WWF UK Blog  

The Amazon versus the World


Summer is upon us, and in the air the buzz of anticipation about how much sunshine we’ll actually get and who’s going where on their holidays. But there’s another buzz that’s probably ringing a little louder in everyone’s ears right now…

Let’s face it, there’s really only one topic in our ears and on our lips this summer – the World Cup!

Graeme Le Saux and WWF-UK blog manager, Duncan MizenAs England prepare to keep us on the edge of our seats yet again, the questions around our ‘success’ in the tournament builds from a whisper to an audible discussion.

I’ve been talking to one man who probably knows a little bit more than your average bloke down the pub. Why? Because he’s played in a World Cup with David Beckham, he’s scored a goal against Brazil, and he’s also one of WWF’s Ambassadors. It is of course ex-England and Chelsea footballer turned conservationist Graeme Le Saux.

He might not be pulling on his football shirt and unhanging his boots, but I did manage to grab a coffee and a few ‘keepy uppies’ with Graeme in his garden last week to talk about the World Cup.

What are your favourite World Cup moments and why?

Graeme: “The first World Cup I remember was 1978 in Argentina. And by coincidence my wife is from Argentina, so that’s the one I remember the most.”

“The culture of football in South America is so strong and so important. That’s not to say that it’s not important here, but it is part of their general culture. Football really lifts that nation, and the spirit of that World Cup in 1978 with all the ticker tape and the great players, for a ten year old boy that was just mind blowing. It made me feel like I wanted to be a football player even more than I did already.”

“If you fast forward to 1998 when I actually got to play in a World Cup and play against Argentina, although we got knocked out against them and it was pretty devastating, it sort of completed that circle for me.”

“The World Cup has a lot of memories for everyone, and particularly if you like football. But most certainly if you’ve made a career out of football, it’s certainly the pinnacle.”

Graeme Le Saux and a panda mascot at a WWF eventWhat are your favourite World Cup goals?

Graeme: “There are so many. I think David Platt against Belgium was a fantastic goal – one of the classics. Socrates’ goal for Brazil during the 1982 World Cup as well.”

“The thing with tournaments is you just want to see players using it as a stage or platform to show how good they are. And there have been some stunning goals in various tournaments. I also think Maradonna’s goal against England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, when he took on five England players, was an amazing goal.”

“I’ve spoken to some of the guys who played in that game. Peter Reid said they just couldn’t believe how awful the pitch was.  Obviously you can’t appreciate that when you’re watching on TV, but when you’re dribbling with the ball on a dry bobbly pitch, and it’s stuck to Maradonna’s foot like that, you then realise that this is another level of ability to be able to do that. It’s those individual goals that are so memorable from such great players.”

The Amazon – the main arena

With so many great memories of World Cup’s gone by, great players and great goals, it’s easy to forget the actual places where the World Cup’s have been hosted.

As all eyes this summer turn to South America and Brazil, there’s also another big topic on the agenda and that can be found very close to where the England team have set up camp in Manaus – the Amazon. Our resident expert, Head of Programmes for Brazil and Amazon – Damian Fleming – explains why the Amazon is vital to us.

“The World Cup in Brazil, and particularly England’s game against Italy in Manaus, presents us with a fantastic opportunity to highlight how amazing the Amazon is, and at the same time, reminding people of the threats it still faces.”

“Like Graeme, in the 80s and early 90s, we were told at school about the Amazon rainforest and the devastating rate of deforestation often described in the number of football pitches being lost every minute. Today, somehow, the plight of the Amazon feels somewhat less present in the lives of people in the UK.”

Arena-da-Amazônia,-Manaus © Jose Zamith de Oliveira FilhoArena-da-Amazônia,-Manaus © Jose Zamith de Oliveira Filho

The Amazon is amazing!

“The Amazon rainforest is the largest remaining rainforest in the world, containing over a third of the world’s remaining tropical rainforest.  The Amazon River is the world’s largest river system – with over 1,000 tributaries and in places over 30 miles wide. Yes, even wider than Chris Waddle’s penalty miss in 1990!”

“Its home to 10 percent of the entire world’s known species, and what’s amazing is that we are still finding new species all the time. Between 1999 and 2013, at least 1,641 new species of animals and plants were discovered in the Amazon, including a river dolphin, eight species of monkey and nine species of bats.”

The Amazon plays many crucial roles

“The Amazon is not just important for its size and species. Over 30 million people live there – including 2.7 million indigenous from over 350 ethnic groups. The Amazon is their home too and we need to make sure the right incentives are in place, so that they can use the forest in sustainable ways.”

Jau National Park, Amazonas © Juan Pratginestos / WWF-CanonJau National Park, Amazonas © Juan Pratginestos / WWF-Canon

“Our ties to the Amazon are closer than you might think. The forest performs a vital function in regulating the global climate and controlling levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen and rainfall. Deforestation globally is responsible for over 17 percent of global greenhouse emissions, so destruction of the forest will impact on our climate back home.”

Spread the word

“The stories of the Amazon’s vastness, beauty and richness of species need wider audiences. I hope that England’s game against Italy will bring three points for the three Lions but also provide an opportunity to get our point across to remind people in the UK of how amazing the Amazon really is.”

Tune in on 27 June for our next World Cup blog, when you can find out more about the current threats to the Amazon, what Graeme’s favourite memories of World Cup’s are as a player, and who he thinks England’s all time best left back is…him, or someone else?

What did you think of our first World Cup blog? Leave us a comment.

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