With the world’s largest sporting event – 2014 FIFA World Cup – underway in Brazil and football fever gripping the nations, a 221st issue of Mosalas, a weekly which mostly focuses on politics and sports, featured an interview with the Brazilian ambassador to Tehran. Here is an introduction by the editor of the publication’s international desk to the interview along with an excerpt of the one on one.
“With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway in Brazil, we conducted an interview with Brazilian Ambassador to Tehran Santiago Irazabal Mourao to ask him about how the largest South American country is faring. Brazil, which is known as the birthplace of football, is playing host to the biggest footballing event this year. The diplomat told us that the atmosphere in his country is electric and that this World Cup is going to be the best ever. When asked about the recent protest rallies in Brazil, he stressed that they are a reflection of democracy and individual freedoms. As for the policy of development and poverty eradication, he said over the last ten years, robust social policies have helped the Brazilian government lift 45 million people out of poverty. Today 60 percent of Brazilian society are middle class and only 6 percent live below the poverty line, he maintained. Hailing as positive the foreign policy adopted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, he said he believed Iran is intent on boosting its relations with other countries, particularly with the West.”
News coming out of Brazil suggests that some people and groups are opposed to Brazil hosting the World Cup, citing the hefty price tag of preparations for the event. Tell us a bit about the protesters.
It should be noted that Brazil is a diverse society in which some people do not like football, carnivals and other festivities. Mind you, protest against such events does not constitute opposition to the government. In such rallies, protesters sometimes chanted slogans against the government spending too much on the World Cup. Instead, they wanted their government to spend the money on health care, education, and transportation. Of course, they are nothing but slogans and do not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground. Over the past year the Brazilian government has spent one hundred times as much as it has dedicated to the World Cup on health care and education. Therefore, simply based on the slogans shouted in such protest rallies, one cannot question the performance of the government.
At times, we saw violent groups show up in protest rallies along with other protesters. What does the presence of such groups mean?
According to police reports, a small number of violent people were among the protesters. They wouldn’t turn up individually, and it still remains unknown what goals they have been pursuing. Among other things, vandalism could possibly be one of their motives. Their violent acts drew objections from non-violent protesters who tried to hold the small group in check. Consequently violence abated.
Brazil is widely known as the birthplace of football in the world. From your perspective, where does football stand in Brazil?
Generally, the majority of people are great fans of football. Naturally, there are some who are not, but what matters is that Brazil tries to be a welcoming host to all nations. The 2014 World Cup is certainly going to be the best of its kind ever held. By best I do not mean that the teams in the tournament are the strongest. Rather, the Brazilian people are incredibly enthusiastic about the event and are full of excitement. Even though on June 7 Iran’s volleyball team beat their hosts Brazil at 2014FIVB Volleyball World League, Brazilian spectators remained in high spirits. As a matter of fact, volleyball is less important than football to us and my fellow Brazilians will certainly demonstrate more excitement throughout the football tournament. Meanwhile, tickets for all matches have been pre-sold, and 600,000 from different countries are expected to visit Brazil to watch this spectacular sporting event.
For any country, playing host to the World Cup involves both a lot of expenses and revenues. In your opinion, to what extent can the competition help Brazil bolster its economy and development drive?
Throughout preparations for the World Cup, Brazil underwent major changes in terms of infrastructure, including construction of stadiums and other buildings along with expansion of airports. Also, the public transportation has witnessed enormous improvement in 20 different areas. The telecommunications system,andcell phone and information technology (IT) networks have been updated. New hotels have been built by the private sector. On top of that, creation of thousands of jobs is another advantage of hosting the World Cup.
Throughout preparations for the World Cup, Brazil underwent major changes in terms of infrastructure
Given that Brazil are a powerhouse, how can the Iranian side use the experience of the host nation to hone its own skills?
Sport is a key means that brings nations together. Iran and Brazil have always had effective cooperation on this front. Both countries are willing to launch closer sporting cooperation and keep looking for new areas for such collaboration. Aside from efforts aimed at team sports, some steps have been taken to promote cooperation as far as individual sports are concerned. It should be noted that in individual sports, particularly wrestling, Iran has great potential which Brazil could exploit.
Mr. Ambassador, you have been in Iran for one year, what are your thoughts on the foreign policy adopted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani?
Suffice to say that his government was democratically elected. I closely monitored the presidential election in Iran and witnessed the massive turnout for the vote. His government’s foreign policy is very positive. The Iranian government seeks to beef up its relations with other countries, particularly Western nations. Iran and Brazil have long-standing ties and we are pleased about it.
In light of the fact that Brazil has in the past contributed to Iran’s nuclear issue and Brazil and Turkey have brokered a deal with us, what do you think Iran’s nuclear talks with the world powers will lead to?
Brazil has been following Iran’s nuclear dossier for a few years. We hope that it will lead to a peaceful solution. In terms of the upcoming negotiations, I am optimistic that nuclear talks will produce positive results which can set the stage for further cooperation between Iran and the international community.
I am optimistic that nuclear talks will produce positive results which can set the stage for further cooperation between Iran and the international community.
And finally, which team do you think will lift the trophy in Brazil?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Brazil!