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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 00:18 GMT 01:18 UK
Brazilians rally behind Cup favourites
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Street vendor Ronaldo
Sales are doing well, says street vendor Ronaldo
The World Cup is already big business for Ronaldo.

Not the shaven-headed football superstar, but Ronaldo, the bespectacled street vendor on 25 de Marco, a bustling commercial street in the heart of Sao Paulo.

"This stuff is selling well," he says, showing off a giant roll of satin emblazoned with the Brazilian flag.

Customers buy the patriotic fabric by the metre.

"They use it to make their own flags, window displays and even clothes," adds Ronaldo.

'Nothing gets done'

With the countdown to the Cup underway, 25 de Marco is a riot of green and gold, the national colours.

[The World Cup] has the same effect as a big snowdrift in other countries - it makes everyone stay at home and not work
Paula
Journalist

Fans can choose from an array of Brazil products: hats, wigs, whistles, tambourines and maracas.

There are even Brazil G-strings sporting the national motto - order and progress.

"You have to understand that nothing gets done here during the World Cup," smiles Paula, a journalist.

"It has the same effect as a big snowdrift in other countries - it makes everyone stay at home and not work."

In supermarkets Ronaldinho Gaucho stares out from a packet of crinkle crisps. On billboards he tells adults which bank to use, and children which gum to chew.

(The gum is called "Bubbaloo Golaco," in case you want to see whether the magic rubs off).

Twice FIFA's World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho is also the world's most marketable footballer - generating $57.8m (30.8m) annually, according to a German consultancy.

Market stall customer with Brazil G-string
Getting in the mood: the flag of Brazil can be found everywhere

Already the poster boy for Japanese photocopiers and a multinational energy company, the star was recently signed as "world brand ambassador" for a new range of Chinese laptops.

"Brazil will be world champions. Why? Because of Ronaldinho," asserts Francisco, a Sao Paulo street vendor.

"He's just one of the thousands of great players we have in this country. In football, Brazil is a first-world nation."

Undisputed favourites

For the national coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, the dilemma is not who to pick for Brazil's starting 11, but who he can afford to leave out - such are the riches available.

"Our problem is that we could fill every position with at least four outstanding players," he said recently. "I never fail to marvel at our mine of talent."

Besides Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, Parreira can count on the creative flair of Kaka (AC Milan) and the goal-scoring power of Adriano (Inter).

The talents of Robinho (Real Madrid) and Juninho Pernambucano (Lyon) are likely to start the tournament on the bench.

Having led Brazil to World Cup victory in 1994, Parreira is a reassuring figure who exudes calm authority.

Image of Ronaldinho on crisp packet
The image of Brazil's most famous star sells a variety of products

According to Datafolha, a polling organisation, he enjoys an approval rating of 62% - higher than any Brazilian politician.

But the coach identifies the one issue that seems collectively to unnerve Brazilians: favouritism.

"For the first time in our history we will arrive at the World Cup in Germany as the undisputed favourite," he says. "We will have to get used to this."

Motivation

This is a superstitious nation in which many see favouritism is a curse rather than a blessing. Already, comparisons are being made with the great Brazil side that dazzled at the 1982 World Cup, before a shock loss to Italy in the second group stage.

Knowingly, Brazilians point out that their team could again meet Italy in the second round in Germany.

Others fear a lack of desire. "How do you motivate a team like this?" ponders Luiz Fernando Lima, director of sport at Brazil's Globo Television.

"Most of these guys have won the World Cup before, and they have multi-million dollar salaries that are the envy of their fellow Brazilians."

But on balance, the mood here is one of excited optimism. Brazilians never tire of pointing out that they have the best players - for most, it's simply a question of whether the chosen 11 put things together on the day.

Back on 25 de Marco, one shopper, Marilda, is examining the World Cup G-string. "For sure Brazil will win," she smiles, "and these football knickers are very nice - assuming you've got the body for them."




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Brazil
18 Feb 06 |  Country profiles


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