Bolt from the blue

Germany might be one of his country's fiercest rivals, but Brazil need not worry - the Germans wear white jerseys.

And Brazil's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Luis Fernando de Andrade Serra, 64, believes that Brazil usually does well against teams in white.

But it is against teams in blue jerseys, like Uruguay and Italy, that they usually falter.

So when the World Cup begins today, this highly superstitious diplomat, who grew up spending hours playing beach football in Brazil, might be hoping they do not meet any team in blue during the tournament.

Mr Serra has been a diplomat for 42 years and was posted here in 2011.

The New Paper caught up with him in his office at United Square to get his thoughts on his team's chances for the World Cup.

We even got him to show his ball-juggling skills, which you can watch on the TNP app.

After more than 60 years, the World Cup is returning to its spiritual home in Brazil.

The ambassador, a massive football fan, said: "I hope it will be a wonderful World Cup because we have all the factors in place - like having the supporters, knowing the pitches well and being used to the weather."

Host Brazil kick off the tournament against Croatia at 4am today (Singapore time).

The football-crazy South American country is one of the favourites to win a record sixth World Cup on home ground.

Brazil is in Group A with Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. Mr Serra said the group is a tricky one, with opponents like Mexico that do well against his country.


Mr Serra said that on paper, Brazil are favourites.

He does have one concern - playing a team in blue.

He said: "When we play white or red jerseys, we are lucky. It is not a rule, it's nothing scientific, but it is what happens."

Brazil beat England, Germany (both in white) and Turkey, which sport red jerseys, for their last World Cup win in 2002. He cited how they lost to Italy and France, who wore blue, in the finals of the 1982 and 1998 tournaments.

The lifelong fan of Botafogo football club used to play up to four hours daily on the sandy beaches of Rio De Janeiro, where he lived. "Football is a religion in Brazil," he declared.

"It was common for youth to play football just for fun, although there were some like me who had never dreamt of being a professional footballer."

Born in Brazil to Brazilian parents, Mr Serra spent 13 childhood years in Argentina, where his father was a consul. At 19, he ditched the beach for books and studied hard to be a diplomat.

"I love diplomacy, foreign relations, international politics, geography and history. I like to travel and to know other civilisations," he said, adding that history, geography and languages were his favourite subjects in school.

Mr Serra speaks five languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English, French and Italian. He also has basic knowledge of German and Russian.

Before his appointment here, he served in places like Moscow, Santiago, Paris and Bonn.

He said: "Singapore has very friendly people and is one of the most well-organised and safest places in the world. I love to be here." His favourite local fare are laksa and chilli crab.

And he is eagerly anticipating the first match.

"The first match is mandatory - we have to win.

"But thank God, Croatia doesn't wear blue jerseys."

I hope it will be a wonderful World Cup, because we have all the factors in place - like having the supporters, knowing the pitches well and being used to the weather.

- Brazil's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Luis Fernando de Andrade Serra

Brazil protests are 'something positive'

The protests in Brazil are signs of a healthy democracy, said Mr Serra.

"It is good that the people want a better life for themselves, and their demands are positive," he added.

The protests have been ongoing since the Fifa Confederations Cup last year, which was also held in Brazil as a dress rehearsal for the Fifa World Cup.

The protesters have been arguing against the large government spending for the World Cup when they say basic needs of the people have not been met.

Brazil is one of the top 10 economies in the world, but income inequality is high and poverty prevalent.

"I wouldn't say that everything is perfect in Brazil.

"People are confused because they think we are spending on stadium construction what we should have spent on schools and hospitals, but these are different budgets," he explained.

Estimates from the embassy showed that the contribution to Brazil's gross domestic product (GDP) from the World Cup this year will reach US$13 billion (S$16 billion).

It added US$4.26 billion to the GDP last year, while total investment in the World Cup was US$11.24 billion.


The latest demonstrations took place in Sao Paulo on Monday, with subway workers going on strike, worsening traffic conditions in the city.

"The protesters want better education, health care, transportation and less corruption, and these demands are something positive because they improve productivity. What is negative - demanding more holidays, earlier retirement or higher pensions. I would be worried if people were protesting for these," said Mr Serra.

This article was first published on June 13, 2014.
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