The arrival of hundreds of thousands of raucous male soccer fans in Brazil is sparking complaints from residents that tourists are treating host cities like a playground and local women with disrespect.
For the past two weeks in Rio de Janeiro and other host cities, women say they have faced an onslaught of aggressive catcalls and other inappropriate behavior on the streets in various languages.
“They’re so rude, they don’t respect the women here,” said Gabriela Steenbuch, a 20-year-old Rio resident. She said the crude behavior is sapping the joy of the World Cup for her and her female friends who have come to dread encounters with boorish foreign men.
“They think we’re like objects on a shelf, available for them to call as they please, and we have to go or else be grabbed by the arm,” she said.
Brazil has long grappled with overtly sexual stereotypes of its women. Rio, for example, often finds itself on lists of the world’s top sin cities, in part because of its famous Carnival parades in which dancers compete in fantastical costumes that leave little to the imagination.
Such an image is a contradiction in the world’s largest Catholic country, where more conservative attitudes toward sex are growing, especially with Protestantism on the rise. Though Brazilian couples may be more open about kissing and other public displays of affection, traditional values in romantic and sexual relationships still prevail.
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Going into a key World Cup match last Friday, Italy’s Mario Balotelli made a request: he wanted a kiss from Queen Elizabeth II if his team beat Costa Rica, which would have kept England’s chances for advancing alive.
He didn’t get that smooch. Costa Rica upset Italy 1-0, bouncing England from the tournament.
But what the Italy’s star player did accomplish was getting 180,000 people to retweet his message, generating even more buzz for a game that spawned 3.2 million tweets.
The World Cup in Brazil is shaping up to be the biggest-ever global event for social media. Facebook Inc. FB +2.26% said a total of 141 million users posted 459 million interactions to their site during the first week of the World Cup. That’s more people than posted during this year’s Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Sochi winter Olympics, combined.
Amid the celebrations and tears of this year’s World Cup, Brazilian fans say this is the funniest tournament they’ve ever followed on the Internet.
They’re calling the competition not just the Copa do Mundo, but the “Copa dos Memes,” or the Cup of Memes.
With about 200 million inhabitants, Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest Internet market by population and growing, according to market researcher comScore. The country is a top five market for Facebook, Facebook’s Instagram, Google Inc.’s Youtube, and Twitter Inc.
Brazil is hardly the only country where people enjoy a good viral Internet joke. But Brazilians are setting the pace, thanks to their heavy use of social media and feverish interest as tournament hosts. Facebook said on Friday that Brazil has the most users of any country posting messages about the World Cup.
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Americans have turned out in full force to the World Cup in Brazil, snapping up nearly 200,000 tickets. More tickets were sold in the U.S. to World Cup games than to any other country outside of Brazil, according to FIFA. Four years ago for the tournament in South Africa, the U.S. was the fourth largest group in terms of World Cup viewership, with 24 million Americans tuning into the finals.
Still, being an American soccer fan isn’t easy. On the field, the U.S. men’s national soccer team isn’t expected to go far in this year’s World Cup. To advance, they’ll have to claw their way out of what many are calling the “Group of Death” with tough games against Ghana, Germany and Portugal.
The battle also extends off the field. Soccer lovers say that, back in the U.S. they tire of defending their sport to fans of football, baseball, basketball who say there just isn’t enough scoring. Just finding a televised game can be a challenge.
“Unless you’re on TV in the U.S. you’re not real,” said Cesar Fiscal, 33, a software engineer from Los Angeles.
In the presence of Europeans, Fiscal said he feels alienated as well. “When I say ‘soccer’ they know I’m American, and they look at me like they’re not happy. I think it feels for them like we’re encroaching on their territory or something.”
Still, Americans have always loved a good underdog story. U.S. soccer fans say that’s part of what makes the game so enticing.
More here in the WSJ.
Video done with Jeff Cullen on the first day of the World Cup
The World Cup soccer tournament is a showcase for fierce rivalries. Brazil against Argentina. England versus Germany.
But at this summer’s contest, which is on Brazilian soil, an equally intense competition will unfold between Brazil’s two biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Both will play marquee roles in futebol’spremier event: São Paulo will host Thursday’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia. Rio will squire the final match on July 13 at the cavernous, historic Maracanã stadium.
Read more about this rivalry here.
Video with Jeff Cullen on the Brazilian sport futevolei (footvolley)
Video with Jeff Cullen on what the World Cup means for residents of Rocinha
Video with Jeff Cullen on World Cup fans arriving in Brazil