Poker is the obvious main topic of conversation at the World Series of Poker but the FIFA World Cup is making a strong showing. Players come to the WSOP from around the world and they bring their soccer love along with them.
Brazil is the World Cup host country but not all is not well in the South American country.
While they are excited to show off their country and bring in tourist dollars, wide spread corruption has been alleged between the soccer organization FIFA, the government, and contractors.
WSOP bracelet winner Andre Akkari is in Las Vegas with many fellow Brazilians and understands both the good and bad aspects of his country hosting the World Cup.
“Soccer is like a religion in Brazil,” Akkari said. “Soccer changes everything and there is a lot of politics involved, but we love soccer. It’s really important for us to have the World Cup there because it’s our biggest passion.”
“But I think it was made in the completely wrong way,” Akkari continued. “It’s about money and about politicians and about FIFA. It was terrible.”
New Infrastructure Will Help, But Overspending Running Rampent
Stories have circulated in the news about the negative impact the tournament is having on Brazil’s poorest citizens. Akkari understands some of the issues but believes everybody will benefit in the end.
“Even the poorest people are going to be reached by the World Cup because there’s a lot of infrastructure being built in the country,” Akkari stated.
“Like they built the new stadium in Itaquerao. It was a really poor place in Brazil and a really good investment for them. So it’s good in a way. There are some benefits for the poorest people.”
“Brazil is getting a lot of tourism, people spending money there which is always a good thing,” added fellow Brazilian poker player Maria Mayrinck. “But I don’t think Brazil was ready to host the World Cup.”
“There is a lot of infrastructure being built like the Metro and new stadiums and roads and freeways,” Akkari explained. “They are rebuilding the streets, at least where they are building the stadiums.
“It should be good but they spend 10-times more money than it should cost. They take something that should be good and it becomes bad.”
Akkari believes there are two major issues for the World Cup, political corruption and associated cost overruns. There have been reports of new stadiums across the country, not just Itaquerao, going dramatically over budget.
“The problem was not building the stadium. The (Itaquerao) stadium they built in Brazil should have cost R$300,000,000 and they spent R$1.5 billion so that’s terrible,” Akkari said. “It’s going to help people in some way but it shouldn’t be like this. That’s what is sad.
“I’m friends with the Chief of Engineering for the new Sao Paolo stadium, he’s an honest guy and wasn’t involved in the money, and he said ‘Here in the stadium, I saw just R$200,000,000. I didn’t see more than this and I don’t know where the money goes.’”
Akkari: "I Can't Root Against Brazil"
Few in the government were inclined to put a stop to it and Akkari believes the upcoming national elections played a big part in how World Cup preparation was handled.
Some fans have gone so far as to root against their home country because they do not want the current government to remain in power.
“They are using the World Cup for the politicians now because they’re going to have the next elections in October,” Akkari said, “And 40% of the Brazilians are rooting against Brazil because if Brazil wins then Dilma (Rousseff), our president, will be re-elected and nobody wants that.”
“But I can’t root against Brazil, I don’t like Dilma as well but I can’t root against Brazil,” Akkari clarified. “I hope that Brazilians’ conscience works better in October, even if Brazil wins, and we can change the president.”
The World Cup is underway and the Brazilians will be glued to the televisions in the poker room whenever the Verde-Amarela are playing. Akkari wishes things would have been done differently, but he’s still a proud Brazilian.
“I’m not ashamed about Brazil, I’m ashamed about these type of politician,” Akkari finished. “Brazilians are great people.
“If Brazil wins, I’m still going to be so excited.”