Tag Archives: Brazil

Museu do Futebol (São Paulo)

Referring to the different waves and streaks that football teams experience, the Argentinean Jorge Valdano made popular the sentence “A team is just a mood (1).

The Football Museum (Museu do Futebol) at the Sao Paulo‘s municipal Pacaembu stadium is an invitation to go through those moods, re-live some of those past moments anchored in the collective memory, by way of recorded sounds, cheering chants, radio excerpts of goals narrations, videos and interviews about the most important goals of Brazil history.

el-maracanazoYet, in my opinion, the most impacting mood, very well caught in the museum, is the transition from euphoria to depression, from music to complete silence, the tragedy of the losing the last match of 1950 World Cup between Brazil and Uruguay. A match that Brazil just needed to draw, started winning, yet lost it. The Maracanazo. In just 90 seconds, in a dark room you get submerged into the happiness of the day that would see Brazil win the first of many World Cups at the newly built Maracanã and then how the mood at the stadium changed with the first goal of Uruguay, then the second and at the end the final whistle from the referee.

Nevertheless, no matter how impacting the Maracanazo was for Brazil and football history, and how well captured it is at the museum, it would be unfair not to mention that in the museum there are many other very positive and happy moods of Brazilian football captured very well, too. If I went to think of Brazil, I would first think of happiness, football, music, dance; and those are experiences that accompany you along the museum.

The museum itself is centered around Brazil’s national football team, the only one which has won 5 World Cups to date, the country which practically at any point in time has one of the best 2 or 3 players of the World, the country of Pelé, Garrincha , Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Zico, Romario, Tostao, Rivaldo, Rai, Djalma Santos, Didi, Pepe, Gerson, Carlos Alberto, Rivellino, Socrates, Cafu, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar… you name them.

DSC_0323The visit starts with a room where some players are picked as the most important to Brazil’s history; some images and biography of each one of them is offered.

The following room is dedicated to the goals, the main ingredient of the game. The 30 most celebrated goals in Brazil’s history are recorded and narrated by the authors or journalists (in Portuguese, English or Spanish). Several interactive screens are available for visitors to go through the different goals. There are also some desks where to listen to radio narrations recorded at the time of some of those goals.

See some of them in the video below (2).

The following rooms are dedicated to recordings of the chants of all the main teams competing at the Brasileirao; to Charles Miller, the man who introduced football in Brazil; and to a collection of pictures the years in which football was introduced in Brazil, showing life in Brazil at the time.

DSC_0326The largest space is dedicated to the World Cups, all of them, not only the ones won by Brazil. Some context of the society, cultural movements and events going on at the time are shown, together with images of the Brazilian team competing at the championship, the winners, some charismatic players and vivid images of the competition. That is another room where to wander with time enough to be captivated by the evolution of football, the players and events of the times.

There is another space dedicated to the couple Pele and Garrincha: with them playing together in the field, Brazil never lost a match (out of some 40 joint appearances). Some personal objects, pictures and videos of their best tricks are shown.

The last rooms are dedicated to football rules, some statistics, women in football and the chance to try a penalty kick against a featured Julio Cesar, where your shot’s speed is measured (and then compared to a Roberto Carlos’ shot).

DSC_0336

(1) “Un equipo es un estado de ánimo”.

(2) The video is unrelated to the museum but contains some of the goals among those 30.

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Forecasting 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

I have a work colleague who not only is a tremendous negotiator and contracts’ drafter but also has a great sense of humor and manages in his free time late in the night to set up a contest for office staff to try to guess winners, matches’ scores, top scorers, etc., of major international soccer competitions. The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which will start tomorrow, could not be missed. Nacho managed to set up the contest in time.

To set up the background as to how I have approached the game of forecasting this World Cup:

  • I had written a review of the book “Soccernomics“, which among other things advocates the use of data in order to make decisions in relation to football transfer market, forecasting, etc. This book relies somewhat heavily in “Moneyball” another book which I read some months ago with a similar scope but with baseball as the theme sport.
  • When the draw of the World Cup took place last December, I wrote a couple of blog posts discussing what was the so-called “group of death” basing the analysis on FIFA and ESPN rankings.
  • During the last year, I read a couple of books which approach how we make decisions and how to remove different kind of biases from the thought processes of making them: “Thinking Fast and Slow” (by the 2002 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Daniel Kahneman) and “Seeking Wisdom“.
  • Finally, last year I followed the open course “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” by Dan Ariely (though I missed the last exam due to my honeymoon and could not get credit for it).

