TIME World Cup

World Cup: Big Head the Turtle Says Brazil Will Beat Croatia

Brazil Animal Oracle
Lucio Tavora—AP A turtle named Cabeção, or Big Head, swims in a pool in Praia do Forte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

And based on what many soccer experts are saying, he seems to have made the right choice. Brazil is simply too good to drop its opening game on home turf

In the sleepy Brazilian coastal village of Praia Do Forte, there lives a 25-year-old loggerhead turtle named Cabeção, or Big Head. Ever the patriot, Big Head predicts that his country is going to win its first match of the World Cup.

Psychic animals aren’t really a new phenomenon: Recall Paul the Octopus, who accurately predicted the outcome of eight matches in the 2010 World Cup? Or the lesser-known Oscar the Cat, whose seeming ability to predict deaths in a Rhode Island nursing home apparently warranted a whole book?

Big Head joined their ranks on Tuesday by “making a patriotic choice of food,” according to AP, thereby implying Brazil’s imminent victory over Croatia in the opening match of the World Cup on Thursday evening. The turtle had the choice between fish hanging from the Brazilian and Croatian flags and from a soccer ball; after “attempting to eat the fish hung from [the] football” — which would have meant that he thinks the match will end in a draw — Big Head went for his home flag.

To be fair, the turtle’s prediction is in line with professional opinion: that Thursday’s match may be a tough one, but that “Brazil are simply too talented to drop the World Cup opener on their home turf.”

It’s still unclear how exactly Big Head first proved his psychic abilities, but given that loggerhead turtles have an estimated lifespan of more than 50 years, perhaps this is the beginning of a bright career.

TIME Soccer

Soccer Bosses Are Turning the Heat on Sepp Blatter, Days Before the World Cup Starts

Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been under mounting criticism in recent days. Here he takes part in the opening ceremony of the FIFA Congress in São Paulo on June 10, 2014

Sepp Blatter is being urged to not seek re-election following the latest flurry of corruption allegations

Days before the World Cup kicks off, and Sepp Blatter, the head of soccer’s global governing body FIFA, is facing a barrage of criticism from his peers, whose frustrations at the lack of action over corruption allegations is forcing them to become increasingly vocal.

The Royal Dutch Football Association head Michael van Praag, and David Gill, vice president of UEFA, which governs European soccer, have called on Blatter to not seek re-election next year, according to the BBC.

“Few people still take FIFA seriously and, however you look at it, Blatter is mainly responsible,” said van Praag.

The appeal comes amid reports that illegal payments were made by disgraced Qatari soccer official Mohamed bin Hammam in return for support for its bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar was awarded hosting rights, outdoing Australia, South Korea, Japan and the U.S.

But yesterday Blatter dismissed the latest corruption claims as racist, prompting a critical response from soccer bosses in Europe.

“These allegations need to be properly investigated and properly answered,” said Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association.

Asked by BBC if Blatter ought to step down next year, UEFA vice president Gill replied: “Personally, yes. I think we need to move on.”

So far, Blatter has yet to respond to the calls.


TIME World Cup

Jennifer Lopez Will Perform at the World Cup After All

Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 2014 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 18, 2014 in Las Vegas.
Christopher Polk—Billboard Award/Getty Images for DCP Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 2014 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 18, 2014 in Las Vegas.

She'll join Pitbull and others onstage in São Paulo for the opening ceremonies on Thursday night

Just two days after “production issues” impelled her to cancel her World Cup performance, Jennifer Lopez is back in, apparently “not [wanting] to disappoint her fans.”

AFP reports that more than 60,000 people will fill the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo on Thursday night to watch the World Cup’s opening ceremonies, where J. Lo will join American rapper Pitbull and Brazilian acts Claudia Leitte and Olodum onstage to launch a month of soccer matches across Brazil.

The media first speculated that she canceled because of financial constraints, but her representatives insist that the decision, and the conjecture around it, was “premature.”

Premature or not, it gave plenty of fodder to the online gossip arena, which ventured that Lopez’s World Cup cancellation — and her decision to also bail on a charity concert in New York City last week — had something to do with her recent breakup with a dancer and choreographer named Casper Smart, who allegedly cheated on her with some transgender models (he vigorously denies the allegations).

TIME World Cup

Twitter Says World Cup Will Be Most Tweeted Event Ever

The soccer tournament is expected to smash the 150 million tweet record set by the London Olympics in 2012

Get your hashtags ready: A Twitter exec says that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be the most tweeted-about event ever.

