World Cup 2014: 'Horrible' Manaus heat will leave England praying for rain when they play Italy

Former Newcastle striker Mirandinha tells Ian Herbert of stifling conditions in venue for England’s World Cup opener

Take Mirandinha’s word for it: England are going to struggle to acclimatise to the Amazonian heat which had the on-board temperature gauge reading a full 22C in the coach which pulled The Independent into Manaus at 2am this week.

The 54-year-old Brazilian knows all about adjustment, having been the first player from his nation to brave English football – and Newcastle at that, in 1987 – yet nothing compared with the humidity and heat the striker experienced when he played here during his nine years in Brazilian club football. It was the lack of wind which always got him, he says. It was “horrible,” he reflects, and just as much of a struggle as the early weeks of the Tyneside years when he “couldn’t feel the fingers and toes”.

Even when the temperature dips at 6pm – kick-off time here for England against Italy – it feels like a walk in a bath of warm air. England are wise to acclimatise in Miami – “it’s the same in our city”, says one Florida resident, who is in Manaus to make his own investigations into playing football in the Amazon. But Mirandinha’s belief that Roy Hodgson’s young players will be fine “because they are young” seems optimistic.

It won’t be a cauldron in every way. The stadium England’s players will walk into is of a more modest capacity – 44,500 – than suggested by  the dramatic exterior, which when illuminated for their match on 14 June will resemble Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.

The relatively small capacity – 20,000 less than the refurbished Fortaleza stadium to the east – owes something to the fact that this is one of the Brazil venues which lacks a huge football-going culture. There were only 1,000 fans for one of the test games. Also, the dugout seats are benches that wouldn’t look out of place on a British bus, and though the dressing rooms are airy, the shower areas and changing stations are modest.

England’s initial dismay at being asked to play in the Amazon raised local eyebrows and, by some accounts, nearly created a diplomatic incident. “Some politicians were unhappy that [England] didn’t want to come because it was going to be hot,” said Robeiro Braga, Secretary of Culture for the Amazonas State. “There’s no bitterness though. The English ambassador in Brazil came here with the England technical director and it was all right.”

England played a hugely significant part in the original making – and then breaking – of this city. The English developed the Manaus rubber trade which gave the place its golden era from the 1890s to the 1920s, before taking that same trade off to Malaysia, leaving Manaus “very poor, with everything gone”, as Braga puts it. It’s too far in the past for there to be any resentment, he says, but there is something fitting about Hodgson’s men being here to play Italy.

Manaus recovered from England’s desertion by offering the tax breaks which make this a far more prosperous place than Fortaleza. The 3-5 per cent corporation tax rate has lured Samsung, Panasonic and JVC here as well as motorcycle manufacturers Honda, Yamaha and Harley Davidson – David Beckham shot a promotional film in Manaus for the latter last week. There are fewer signs of the favelas – or “communities” to coin the  more political correct term for a slum now preferred here – though Brazil’s underdeveloped education system means the jobs which fill the local newspapers are beyond the reach of many.

For a nation of such size and natural resources, this relatively new democracy is developing slowly. They are not good at infrastructure, as the clogged streets of Manaus demonstrate. New bus lanes and a one-kilometre exclusion zone for cars are the city’s  way of making the World Cup transport work, but it may be chaotic.

The Amazonian military are concerned about the terrorist threat rather than England’s fans. General Ubiratan Poty, who heads the military, said that England and the United States represent a security concern “because people target those two countries for terrorism. We will have extra attention for those two when they are training.” Local air space will be closed one hour and three hours after the two nations’ games.

England can hope for rain to accompany their efforts to beat the Italians; there are bursts of it almost every day and it is also expected to be slightly fresher come June, the month when what is loosely described as the  Amazonian “winter” starts. But from a football point of view they travel more in hope than expectation. As Braga put it: “The problem is that England is not going to win the World Cup. What can I do about that?”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before