MANAUS, Brazil – By the time I finished a quick lunch at the nearest diner that had a TV showing Holland beat Chile, the street was surprisingly half empty.
Just 45 minutes earlier, it was the hustling and bustling Mercado Municipal in the old part of downtown Manaus. Thousands of people dealing and buying in the market’s stands and shops. But now, with just two hours before Brazil was to face Cameroon in a decisive game for the host nation, it was time to get ready. Close the shops, shut down businesses, halt public transportation, because everyone wants to watch the game.
You see, the Brazilian government made a decision to declare a national holiday on Brazil game days, and a holiday for any host city each time when they host a game. This decision, I think, that has to do more with common sense than with the good of the economy.
Can you really expect anyone to be productive at their jobs when Neymar & Co. are on the field? And so this week Manaus shut down on Sunday and Wednesday, when the city is hosted a game at the local Arena Da Amazonia, and on Monday and Saturday when Brazil was/is playing. Banks close early, schools are off, and businesses are mandated to give employees at least a half day off.
I was invited to attend a viewing party held at a software company’s office. The place was decorated with green and yellow banners next to small Brazilian flags.
The game was shown on a jumbo screen, beer and food was served. “About a third of the company stayed to watch the game,” tells me Aldo, who runs a department in the organization, as he points out the about 100 people gathered. “The rest are simply watching it somewhere else.”
All the employees were given a Brazil jersey with the company’s logo on it. In fact, everywhere you go men, women and children all wear a different variation of the famous Brazil jersey.
Back to the holiday conversation. Aldo tells me that employers must let workers leave early. And those who chose to stay must have a way to watch the game. With the economy not in great shape, is this a good idea, I ask.
Aldo replies, “It is Brazil. We will worry about that in a few weeks, now it’s time for football.”
The author is an editor at The Jerusalem Post who is in Brazil to fulfill his lifelong dream of attending the World Cup.