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World Cup A to Z

A is for AMAZON

A is for AMAZON

LONG before it became known the world over as an internet retail firm, the word Amazon used to refer primarily to a river and rainforest in South America. The latter will take centre stage again at Brazil 2014, as the city of Manaus, which sits on the edge of the jungle in the sprawling yet sparsely populated Amazonas region, plays host to England v Italy among other world class match-ups this June.

While the move offers a chance to be introduced to many varying species of flora and fauna, it's fair to say it hasn't been popular amongst the footballing fraternity.

In some respects, managers such as England's Roy Hodgson and USA's Jurgen Klinsmann are correct to regard taking games to this remote outpost as absurd.

Not only will it be too hot, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees celsius at midday, it is also too humid and, at four hours flight from Rio, inconvenient for travel. Players and fans who make the journey would do well to remember their jungle survival kits.

Hodgson's complaints drew short shrift from local mayor Arthur Virglio. "We hope to get a better team and a coach who is more polite," he wrote on his Facebook page. "He's one of the few people in the world who is not curious about the Amazon."

Plans costing $225m, to convert the Vivaldao stadium into a state-of-the-art 42,618-seater Arena Amazonia are nothing if not ambitious.

The finished product, which should look a bit like the birds' nest stadium in Beijing, will resemble a basket made by indigenous tribes in the rainforest, the eco-friendly design allowing ample rainwater to irrigate the pitch, while sunlight and wind will be harnessed for power.

But it is behind schedule, and building problems may soon be compounded by the arrival of the rainy season in March.

Whatever happens, it seems destined to become a white elephant. The average attendance for home matches in the Amazonas League is on a par with those in the SPFL League Two.

Stewart Fisher

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