Pelé Makes His Pitch: Soccer Legend Touts Brazil's Boom, World Cup 2014

The 71-year-old Brazilian soccer icon is an ambassador for both his sport and his booming homeland. Those two hats are set to blend into one with the next World Cup slated for Brazil in two years. In the meantime, he's also glad to talk about &am

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé (desbyrnephotos)
Brazilian soccer legend Pelé (desbyrnephotos)

ZURICH - Pelé doesn't shake your hand; he takes you in his arms and gives you a hug so tight you can hear his heart beating. On Jan. 11, the day after the FIFA Golden Ball award ceremony in Zurich, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, sat down for an extended interview with Le Monde. Now 71 years old and still as stylish as ever, "King" Pelé talks about: Pelé, Brazil, and the World Cup, a crown he helped win three times (1958, 1962 and 1970) -- and which will next be held in his home country in 2014.

What does the 2014 World Cup in Brazil represent for you as its official ‘Ambassador"?
I don't want to give the impression that I am the World Cup. The most important thing is the image of my country and its influence throughout the world. I remember no one really knew about Brazil in 1958 when I went to Europe. When I arrived at the training camp in Switzerland where the World Cup was being held, the Brazilian flag had a circle instead of the diamond. From then on, I have had just one wish for the World Cup: to use it to help my people, my country.

What image of Brazil do you want to show the world?
Brazil is the fifth most powerful country in the world! But I would like there to be less poverty and more social equality. After the World Cup, there will be the Olympic Games in 2016. The government and the people must make the most of these important occasions to modernize the country. These two events will consolidate the changes already underway. We want to make sure that the income from the World Cup and the Olympics is shared amongst all the population. We have to do a good job. This will give investors the confidence to come to Brazil: we have lots of space, land and minerals. Now is the time to invest here!

What could stop investors from believing in Brazil?
It is the political differences in the country that worry us. They could endanger the work currently underway to make the World Cup a success. These internal political problems can also lead to corruption and excessive spending. Spending too much on the construction of the stadiums is out of the question because the money is coming from the people. We cannot afford to find ourselves with these "white elephants," which won't have any use after the World Cup. We need to make the most of this opportunity to build schools and universities that will actually be of use afterwards.

How can you fight against corruption?
I have a lot of trust in (President) Dilma Rousseff. She has been in power just under a year, and she has already gotten rid of six ministers. This is the first time in the history of Brazil that so many politicians have been ousted from government for corruption. The fight must continue…

Brazilian football is also being undermined by corruption …
There is some cleaning up to be done, but not only in Brazilian football. Now is the time to clean things up, from the top of FIFA down to the bottom.

Will the future of Brazilian football be written without Ricardo Teixeira, president of the national association since 1989 and personally implicated in these scandals?
I will be sad if it is proven to be the case. I am waiting for the evidence. What I would like is for all football associations to be clean, from Japan to Brazil. Football is something in the blood of the Brazilian people, and it will always continue. Before Teixeira, there was a different president and we still played football, and we will keep playing after he's gone.

How would you explain the fact that Brazil football is no longer at the top of the world rankings?
The best Brazilian players develop in Europe. Brazilian clubs have sold far too many players: all the top ones go abroad. This means that the national team doesn't have enough time to play together. This is proof of the bad management of football. If the top teams, like Flamengo, Corinthians and Vasco, were better run, they wouldn't need to sell their players all the time. However, our training works well. We just need to keep the young players in the country for longer.

You were Minister for Sports between 1995 and 1998. What did you take away from that experience?
I was very proud of that; I freed Brazilians footballers from slavery. Before I took the post, the player belonged completely to his club: he wasn't free to transfer, even at the end of his contract. And when some clubs had no money left, they would go to the bank and say: "I will give you my player." They treated the players like merchandise, like slaves. Fortunately, thanks to Henrique Cardozo who was president at the time, this situation ended in 1996. But we need to go even further. We need to further limit the role of agents, who are given too much importance.

Is there too much money in modern football?
No. The only difference with my era is that today there are sponsors involved. The true question is not about money, but who is the best player in the world.

And who is the best player in the world?
Today? I like (Argentina's Lionel) Messi. He's a top player.

What differentiates you from him?
There are some big differences. Technically, we are at practically the same level. With me, nobody ever knew which foot I was going to use: I played with both. I also scored lots of goals with headers. Messi's left foot is good, but his right foot is better. He is a very good player at Barcelona, but when he plays with the Argentinian national team he doesn't have the same level of success. I also think (Brazil's) Neymar, who plays for Santos, has the possibility of becoming a top player. He is very strong with both feet, very intelligent. This comparison of styles makes me think of (France's Michel) Platini, who was a very good player, but (the Netherlands' Johan) Cruyff was quicker.

So, is Messi better than you?
It is difficult to say: football lovers would say "he is the man of the moment." Some will say Beethoven didn't know how to play the piano, others will say Michelangelo didn't know how to paint, and Pelé didn't know how to play football. But we all received a gift from God. When Messi has scored 1283 goals as I have and wins three World Cups, we'll talk about it again. We don't need to compare people. Football changes, records are made to be broken, but it will be difficult to beat mine. People ask me all the time "When will the next Pelé be born?" Never! My mother and father have closed the factory.

You were the first black man to become a minister in Brazil. Is there a problem with racism?
Racism doesn't exist in Brazil. It is absurd to say that there is racism in football. How many matches are played each week throughout the world? A huge number! Football is multi-colored.

And yet, you have been insulted on the pitch, haven't you?
Many times, and I took my revenge by scoring two extra goals for every insult. Players apologized after the incident. I have insulted players as well, but it was never racist. With all the media coverage and the Internet, we just talk about it a lot more.

Do you think that you have contributed to changing the image of black people?
Yes, I think so. There were two occasions in particular. The 1958 World Cup, when the King of Sweden came down onto the pitch: for the first time in history, there was a photo taken of him shaking hands with a black man. That photo was seen worldwide. The second event was when Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain knighted me; that sent a very important message. Something else also happened to me: in 1975, my contract with Santos ended and Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State, came to see me to say: "You have to come to the United States to develop football." And, in the US, there was racism. I think that my presence on the Cosmos in New York helped to change things. One last anecdote, I went to play in Zaire in 1969 with Santos. The civil war there stopped for our match. At the time, there was no Internet, but everyone found out what happened.

How would you like people to remember you?
You know, Pelé is the most famous name in the world. I can go anywhere; if I'm looking for a job, I will find one. More seriously, after my death, I would like people to remember that I was a good person who always wanted to unite people and draw communities together. And for them to remember me as….a good player.

Read more from Le Monde in French.

Photo - desbyrnephotos

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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