This is our latest installment of "World Cup Update," which will be published every Thursday afternoon from now until June 12 – when the games begin – rounding up all the stories happening off the pitch.
LAW AND ORDER: Another week brings another bout of security concerns for Brazil. A supporter in Recife was killed last Friday after being struck by a toilet thrown from the upper deck of the Arruda stadium. The Brazilian FA has shut down the Arruda pending an investigation, and local authorities have pledged to improve security. That may prove to be difficult, because federal police are planning to strike for the entire month-long tournament to protest wages and working conditions. The Brazilian minister of sport, however, has urged the global media to look at the country with some perspective: Any violence in Brazil will not be as bad as Iraq, Afghanistan, or the First World War.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME, BUT THAT’S A BIG “IF”… Brazilian infrastructure is going to be pushed to its limits this summer under the onslaught of fans from around the world, and in some cases way past its limits. Rio de Janeiro does not have nearly enough hotel rooms to accommodate all the city’s expected visitors, and that’s actually a fairly low-level problem. São Paulo has more than enough rooms to handle the volume of visitors expected there, but it also faces the prospect of imminent water rationing. Meanwhile, upgrades to the electricity grid in four different cities are way behind schedule, and officials have given up on completing the media center that was supposed to be attached to the stadium in Curitiba. Journalists will now be housed in tents. Also, there’s no guarantee there will be Wi-Fi in the stadiums, so if you want to get online at halftime, you’ll have to use your mobile network. Hello, roaming charges!
THE KLINSMANNSCHAFT: First, the bad news: The USMNT’s FIFA ranking has dropped precipitously from No. 13 all the way down to No. 14. Second, the good news: US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be selecting his preliminary roster for the World Cup by May 13, less than a week from now. So who’s he going to pick? ESPN’s experts have already taken their guesses, but for an idea of how non-selection affects a player’s life and career, read about former US national team forward Brian Ching’s tortured World Cup past.
COVERAGE: ESPN has revealed which reporters are going to be covering the World Cup for the network this summer, and the network has announced that all 64 games will be on the radio, allowing even those without TVs to follow along. One exception: Maritime workers, who are sadly underserved by satellites that could bring them the games while they are out at sea. Never fear, though, because at least one telecommunications executive is hoping to change that.
FLIGHTPLANS: How were you planning to get to Brazil? Call up your friendly neighborhood private jet company the week before the tournament and book your flight to one of the country’s airports for private jets? Not so fast, buster! You better book your luxury flight in advance, otherwise you might not get a landing slot or a parking space. Also, expect to pay more due to high demand.
FLIGHT-UN-PLANS: Speaking of private jets, FIFA president Sepp Blatter had a bit of a snafu with his own on Sunday when his plane to Cameroon was forced to make an emergency landing in Algeria. Blatter eventually did make it to his destination, however, and upon landing was made an honorary citizen.
LEADING THE THREE LIONS: England boss Roy Hodgson says he’s going to announce his preliminary squad ahead of the May 13 deadline, and here’s all we know so far: Stats will have next-to-no impact on who makes the squad, and there won’t be any excuses that boredom will lead to failure this time around.
THE WAIT IS OVER: Compared to some other countries, however, England look like a bunch of slackers. Preliminary squads have already been announced for Germany, Nigeria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, South Korea, and the hosts, Brazil.
CAREFREE COSTA RICA: You know who doesn’t care who gets selected at the World Cup (besides, presumably, himself)? Costa Rica’s Celso Borges who, when he was asked this weekend about going up against Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo in Group D play, responded “they’re just the same as me. They just happen to be playing in a better league.”
THE INJURY REPORT: Here’s a handy list of injured world soccer stars whose trips to Brazil are in doubt. You know who’s not injured? Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi, who made his return to action for Fiorentina on Saturday after four months on the sideline with a knee injury.
CORPORE SANO: We know that you’re stoked about the World Cup, but you know who else is? Adidas. Flagging revenues from golf, which makes up about 10 percent of the sportswear megalith’s business, has helped drag profits down 34 percent, a margin the company is looking to make up this summer in soccer sales.
WORLD CUPS ARE “HELL”: FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told reporters that his organization had “been through hell” to get preparations for the World Cup off the ground. His complaint? Politicians who don’t want the tournament in Brazil, and elections. Still, if you’re going through hell, keep going: FIFA expects to have its stadiums ready to go by May 15.
STICKER SHOCK, PT. 3: We reported last week that Panini, manufacturing of the coveted World Cup collectible stickers featuring pictures of players, coaches and stadiums, had been the victim of a massive act of theft. Fortunately, aside from one instance of a schoolteacher allegedly pilfering stickers from his students in Colombia, it seems there are enough Panini packets to go around. Unfortunately, the stickers are causing an outrage among collectors due to ubiquitous advertising, as well as the fact that some of the photos show unfinished stadiums.
BETTER KNOW A WORLD CUP CITY: The US will be playing its first two group stage games in Natal and Manaus. But what are these cities like? Natal, as it turns out, has been a hub of the sex tourism industry in Brazil. Manaus, on the other hand, once held a monopoly on world rubber production, a lucrative enough operation that “Jungle Paris” was able to haul the materials for a beautiful Renaissance-style opera house, that still stands today over 100 years after it was built, 1,000 miles into the Amazon. It’s also been over 100 years since Manaus held a monopoly on the rubber trade, and it seems hard times have hit the area.
ACTUAL GOOD NEWS: FIFA has pledged to help supplement Brazil’s policies to lower unemployment among young workers, while organizers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup have promised to implement pay guarantees and better conditions for the country’s massive migrant worker population. FIFA is also encouraging fans to help offset the environmental impact of their trip to Brazil by purchasing carbon credits.