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The winning team to help the Amazon


Over the last two blogs we have looked at what makes the Amazon such a special place, and then at some of the major threats to the region and its people. But just as Germany and Argentina have been able to navigate through a minefield of big surprises and challenging conditions in the World Cup, we have equally developed some strong responses en route to enabling a successful outcome for the Amazon.

Graeme and panda mascot with the Champions League trophyGraeme and panda mascot with the Champions League trophy

In this our final World Cup blog, I’ll be talking about our strategy in supporting livelihoods within the Amazon and how our work can help those living there to help their habitat too. But before we kick off, a final question and answer from Duncan’s chat with Graeme Le Saux.

What is your favourite World Cup final and why?

Graeme: Oh blimey, that’s a curve ball! I don’t remember many World Cup finals. I’ve never been in one! (laughs). I boycott them (says jokingly), unless I’m in it. I only thought it went to the last 16?! (jokes and smiles). I suppose more recently when Spain won the World Cup in Africa in 2010 against Holland.

It wasn’t a great final, but I was really pleased for Spain as they broke into that elite group of countries that have won World Cup finals. And they were playing both domestically and as a nation a fantastic style of football. So probably that final in the context of an individual country.

In terms of a spectacle, I think again I’d go back to 1978 in Argentina  when they were on home soil, and the players that they had like Ardilles, Villa – who then came to England – Cempes and Luque the forwards, you know, the long-haired moustachioed gouchos, because they looked like gouchos – cowboys almost. I was just really captivated by all of those early childhood and teenage memories.

The more recent World Cups aren’t within my conscience as much, as I think when you’re a child or teenager you’re not as cynical and you have a greater imagination. Although I do analyse watching games more these days, rather than just enjoy them.

Would that change if England got the World Cup final? I think we’d all be a bag of nerves wouldn’t we! I think I’d still analyse it though. I’d want to be in a fairly quiet place to watch, so I could study the game.

That’s part of our problem as a nation though isn’t it. Imagine if we did get to the final, we’d all be off work with stress! And the players – no matter how many miles away they are – will know that the nation has no fingernails (jokes). But that’s the thing, the weight of expectation is the problem.

For countries that win World Cups regularly, they don’t have that weight of history, as it’s not that long since they’ve won a World Cup, so it’s that slightly different mind-set. You can see that with our penalty taking. Stepping up to take a penalty, knowing that you’re actually not that successful as a country at taking penalties – as it’s so well known, so well documented – that you’re almost doomed to fail.

At some point along that walk to take a penalty you’re thinking:  ‘blimey, if I score then I’ll break that jinx.’ The thing is, at some point in a World Cup finals it’s very likely you’re going to have to win a penalty shootout.  Like the World Cup final in USA 1994, where Italy lost on penalties to Brazil.

In fact, I have a funny story about that, I was talking to a couple the other day who got married around the time of the World Cup in the USA, and his surname was Pew or something like that, and when he was a kid he used to get called ‘poo’ all the time. So when they got married he said to his wife I’m going to change my surname. We’re not going to have yours or mine, we’ll go to deed poll and change it to something else. After he had explained the story to her, she agreed to the idea.

So when the ’94 World Cup final came around, they said that whoever scores the winning goal we will adopt their surname, so she had visions of it being Baggio, or Maldini or something like that.

The winning penalty was scored by the Brazilian captain Carlos Dunga! So she said: ‘no, we’re not having that!’ and decided to stick with her surname instead – Radcliffe.

Rainforest, Acre, Amazon © Zig Koch / WWFRainforest, Acre, Amazon © Zig Koch / WWF

Working with the people of the Amazon – defending

Part of our strategy is to ensure that we set out to protect as much of the Amazon as possible from unsustainable development – our defence if you like.  Around 40 percent of the Amazon is under some form of protection and we’ve played an integral role in supporting this. for example, in May 2014 Brazil’s Ministry of Environment (MMA), WWF and partners, committed US$215 million for the continued protection of 60 million hectares of protected areas under the ARPA scheme which we have supported since 2002 – over 10 percent of the entire Amazon basin.

In order to protect the world’s largest river system, we are providing tools to the Brazilian, Peruvian and the Bolivian governments to support sustainable hydropower development.  This will provide them with data to make more socially and environmentally informed decisions when siting hydropower plants.


But not only do we have a solid defence. Our form of attack is providing examples that demonstrate that sustainable development in the Amazon is possible and indeed beneficial for local people and state governments. Our partnership with Sky  and the Acre State Government is perhaps the best example of this. Over the past five years we supported over 1,250 families to develop sustainable forest livelihood which includes selling wild Amazon rubber to manufacturers based in Brazil and even in Europe.

Rubber tapper, Acre, Amazon © WWF-BrazilRubber tapper, Acre, Amazon © WWF-Brazil

To coincide with the World Cup, French shoe manufacturer Veja launched a new range of trainers designed by model Lily Cole using rubber from Acre state in the Brazilian Amazon.

But we must not rest on our laurels. During the 90 minutes of Sunday’s final, 270 football pitches worth of forest in the Amazon will have been razed. More still if the game goes to extra time and penalties,the Amazon will need us to attack and defend in equal measure and we will be prepared to ‘park the bus’ if needed. But we can’t do this without your strong support, so if you do only one small thing after reading this blog, then please sign up to help protect the Amazon and together we can be part of a winning team.

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