NEXT week marks the beginning of the World Cup in Brazil. But
while millions of football fans are finishing their sticker albums
and digging out old jerseys for the occasion, Christians in Brazil
are preparing for both the good and the bad of the festival of
Despite the imminent arrival of the world's biggest stars, many
Brazilians are angry at the cost of the tournament, which
culminated in widespread demonstrations last year at the warm-up
event, the Confederations Cup.
The Revd Nicholas Wheeler, a priest in the diocese of Rio de
Janeiro in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, said this week
that his congregation in the notorious slum area the City of God
favela had misgivings about the tournament.
"Even in a football-crazy nation like Brazil, there is not quite
the fever that you would expect, just over a week to go before
"The term World Cup implies a tournament for everyone, but that
has not been the expectation here. There is a lot of
dissatisfaction that so much money has been spent on this
tournament, when people don't have decent education, health-care,
The atmosphere was one of apprehension rather than jubilation,
he said. People did not know whether the arrival of international
media focus would lead to more protests and strikes, which have
already caused huge disruption to Mr Wheeler's parishioners'
The Revd Ben Phillips, chaplain in the English-speaking Christ
Church in Rio de Janeiro, agreed. He said: "The anticipation has
got a little bit political. It's complicated because Brazilians
love the football, but a lot of people are quite outraged at the
cost of it."
There was work to be done, however, to prepare for the influx of
thousands of tourists and fans, he said. "We have lots of guests
working with the consulate to make sure we are ready to provide
charity assistance for expats who get into difficulties. We are
ready to welcome fans and players to come and worship with us."
In an attempt to piggyback on the tournament, a new video by
Alpha Brazil, Alpha na Copa, has been launched to inspire
fans to consider the Christian faith. A minibus will be touring the
country during the event, parking alongside churches to show the
film and encourage conversations about faith.
For Mr Wheeler, connecting with international fans was less of a
priority. Given his area's reputation, he said he did not expect
many foreign visitors. "We are engaging with the World Cup in
different ways. We are trying to encourage our congregation to
express their opinions on what they have seen happen over the last
two years [in the country's preparations]. We think that is a
significant thing for the Church to be doing."
They were also planning a parish barbecue for the day of the
final, and would watch the match together, he said. "Hopefully,
with Brazil being one of the teams, and the other being
One of the concerns is that there will be a boom in sex tourism
and people-trafficking because of the fans flocking to Brazil. An
international campaign, "It's A Penalty", has been launched by
anti-trafficking charities to protect Brazilian children from
sexual exploitation during the World Cup.
The campaign, which has been endorsed by the England manager Roy
Hodgson, urges fans to phone in if they see evidence of
Mr Phillips said that he had heard fears of a rise in
trafficking, although Mr Wheeler said he believed it was more of a
problem in the north-east of Brazil rather than in Rio de
"I think we have to ask big questions about the impact of these
events, especially on countries that are new to the game. I think
Brazilians have paid a big price," he said.
"But, at the end of the day, Brazilians know how to party, and
if someone is willing to give us extra bank holidays, we will make
the best use of them."