While the 2012 London Olympics cumulated 150 million tweets, Brazil’s Twitter director Guilherme Ribenboim told Reuters, “The World Cup will take all that to a whole different level.”

With knowledge that 3.2 billion people watched at least some of the 2010 World Cup, Facebook and Twitter are working on various strategies to be the main hubs for World Cup conversation. Not only do all 32 participating teams have Twitter accounts, but many of the players do too. The social platform itself is also creating a landing page full of scores and team information under the hashtag #worldcup. Facebook has a similar page called Trending World Cup.

The World Cup will kick off June 12 and last for a month.


TIME World Cup

Backlit Brazil: Photographing Silhouettes

Photographer Mario Tama explores silhouettes of people going through their daily life in Brazil—from shadows of workers constructing stages for the World Cup to crowds filling Rio de Janeiro beaches

TIME World Cup

These Soccer Fans Wear Their Loyalties On Their Skin

If there was a World Cup for tattoos, these superfans would be competing for the trophy

Jerseys fade, face paint smears, and those foam “number 1” fingers get bent out of shape – eventually — but there are more enduring expressions of loyalty toward one team, like full-body jersey tattoos. Soccer fans take team spirit to new heights with permanent ink.

TIME Football

A Subway Strike Threatens to Paralyze São Paulo on World Cup Opening Day

Policemen in riot gear stand inside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro worker's protest in Sao Paulo on June 9, 2014.
Kai Pfaffenbach—Reuters Policemen in riot gear stand inside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro worker's protest in Sao Paulo on June 9, 2014.

The first game of the World Cup, Brazil vs. Croatia, may take place in crippling traffic chaos on Thursday, if São Paulo's subway employees make good on a threat to strike if sacked comrades are not reinstated

Subway workers in São Paulo ended a five-day strike late Monday, but threatened to walk out again on Thursday, the day of the World Cup opening game, if their demands aren’t met, potentially causing chaos and embarrassment to Brazil’s largest city, which is currently teeming with soccer fans from around the world.

The strike started as a fight over salary, but has turned into a struggle to reinstate 42 subway workers who were fired over allegations of vandalism and misconduct.

“The other demands aren’t a priority anymore,” said the metro workers’ union president Altino de Melo Prazeres Júnior, adding that the union members going back to work was showing “good faith in wanting to negotiate.”

However, State Transportation Secretary Jurandir Fernandes said the government would not budge on its position that the sacked workers shouldn’t be rehired and a wage hike should be limited to 8.7%, as opposed to the workers’ demand of 12.2%.

“This shows [the striking subway workers’] disregard not only for the people of São Paulo, but for the people of Brazil and the foreign visitors,” he said.

A labor judge ruled the strike illegal over the weekend, imposing a $222,000 fine on the union for each day workers fail to show up on duty. Still, the strike spilled over into Monday, when police clashed with protesting workers outside a metro station in São Paulo, using tear gas and arresting 13 people.

The opening game of the World Cup will be played in São Paulo between Brazil and Croatia. Union leaders said a Wednesday vote would decide whether the workers should go back on strike or not.


TIME animals

This Beagle Is Quite Skilled at Soccer

Somebody get him to Rio for the World Cup immediately

If watching humans play soccer isn’t your thing, try watching this dog instead. He’s pretty talented. Plus, he apparently knows how to walk on his front legs.

TIME World Cup

Brazil Prepares for the World Cup with Mixed Emotions

An activist holds a protest poster in front of the municipal stadium prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer in Sorocaba
Maxim Shemetov—Reuters An activist holds a protest poster in front of the municipal stadium prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer in the town of Sorocaba, June 8, 2014.

Many in the soccer-mad nation are angry at the cost and mismanagement of preparations for the tournament

When Brazil kicks off against Croatia on Thursday in the first game of the 2014 World Cup, Brazilians will celebrate the return of soccer’s premier tournament for the first time since 1950 to the country that most of the world sees as the true home of soccer. But it will likely be a bittersweet celebration, marred by anger as much as by the inevitable partying. That’s because the run-up to the World Cup has, in many respects, been an $11 billion showcase for the deficiencies of a nation that can seem so confident and yet still finding its feet as a major economic and political power.