Having shared this background, you may understand that I tried to remove all the beauty of guessing and my football “knowledge” to the forecasting process. I rather made use of  ESPN Soccer Power Index (SPI) ranking, introduced by the economist Nate Silver. I used its offensive and defensive scores plus the tip indicating that in competitive matches the defensive factor tends to be slightly more important (see “A Guide to ESPN’s SPI rankings”).

Once I plugged in the numbers from the index and used the referred tip on the defensive side, I built a simple model to guess each of the World Cup matches. Once you take this approach you will find that the model gives you plenty of results such as Nigeria 1.32 – 1.53 Bosnia… What to do with it? When the result was very tight I resolved it as a draw, otherwise a victory for the team with the highest score.

In very few instances I forecast that a team would score 3 or more goals in a match. I bore in mind that in the 2010 World Cup 80% of the matches ended up with scores of 1-0 (26% of the matches), 2-1 (15%), 0-0, 1-1 or 2-0 (each 13%).  That a team scores more than 3 goals in a match will certainly happen in some games, but I did not bother to guess in which ones, the odds are against.

The prize pot of the game organized by this colleague is not particularly big (few hundreds euros). The main point of the game is enjoying the chit-chat with work colleagues. My second main point is putting this rational approach to work and see how it fares.

Finally, what did I forecast?

A World Cup won by Brazil against Argentina in the final. With Spain beating Germany for the third place (in the penalties). For my English readers: England defeated by Colombia in the 1/8 of final. For the ones from USA, it doesn’t make the cut from the group phase. We will see along this month how well do I fare.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil forecast.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil forecast.

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Candomblé (is it real?)

What is it?

According to Wikipedia: Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the “povo de santo” (people of saint).

Why do I write about it?

Last year Luca and I went to Brazil during Easter holidays. Some days ago I was looking at some pictures and I remembered that I had wanted to write a post about one experience we lived then. I never wrote it then, so I’ll do it now.

While wandering through Salvador de Bahía last year, we stopped to have some rest plus a drink at a bar. Luca reviewed a little brochure for activities to do in the city. Basically we had to offers for the evening: attending a concert or candomblé. We opted for the latter.

The brochure already warned that some foreigners found it strange that people were asked to pay to attend a religious ceremony. If I remember well we paid about 100R$ between the two of us (~30€), a perfectly payable amount.

For me the best thing of the evening was that with the mind thinking about attending the ceremony we ventured with the group into a part of the city that by ourselves we would have never dared to go. I sometimes make the comment that we don’t dare to go to places just because the noisy media has given us that fearful sense. I guess that if we had checked the guide of Brazil we had, it most probably would have discouraged us to go into the neighbourhood we went.

The room where the ceremony was held could have been any wide room of a building. It wasn’t any kind of special temple. We gathered about 40 people inside; split 50/50 between tourists and candomble practitioners (or performers). The head of the ceremony was an old woman.

Let me take the following passage from the Wikipedia to briefly describe how the ceremony goes:

“In the public part of the ceremony, children-of-saint (mediunic priests) invoke and “incorporate” Orixás, falling into a trance-like state. After having fallen into trance, the priest-spirits perform dances symbolic of the Orixá’s attributes, while the babalorixá or father of saint (leading male priest) leads songs that celebrate the spirit’s deeds. The ceremony ends with a banquet.

Candomblé music, an essential part of the ritual, derives from African music.”

What did I feel?

I think it was all fake. I don’t believe any of what it happened it was actually felt by performers. I risk that you’ll get me wrong, you may think I am not tolerant with other cultures, etc. Not the case.

I just felt that ceremony was a business show much the like flamenco shows in Granada, with the difference that with the flamenco you don’t feel cheated. You know from the beginning that you are attending a show.

The money wasn’t definitely a problem; I love to spend some cash for different experiences. E.g. sometimes we have just paid a guide to explain us a temple not caring about the accuracy of the explanation just about the curious stories he or she might tell, as the rest of the information we will have forgotten in months.

I guess there will be groups of people who do have their candomblé celebrations and believe in it. I don’t think the group we attended was one of those. At least not at that moment. When you saw them entering in trance, five minutes later smoking a cigarette and then entering in trance again it felt strange.

Believe it or not it took me time to make up my mind. Luca is way sharper than I am in those situations… I think she gave me a look of disapproval no later than the first 5 minutes had passed. During one pause, she explained me her view of it, and then, back in the room, during the following minutes of sudden trance-in/trance-out I was making my numbers in my head.

We were about 20 tourists. If each of us had paid about 50R$. The total income then was ~1,000R$. If the band (I avoid the word congregation here) performed a show every night, they would make ~30.000R$ a month. Let’s correct the figure supposing that not every day they may have a performance or that in not all performances they will be able to fill the room… say they make ~20.000R$ a month. As I said, there were about 20 performers, this would mean that each could receive ~1,000R$ (some of this would have to be deducted to pay the transportation of the tourist and the home-made drinks they offered).

