World Cup 2014: Victory for the shrimp fritter sellers who took on and beat Fifa

Six women wearing long, African-style dresses and headscarves will rub shoulders with the corporate giants after winning the battle to sell their local speciality in Salvador

Salvador

Six women wearing long, African-style dresses and headscarves and selling a deep-fried street snack will today complete an unlikely World Cup underdog triumph before a ball has even been kicked inside Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova.

LIVE: The latest news on Day 2, including Cameroon v Mexico, Spain v Netherlands and Chile v Australia

“Baianas 1 Fifa 0” is how Rita Santos describes it as she tells The Independent just what it took for these women – a ubiquitous sight in the colonial Pelourinho quarter of Salvador – to earn the right to rub shoulders with the corporate giants on the food concourse outside the stadium.

Rita is president of the regional association of baianas – literally, women from the state of Bahia – who sell street food in the city. She was the driving force behind their fight to ensure the tradition of serving the much-loved local speciality of acaraje did not fall victim to Fifa’s meddling.

Acaraje is a fritter-like snack made from beans and dried shrimp, and fried in strong palm oil, which was brought over by the large slave population who made Salvador the most African of Brazilian cities. “It is a tradition that has existed for more than 300 years,” says Rita, whose son Felipe is a goalkeeper at the Rio club Flamengo. “It is impossible to have a World Cup and not have baianas selling acaraje at the stadium.”

Gregorio, who sold me one outside the Barra Shopping mall in the city yesterday, concurred, suggesting it would be “like going to Germany and not having sausage”.

 

The vendors’ battle began in late 2012 when Rita discovered that the bidding process was already under way for catering rights at the Arena Fonte Nova.

It was the start of a lengthy struggle featuring an online petition and a street protest on the day of the rebuilt stadium’s inauguration in April last year. “Eighty women set up their stalls and distributed free acaraje and football shirts,” explains Rita. With “more than 17,000 people” signing the petition and Romario, the former Brazil World Cup striker-turned-politician, speaking in support, their campaign gained momentum.

The worry for Rita was that a big out-of-town company would bring in mass-produced acaraje rather than the real thing. It sounds like the premise for a Hollywood film – perhaps with Whoopi Goldberg in the role of Dona Norma, a vendor of 65 years’ standing in the streets around the stadium, who, Rita says, was “terrified she would not be able to work there any more”. Happily, it got a Holly-wood ending with Rita given permission to set up stalls at the Confederations Cup.

Read more: Neymar gives Brazil golden start
Brazil 'dream' for national hero Neymar
Referee plays his part in hosts' victorious opener

“On the first day of the Confederations Cup, a big blond man from Fifa – I don’t remember his name – came to me and said, ‘OK, we don’t want any struggle with the baianas – it is enough.”

Rita – one of six baianas on cooking duty at today’s Spain-Netherlands game – hopes she has set an important precedent. “The most important thing is that four years in the future, when Fifa goes to make the World Cup in another country, people from that country can be inspired by this and fight to maintain their own culture. Fifa might now think a little bit before making their own criteria and respect more the culture of other countries.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor