Posted: 12/27/2011


       One of the twelve cities chosen to host matches at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 is MANAUS, capital of the State of Amazonia with 1,700,000 residents. I stopped at the airport for an hour around midnight some time ago, and walked outside. I got a sweat straight away. It should be an interesting experience for players and fans.

      Years ago I went even further up the Amazon, and spent a few days in and around IQUITOS in Peru. You can't get there by road, because there aren't any. It's 3,600 km from the mouth of the Amazon, yet the river there is still 2 km wide !!  We went a little way downstream by canoe and stayed in a lodge, sleeping in a room up on stilts with mosquito nets, and eating fried paranha and other local food.

      Manaus is at the confluence of two rivers,The Negro and Solimoes which take 10km before they merge. One is black and one is brown. Different densities and different water flow is the reason. During the rubber boom in 1897 they built an opera house and the rich sent their clothes to be cleaned to Pullers of Perth in Scotland- six months to get them returned cleaned and pressed. After rubber plants were smuggled out to the Far East, the monopoly was lost, and then artificial rubber was produced as well.

     Today they promote ECO-TOURISM and you can live in a lodge high up in the trees and climb around on walkways to see the fauna. A zoo, Lion waterfall and beaches at nearby Itacoatira where you can sun, ski and even surf are places to relax and explore.

     Between downtown and Eduardo Gomez Airport, which now has a second runway, is the 46,000 capacity ARENA AMAZONAS, under construction, which will replace the Vivaldao Stadium. Four first round matches are planned to be held there. Nacional is the big club, with rivals Rio Negro and Sao Ramundo. with the Rio-Nat match the big local derby at Vivaldao. No longer in the top flight, National once went to Morocco and won the Kings Cup in Rabat in 1984.

     If you superimpose a map of Brazil over that of Europe and compare the distances, then the difference between Fortaleza in the North-East and Porto Alegre down south would be similar to Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle in Finland (where we once played a match at midnight without lights in July) and Marrakesh in Morocco. Happy travels !!!