Many of the stadiums built or renovated for the tournament are only just ready after embarrassing delays, airport buildings will remain unfinished, and some infrastructure projects have not even started. Brazilians are furious about the public money being spent when many Brazilians remain living in poverty and when many basic government services are crying out for investment. A poll published on June 2 revealed that only a slender majority of Brazilians remain in favor of the World Cup – 51% – compared with 42% who are against it.

“For the first time in my life there is no euphoria in the air at the prospect of a World Cup,” says Milton Hatoum, aged 61, who is one of Brazil’s best known novelists.

Brazilians are also depressed by the incompetence, corruption and greed of those in charge. About two million people took part in protests against the World Cup last year, and more demonstrations are planned once the games are underway.

The poll numbers suggest that the Brazilian government and Brazil’s soccer authorities have made a mess of an event that they hoped would give the country a huge boost. It is particularly embarrassing since the sport remains its most important symbol of national identity. “São Paulo feels quiet. Only a few streets are painted with murals. I’m not seeing a party atmosphere,” says Hatoum of his home city, which is hosting the opening game on Thursday.

But some observers of the role soccer plays in Brazil believe that the lack of enthusiasm, and even outright hostility to the World Cup this year will give way to Brazil’s outsized passion for soccer as soon as the tournament begins. “There’s no way that the World Cup will fail to take off,” wrote Tostão, a veteran of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning side, in his column in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper last week. “There is an avalanche of adverts and news stories, thousands of people want to make money from it, there is a huge nationalistic sentiment, the feeling that we need to party in the streets has surged in the last few days and – most importantly – the national team is playing well and its star forward player [Neymar] is magisterial.”

Some Brazilians believe that for all the anger at the way the World Cup there are signs that fans will be swept up by the pure joy of the games. Last year at the Confederations Cup – which marked the start of the anti-World Cup protests – the crowd sang the Brazilian national anthem so loudly and determinedly that they broke with protocol and kept on singing after the recorded music had stopped. The anger at the authorities was channeled into a rousing and patriotic wall of sound.

And then there’s the Neymar factor. For the first time since the golden era of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaká ended almost a decade ago, Brazil once again has a contender for the best player in the world. Neymar is loved not only because he plays well, but also because he plays in a very Brazilian way. His game is based around improvisation, teasing dribbles and sublime ball skills – what Brazilians call “futebol-arte”, or artistic soccer. Neymar’s charisma on the pitch makes Brazilians proud not just of him, but of themselves.

“Neymar is not quite at level of [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but he has a bigger repertory of beautiful plays, with more special tricks. He plays like a child at an informal kickabout game, always up for having fun and dribbling past whoever gets in his way,” wrote Tostão.

So long as Neymar is on form, Brazilian fans believe their team can win the World Cup for the sixth time. If they do, the tournament will be remembered as an $11 billion showcase for Brazil’s sporting supremacy rather than as the public relations disaster it has been so far.

A win may alleviate public anger at the mismanagement of the event, but this is likely only to be temporary since the preparations for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics are already beset with similar problems.“Of course Brazilians will support their team, and if they are champions there will be huge celebrations. But the joy at the football does not exclude the anger. What’s different about this World Cup is that for the first time Brazilians have realized that there are some things that are more important than football,” says Hatoum.

Brazil may not win, of course. Failure to secure the trophy would be a huge disappointment, but it would not be a disaster on the scale of what happened the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup. In 1950 Brazil lost the final game against Uruguay, a result that is widely considered the greatest tragedy in contemporary Brazilian history. The trauma reinforced a sense of failure and insecurity that scarred the national psyche for the next decades – even once it had won the tournament in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

But contemporary Brazil is a very different place from the Brazil of 1950. The country is now not only known for soccer. It is the world’s seventh biggest economy, an agricultural superpower, and it has huge untapped resources of oil and gas. Brazilian sportsmen have won tennis grand slams, motor racing championships and track-and-field world records.

Winning the World Cup would be cause for the world’s biggest street party. But unlike in 1950, a loss would not leave such a huge scar. Even as they prepare to host the world’s greatest soccer tournament, Brazilians know that there is a lot more to their country than the beautiful game.

Bellos is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life

TIME World Cup

The Brazilian Stadiums Where The World Cup Will Be Decided

These are the 11 soccer stadiums, both old and newly constructed, where 32 teams will battle it out for the chance to win the FIFA World Cup trophy

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