TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
In Brazil today, the city of Salvador will host its final World Cup game as Costa Rica takes on the Netherlands. Fans attending the match can get an unusual treat, a local delicacy is for sale just outside the stadium. The story of how that came to be made well be more remarkable than the games outcome. NPR's Russell Lewis reports on a group of Brazilian women who took on the world's biggest soccer governing body and won.
RUSSEL LEWIS, BYLINE: On game day, Brazil's 12 World Cup stadiums are electric.
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LEWIS: The stadiums are all different, constructed to reflect the region. Natalâs arena has a wavy, beach-dune style. The stadium in Manaus looks like a woven basket, but inside you'd never know you're in Brazil. Budweiser is an official beer seller. Coke's got the soda market cornered. Other menu items include hot dogs, cheeseburgers and turkey sandwiches. It's almost impossible to find any Brazilian fare on the menu. FIFA puts on the World Cup. It's often criticized for its lavishness and high costs to stage the games - not to mention what's seen as its unwillingness to compromise, especially when protecting sponsors.
But then FIFA met Rita Santos and her passion. On any given day, she and her friends are here in this lovely part of Salvador called the Pelhourinho making the popular street food acaraje. She uses a large spoon to mash up beans, onions and salt to create a dough ball which is deep-fried. It's then sliced in half, slathered with a spicy pepper sauce and cashew paste and topped with shrimp. Acaraje was first brought to Brazil centuries ago by African slaves. Today, it's almost exclusively made by women notice by baianas who wear flowing, all-white cotton dresses and headscarves. For 60 years, the baianas sold acaraje at the old soccer stadium. So when FIFA told the women they couldn't sell acaraje within a mile of the new World Cup arena on game days, that didn't go over so well. Santos blames the Brazilian government for not standing up to FIFA.
RITA SANTOS: (Through translator) So they left it open for them to do what they wanted, for them to be able to take over Brazil and do whatever they thought should be done.
LEWIS: So the bainanas took control. They protested in the streets. Tens of thousands of people signed an online petition. FIFA, which is not known for compromise, eventually backed down. The organization allowed the baianas to sell acaraje in the fan-zone outside Salvador Stadium.
SANTOS: (Through translator) We showed that as black women, Baianas de acaraje, we are strong and that there are other battles we can fight and win as well.
LEWIS: Other World Cup cities in Brazil were emboldened by the victory. In Recife, local leaders got FIFA to allow the sale of their delicacy, a flat-pancake called tapioca. Elias Sampaio is an economist and serves on the state budget commission. He says the World Cup should showcase more local culture.
ELIAS SAMPAIO: I think it would be better - better than the situation now. If all of food in the arena would be our food our drinking, it would be very good.
LEWIS: And for Rita Santos, this may be the most important outcome of her fight with FIFA -that future host countries will speak up. She'll be watching to see what happens in Russia the 2018 World Cup. Russia Lewis, NPR News, Salvador, Brazil.
KEITH: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
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