The average salary in some parts of Brazil is in that order of magnitude, ~1,000R$. Then take into account that many of the performers were family, so it really makes sense for them, it’s a formidable way of making a living for the family. Probably if I had been born in that neighbourhood and I could have a supplement to my salary of 100% of my salary by faking a trance situation per night I would have been delighted to do so. And it is perfect as a business! It’s just that it leaves you with a bad flavour. It feels like cheating. We wouldn’t recommend it.

Next time we’ll go for the concert, no matter the price.

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Bits of the World in Brazil

While in Brazil last Easter, I read in my guide that in the city of Sao Paulo lived the largest Japanese ethnic group outside Japan. My first thought was: that’s not surprising; by heart I made the following reasoning “if Sao Paulo is among the six or seven biggest cities in the World and we exclude Tokyo and Chinese cities… there is a chance of 15-20% of it being Sao Paulo”.

Later on I was told that in Sao Paulo also lived the biggest communities of several other nationalities… yes, the same rationale could apply (I guess it would come a point where not every nationality could have their largest community abroad in Sao Paulo… but I found no way to prove that).

This may give us an idea of the diversity of the city as well as the country, Brazil… and that is something you keep feeling when you visit it… you suddenly see something and tell yourself “I have seen that somewhere else…”. Like if there were wormholes connecting different parts of the World… Be it music, food, architecture, clothing, traditions…

Let me focus on some examples:

The first two examples are related to Japan.

  • See the Japanese traditional gates (or Torii), both in Japan (this case in the island Miyajima) and in the Japanese neighbourhood in Sao Paulo.
  • Note the striking similarities of procedures used to push people into the subway coaches both in Sao Paulo and Tokyo (in this case I was later told by my sister that in a TV programme about Spanish living abroad it was commented that the metro of Sao Paulo was inspired by the one in Tokyo).

Japanese gates, Torii, in Sao Paulo and Miyajima.

People queueing in Sao Paulo and Tokyo subways.

The next striking example is one that I already posted about: the Banespa tower in Sao Paulo compared to the Empire State Building in New York (you almost wouldn’t notice the difference if it wasn’t for the height of ESB).

Banespa Building (photo by Felipe Mostarda) and Empire State Building (photo by David Shankbone).

Other very similar example is found between two elevators: the Lacerda elevator in Salvador de Bahia and the elevator of Santa Justa in Lisbon… here the main difference is the queue and pricing… in Lisboa you may wait 30 minutes and pay over 1 euro, while in Salvador you wait less than a minute and pay 0,15 R$ (this is 6 euro cents!)…

Elevators of Santa Justa (Lisbon) and Lacerda (Salvador).

Similar experiences can be found as well inside two different markets: the Sao Paulo Municipal Market and Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, the first one offering a wider variety of products (including good Spanish jamón in the “Emporio Arabe”?!?) and the latter a more upscale atmosphere. (If at the market in Sao Paulo, do not miss the codfish pastel and mortadella sandwich at Hocca bar!!).

Municipal markets in Sao Paulo and Madrid.

Lastly you all know the Cristo Redentor in Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janeiro… there is a similar Christ in Lisbon, just at the opposite riverside from Praça do Comerço (though I admit that in this case it is in Lisbon where you think “oh, I’ve seen this somewhere else”).

Christs in Rio de Janeiro (being overhauled) and Lisbon.

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Video of Iguazu from a helicopter

In this post I want to write the least possible.

Enjoy the short video (5’20”) prepared in my first ever trip on helicopter (a Bell 206) around Iguazu falls… an unforgettable experience.

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Sao Paulo from the top of Banespa building

Banespa building is an important skyscraper in the financial center of Sao Paulo. Banespa stands for Banco do Estado de Sao Paulo, which now is owned by Banco Santander. The building was designed by a Brazilian architect, Plínio Botelho do Amaral, who was inspired by the Empire State Building. It was for 20 years the highest building in Sao Paulo, until surpassed by Edificio Itália.

Banespa Building (photo by Felipe Mostarda) and Empire State Building (photo by David Shankbone).

At the top of the building there is an observation deck from which you can see stunning views of Sao Paulo, with hundreds of skyscrapers in whichever direction you look at for kilometers and kilometers. Then you realize that you are in Sao Paulo, the 6th or 7th most populated city in the world (depending whether you look at the city limits or metropolitan area).

Sao Paulo skyline from Banespa observation deck.

