| A Samba dancer during festivities in Weggis. (Reuters)
Weggis, Switzerland, May 24: Going by the Samba dancing and other street festivities dipped in yellow-green, you’d think the World Cup final was this afternoon.
Well, all the tickets ($18 apiece) have been taken, but just to see the Brazil team kick the ball around some among themselves.
It was the first day today of the practice of the world champions in this sleepy Swiss village of Weggis on the banks of Lake Lucerne that the Brazilians have chosen from among 40 offers to park themselves for 12 days in the run-up to the cup.
Weggis has a population of 4,000 and yet the stadium that has been specially built just so that Ronaldinho and Ronaldo can practise holds a crowd of 5,000.
Just as well as the Brazilian media that have followed the team have a strength of 800. Then there are the fans and the Samba dancers who together have turned the idyllic resort into a carnival site.
Local residents mingled with Brazilian fans for a street parade following the inauguration of the stadium yesterday.
“This is just fantastic, you wouldn’t see anything like this in Switzerland if it weren’t for the Brazilians,” said Rolf Leeb, a resident of nearby Lucerne who said he extended his vacation so he could see the Brazilians.
Local children dressed in yellow and green jerseys waved Brazilian flags during the inauguration festivities. Even parachuters participated in the celebration to welcome the Brazilians.
On the way to the stadium, all’s set up for a party, including imitation Brazilian-style beach bars. But coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has warned the fans against partying too hard, threatening to take the team away to a secret location, which apparently has already been looked up.
Brazil is the only top team whose training is open to the media and Parreira wants to keep it that way. “This is a result of what Brazil represents in world football today'. You can’t hide the Brazilian team,” he said.
It’s special in many ways, which shows in the treatment it gets. For instance, the sports marketing company that got the team here paid the Brazilian football federation $1.2 million just for the privilege of having the players here. All in cash.
Add another $1.31 million for turning the local amateur football team’s seat-less ground into a stadium ' a cost mainly borne by a coffee machine manufacturer.
The organisers and sponsors are also meeting the accommodation, transport and security costs. But such is the worldwide interest in the Brazilians that they will make a hefty profit from sponsorship deals, ticket sales and distribution of TV rights.
All 45,000 tickets for the team’s 14 training sessions were sold in two days. The black market rate is said to be six times. More than 100 countries have bought the rights to show the training sessions.
The hotel where poster-boy Kaka and his mates spend their nights is auctioning the chance to sleep in the players’ bedrooms. Only after they leave.
Mayor Josef Odermatt said: “We have had many dignitaries staying here over the years, from Queen Victoria to Mark Twain. But this is definitely the biggest event in our history.”
Only the pigs of Weggis may not agree.
Some 300 pigs from a farm overlooking the stadium have been removed so that the nostrils of footballing gods don’t catch the unholy stench.
The town wanted to make sure that if something went wrong during the tournament, Parreira ' remember the coach gets roasted first ' can’t blame the pigs.