stadium for 20,000 which is sufficient for what we need." Local side Brasilia coach Marquinho Carioca, however, said that the new stadium, "criticized by many as being a white elephant, would act as an inspiration." He hoped that one day, Brasilia, which played at the old Mane Garrincha before it was demolished, "could play in the ground regularly." Carioca: "I think it was money well spent because it motivates football in Brasilia, having a stadium like that motivates the athletes, you feel the atmosphere" (REUTERS, 7/7).

The Bundesliga "is just edging out the Premier League as the best in the world -- according to the number of players left from each league in the World Cup," according to Oliver Todd of the London DAILY MAIL. England's top division "had been storming ahead" in these stakes, but Germany's progression to the semifinals "has helped put the Bundesliga on top heading into the last four." Serie A "trails behind with 14 representatives while Holland's win over Costa Rica has helped boost the Eredivisie numbers to 10." Bayern Munich "are still the top club around" -- with a total of nine men helped by their six starters in the German side, but Chelsea and Man City "are not far behind." Most surprisingly, Dutch runners up Feyenoord "are the second-best represented with five players -- all in Louis van Gaal's Oranje squad" (DAILY MAIL, 7/7).

In football terms, the jury "is still out on whether Brazil 2014 will be the best World Cup ever," but it is already "perhaps the most globally politicised tournament in decades," according to Jonathan Watts of the London GUARDIAN. Politicians from across the spectrum "have chipped in on a sporting event that has generated bigger TV audiences and more social network chatter than any in history." Dave Zirin, author of "Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the fight for democracy," believes that Brazil "has prompted a level of political discussion not seen for many years." Zirin: "It's profoundly more dramatic in this Cup than any in the last 30 years or so." But what really makes this year's tournament stand out "is the unusually critical focus on Fifa, the increasing interest in the sport in the US and the scale of debate on social networks." Brazil "has broken records on Facebook and Twitter." The Brazil-Chile match generated 16.4 million tweets, "surpassing the record" previously held by this year's Super Bowl. The tournament "also racked up an unprecedented" 1 billion Facebook interactions by June 29, with two weeks "still left to the final." It is "tempting to look for ideological faultlines in the global chatter about the World Cup." But the political boundaries "are too blurred to do that with much clarity." Instead, it is "probably more accurate just to say that there are more ways to chat, more people in the discussion, and more at stake than ever during this World Cup; so any politician worth his or her salt is trying to take advantage of this extraordinary platform" (GUARDIAN, 7/7).