Other famous observation decks that I visited recently were the one in the ESB and the Top of the Rock at the GE Building Rockefeller Center, there are some differences though:

  • Height: Banespa, 161 m; Rockefeller, 259 m; ESB, 443 m.
  • Number of floors: Banespa, 35; Rockefeller, 70; ESB, 102.
  • Construction finished in the year: Banespa, 1947; Rockefeller, 1939; ESB, 1931.
  • Observation deck ticket price: Banespa, free; Rockefeller, 20$; ESB, 20$ + 20$.

Race in New York. Let me share here with you a story about a race to build the tallest building that took place in the late 1920’s. I found this story in the book, “Tales of New York”, which I commented in a previous post.

Three buildings were being built at the same time, the 40 Wall Street, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Competition among them was fierce at the time, with names of big industrialists behind them. Plans were revised once and again. The first one in being finished was the 40 Wall Street in April 1930 which claimed the title of world’s tallest building at the time. Originally it was to be 840 ft but along the race the plan was revised to make it just 2 feet taller than the Chrysler building plan at the time 925 ft, at completion the 40 Wall Street height was increased to 927 ft.

During the last weeks of its construction loads of iron and steel were brought to the interior of the Chrysler building. People thought that it was part of the interior decoration, filled with metallic details and motives of the automotive industry. But once its rival building was finished, on a clear day in the morning a needle-like metallic structure was raised from the center of the top of the Chrysler building to the surprise of the population of New York. On May 27th 1927, the Chrysler building was finished, in the end measuring 1,046 ft, taking the title of tallest building from 40 Wall Street merely a month after.

Walter Chrysler had worked in the past together with the man behind the Empire State Building, John J. Raskob, then CFO of General Motors, one of the main competitors in the automotive industry. He wanted him to either fail in the pursuit of building the tallest skyscraper or becoming bankrupt if he made it. With 1,046 ft height the Chrysler was to be tallest than the Empire State Building when it would be finished, however in the year that took the ESB to be finished the design was subsequently changed measuring 1,454 ft when it was finally finished in 1931, taking the title of tallest building from the Chrysler just a year later.

Just to close the post…

  • nowadays the tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with 828m (160 floors),
  • the tallest building in Europe is Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt with 259m (65 floors) and very close to it is the Main Tower (200m) that hosts a very nice restaurant which is the only observation deck in the skyscrapers of the city,
  • the tallest in Spain is the Caja Madrid Tower with 250m (45 floors) which holds the 148th position in the list of highest skyscrapers.
  • another interesting point is to see the evolution of the title of “tallest skyscraper in the world”.

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Lapa stairs in Rio de Janeiro… impressive.

I had already visited Rio de Janeiro in 2000. That time something went completely unnoticed to me: the stairs made by Selarón in Lapa neighbourhood. This piece of art started with the Chilean artist renovating the stairs in the street that run in front of his house 20 years ago. First he used tiles with the colours of the flag of Brazil. The stairs are still unfinished and according to the artist they will only be finished the day of his death.

The colours and forms created reminded me of creations by Gaudí in Barcelona, e.g. Parc Güell. It’s really a pleasure, it brings you the same warmth and the same smile of admiration to your face.

The stairs have something that I really found special and addictive: the artist is currently using tiles from different parts of the world, depicting:

  • countries (Croatia, Portugal, Costa Rica…),
  • cities (Toulouse, Berlin, DC…),
  • famous monuments of cities (Puerta de Alcalá – Madrid, tramway in Alfama – Lisbon, Torre del Oro – Seville, Mecca),
  • famous art crafts in the most prominent museums in the world (Van Gogh self-portrait, Nachtwacht – Rembrandt, Girl with a Pearl Earring – Vermeer, Guernica – Picasso…),
  • celebrities (Lady Di, The Beatles, Obama…),
  • stereotypes from countries (bullfighter, windmills, marijuana, cows),
  • commercial brands (Coca-Cola, Michelin…),
  • football clubs (Real Madrid, Betis…)

Trust me: once you start you can’t stop searching for the next tile, trying to frame it with the ones around, wondering whether the artist placed it there intentionally for some reason or not (is it casual that “Don’t mess with Texas” is close to “Afghanistan” or that “Lyon” is above “Real Madrid”…?), checking whether you have seen those places, monuments, cities… as I said above: it’s addictive!

Moreover, YOU can take part in the making of the craft. As explained in some tiles, you may send him by post an old tile from your city and he may place it in the stairs… your contribution may be immortalized in Rio de Janeiro! The artist promises to send you a picture of the tile once it’s placed in the stairs.

See the pictures of the artist coming to work and with Luca and me… doesn’t he remind you to another genius, Salvador Dalí?

Next time you happen to be in Rio, don’t miss it.

Enjoy the pictures:

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