WORLD CUP: Swiss town turns Brazilian way

Weggis, May 22 :

If it weren’t for the Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne on the background, one could mistake Weggis for a village somewhere in Brazil.

The lakeside resort has transformed itself in order to host the Brazilian team for its pre-World Cup preparations, which began on Monday and run through June 4, when Brazil moves to Germany in its quest for a record sixth world title.

Weggis’ usually serene setting has given way to the intense and festive lifestyle of the Brazilians, who are expected to flock to the region once the national squad arrives for its two-week training period. Brazilian soccer is getting all the attention in the central Swiss city, near Lucerne.

Brazilian flags can be spotted nearly everywhere — hanging in house porches, restaurant entrances and even on the side of a mountain overhanging the town.

Several of the city’s 4,000 citizens can be seen wearing jerseys with the green-and-yellow Brazilian colours, and some local business owners have put up signs written in Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil. “This is just amazing, there’s this Brazilian feeling throughout the city,” said 37-year-old Stefan Winiger, who was putting up a temporary food shop near the newly built arena where Brazil will practice.

“It’s a wonderful change for this city, we are just thrilled to have this chance to watch the Brazilian players and party with the Brazilian fans.” The mayor of Weggis, Kaspar Widmer, put out a leaflet with a welcome message in Portuguese.

Brazilian artists are scheduled to perform in the region, and all of the city’s 30 hotels are already nearly fully booked, mostly with fans and members of the Brazilian and international press.

“We are really excited about having the Brazilian team here in our city,” said 41-year-old Duschan Fredy, a youth soccer coach in Weggis. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us.” Fredy was one of the residents who helped sell out about 45,000 tickets for Brazil’s training sessions in Weggis.

A 5,000-seat arena, a media center and several other facilities were built exclusively for the Brazilian team. The site was chosen among 40 offers from around the world, including from locations in France and the UAE. The facilities had not yet been entirely completed by Sunday, and workers were still trying to finish the job before Brazil’s arrival and first training session, which was scheduled for Wednesday.

Brazil, the defending champion, will begin their World Cup campaign on June 13 against Croatia in Berlin. It will then play Australia on June 18, and Japan on June 22.