Monday, July 02, 2007

Copa America: the good, the bad and the ugly

Over two weeks ago I wrote my reasons to take a passive boycott of the Copa America now running in Venezuela. No need to explain this again as what I predicted since has been happening almost to the dot. But that should not stop me from writing a report, even if diffident.

The good

Well, there is some good. Some of the stadia look good, even if incomplete. But under Chavez we are getting used to inauguration of far from finished projects so why should the soccer stadium be any different? At least, even through the filter of inefficacy and corruption we will inherit some much needed sport arenas to promote Venezuelan soccer, and track and field activities. Some of them will be useful of course to set staged chavista rallies, à la Nuremberg, now that the streets are unsafe as chavista folks might actually want to take the opportunity to press their claim against Chavez, as it happened during the reopening of the La Guaira bridge..

And Venezuela won on Saturday. After a rather dismal start against Bolivia, Venezuela regrouped to beat Peru 2-0. Not bad but not enough to qualify outright. It needs only a tie against Uruguay for a berth on the next round, but a defeat would imply that qualification depends on the Peru Bolivia result. The real good new is that apparently Arango was not needed by the team. So if he wakes up some, Venezuela could even qualify on top of its group.

The bad

Well, the stadia of course. It is kind of embarrassing that not a single one of them could be opened fully finished without any glitch. If the renovated ones opened almost all OK, the new ones did not.

But worse than that was the planning of the stadia. For some unaccountable reason, the heartland of Soccer in Venezuela, the Valencia Caracas axis, was not given a major Copa stadium. Only the old UCV stadium of Caracas was revamped late and could not be completed on time. Thus Caracas will get only one game of the two originally assigned; and neither Valencia or Maracay got one. Of soccer areas, only the Andes got something. San Cristobal where soccer is strong (closeness to Colombia?) did get a renovation, and Merida a new stadium. The other choices to place a large stadium seemed rather weird (the biggest for Maturin!!!!). Sometimes I wonder if Chavez decided to punish rebellious middle class in Caracas and Valencia by giving the new stadiums to areas with little interest for soccer.

The ugly

This was, no contest, the ticket situation. After weeks of denial by the office in charge of ticket sales, the government finally recognized that there was a problem and decided to name the Venezuelan air forces to organize final deliveries.

Huh? I live in San Felipe and I run a business where I have to send and receive some significant amount of mail and packages around the country. And by experience I know that I can send mail by courier anywhere in Venezuela in 24 hours and packages in no more than 2-3 days. Gimme a break! It is just that the system was so messed up that the government decided to do some grand standing in involving the air force which at this point can do very little anyway.

The real reason for the mess are to be looked for into the inefficient and even corrupt way to assign the tickets: the government wanted to distribute tickets in such a way as pack some stadiums with Chavez followers to make good publicity for the man. We could see that with the EFE agency picture published in Tal Cual.

The ugliest

The propaganda use of the COPA is certainly obscene. Be it from the "La Copa ahora es de todos" infamy of a slogan, to the opening night ceremony with a cadena, and a speech by Chavez (breaking the protocol rules, by the way), while a barrage of fireworks took care that any possible anti Chavez chanting would not come across the air waves during the cadena.

But I suppose we should have been expecting as much.

There is another thing has been troubling me. During the normal World Cup, and even during a Euro Cup, at least in Caracas one can spot easily up to 20% of the cars harboring the flag of some of the participating teams. Often they add for good measure and wishful thinking a Venezuelan flag in another window. But this time nothing. Rare is the flag you see on a car. And forget about Brazilian flags which are the most numerous ones during a World Cup. How come? Is the soccer fan in Venezuela only a fair weather supporter? Are the fans pissed off at Chavez for his naked grab at the soccer flag?

For a while I was thinking that it was maybe some passive boycotting as I announced myself, but still watching the games at home and rooting for the team. However, Saturday night Las Mercedes was taken over with cars honking in celebratory mood? What gives? Is it true that Las Mercedes at night has been taken over by the "boliburguesia" while "escualidos" have migrated to Altamira and Palos Grandes restaurants and shops? One thing is certain, Sunday and Monday I did not see anymore flags anywhere. Chavistas not wearing Venezuelan flags on their car? Imagine that!!!!

I am a little bit disappointed by the whole thing. Definitely the Venezuelan supporter is not a good one. In other cups they can support Brazil or Italy because they vicariously feel like winning. But since Venezuela is not given any chance beyond passing on the first round, they just forgot about the whole business. I mean, if you boycott, even passively, you do not go out to Las Mercedes to honk when Venezuela wins.

I for one, if I were not as disgusted about Chavez sequestering sports as he does, would have worn my Venezuelan flag all through the first round, and then switch to Argentina for the second round. But then again, I am a good supporter, not a fair weather one. And I cannot even criticize the chavista supporter: they prefer baseball, the game of El Supremo.

-The end-

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