England’s stuttering 1-0 over Denmark was played in front of a crowd at Wembley that was nowhere near capacity.
Blame the ticket prices or the chilly weather, but I think it is an indicator that there is a lack of excitement around the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.
The kick off to the tournament was only 100 days away when the England game was played. In years gone by, the build-up had started long before then, with supporters looking ahead to the Greatest Show on Earth with intense expectation.
Cast your mind back, if you will, to Germany 2006 – the prospect of the tournament that year was mouth-watering and fans began looking ahead to the big kick off months in advance.
It is true to say there is less expectation on England in 2014 than probably at any other time in our history.
Indeed, the lyrics of Baddiel and Skinners’ famous Football’s Coming Home anthem may need to be rewritten from “We Still Believe” to “We’d given up hope with the failure of the so-called Golden Generation.”
But there is a wider issue at stake with the Brazil World Cup and that is around the PR.
There are huge fears over the state of the stadiums and questions over whether some will be built and ready on time. Two workers died at the 70,000-seat Itaquerão stadium in November. The stadium in Sao Paulo is due to host the opening match.
Then there is the complicated social issues, with demonstrations against the World Cup, sparked by a strong movement against inequality in the South American country, descending into street riots.
Involved in the protest are Brazilian chapters of the worldwide radical activists Anonymous called for support for “Operation Stop the World Cup”.
So, a litany of problems (including TV timings and fears over fan safety), it seems, are casting a dark shadow over the tournament before a ball has even been kicked.
Most World Cups have had pre-match nightmares – Mexico staged the 1986 tournament shortly after suffering devastating earthquakes.
There is clearly much going on behind the scenes – but the message needs to get out there and currently, it isn’t. There is a failure by the Brazilian authorities and FIFA to drive positive PR around the tournament and that is effecting the perception of it among its key stakeholders – the fans.
Arguably the greatest World Cup ever has been staged in South America – Mexico 1970.
That Brazil team consisted of these players: Carlos Alberto, Rivellino, Jairzinho, Felix, Gérson and a chap called Pele.
The team was widely considered to be the greatest World Cup team ever produced.
They are needed again by their country to charm the world, although now it needs to be with words and actions rather than Samba style football.
Pele was quoted at the end of last year saying the Brazil World Cup will be a triumph.
But this message needs to be stronger. Pele and his former teammates should be given jobs to get on the front foot and tell the international football world the same message.
And it’s not just the 1970 team – Ronaldo (the real one), Ronaldinho, Bebeto, Romario, Rivaldo et al should join the party.
Maybe it’s happening but we haven’t seen it yet.
But whatever the answer, they need to do it louder and clearer – and they need to start doing it now.
Suited and booted FIFA officials aren’t going to inspire confidence quite like the legends listed above.
Often in PR, the best ambassadors aren’t the most polished but are the most real and with the most compelling story to tell.
It could be there is plan in place. But we aren’t seeing it and Brazil is taking a PR battering.
There is no one on earth who can promote the Brazil World Cup like its favourite sons.
After all, no one wants to listen to Sepp Blatter.
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