Manaus, Brazil — By the time I finished a quick lunch at the nearest diner that had a TV showing Holland's victory over 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 has made the decision to declare a holiday on Brazil game days, and a holiday for any host city each time they host a game. A 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 when Neymar Jr. and friends are on the field?
And so this week Manaus is shutting down on Sunday and Wednesday, when the city hosts games at the local Arena Da Amazonia, and on Monday and Saturday when Brazil is playing. Banks are closing early, schools will be out of session, 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", says Aldo, who runs a department in the organization, as he points out the some 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, they simply must. 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.
Well, Aldo replies, "It is Brazil. We will worry about that in a few weeks, now it's time for futbol."
The author is an editor at
The Jerusalem Post who is in Brazil to fulfill his life-long dream of attending the World Cup.
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