With the soccer fever at its peak, Brazil the 5th largest country in the world and the largest in South America hosting the mega event, is experiencing disapproval for spending so much money on the sports extravaganza sidelining major priorities like health, education and housing for the Brazilian people.
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My fascination for this country is not new. It was the first country I traveled to when I was 18 years old. Experiencing the rich culture, the diversity it has to offer, the beats of samba and bossa nova, the magnificent beaches unfolding secrets of the country, Brazil did come a long way after years of colonization and military dictatorships.
Luckily I had an opportunity to visit Brazil again after six long years and to be honest I was welcomed just as before. I felt as if I have returned to a place I knew so well whether it was sitting on Copacabana beach sipping the guarana, going for strolls in Rio or exploring Rio Grand du Sul. Having known little Portuguese I did manage to communicate with the locals and this is what I loved the most about that place. To me Brazil is the many loving people I came across during my visits, listening to their stories and seeing their smiles and resilience made me learn a lot from them.
To be honest seeing the protests on television made me feel terrible. I agree polar extremes exists everywhere but why the insane expenditures on a sporting event. All these governments talk about austerity at some point so why not in sports. Seeing the football nation not happy with “futebol” (football in Portuguese) this time was sad. Football is the religion of Brazilian people and you can see them playing everywhere, in the streets and on the beaches people from various segments of society come together to play. Brazil has won five FIFA World Cup titles hence becoming the most successful national team in the history of World Cup. Interestingly it is the only country that has taken part in all FIFA World Cups since 1930 scoring the most goals and with most wins in the history of competition. The favelas have produced some amazing soccer players and that is the spirit of sports. It brings nations and people together rejoicing in the victory and feeling sad about the defeat. But for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil it is more than that, there is revulsion and discontent seen in many people.
People protesting against the World Cup
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For the World Cup, Brazil has spared no expenses. For the month long competition there will be 64 matches held in 12 cities across Brazil. The cost incurred on refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones has cost 3.6 billion dollars. After the World Cup several of the new stadiums will be seldom used. If we look at the South Africa World Cup debacle, stadiums that cost a fortune are not being used as people can’t afford it. The displaced persons in South Africa are still struggling for housing. Countries when thinking about hosting such mega sports events should take into consideration their social and economic well being not giving in to corruption along with many organizations and multi nationals associated with it.
This World Cup is undoubtedly extremely costly for Brazil costing 62 million dollars on each match. Moreover displacing the poor, the Brazilian government is holding this event at the cost of unemployed, underemployed and neglected citizens.
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When talking about sustainable development the situation mentioned above does not convey the message of Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Ironic as it is the country hosting the UN Earth Summit, gathering various UN bodies to talk about Millennium Development and Sustainable Development Goals for the world did resign when it came to staging a short term show which was less about joy and more about profits favoring just a few. The nexus is clear; a portion of the billions spent on cosmetic projects could have cured the ills plaguing the country. Sadly the millions of tourists pouring billions of dollars into the nation’s economy and giving a blank check to the country’s Sports Minister will not benefit the communities that gave us Romario, Pele and Rivaldo nor will it help in improving the quality of life of millions of poor and working class of Brazil.
Now the question is when will the governments start thinking about the millions of poor people in the country and not just give importance to a few billionaires? The Brazilian government could have taken provisions that not only benefited the few billionaires but also the many homeless living in the streets, largely young protesters , coming from working class backgrounds instead of hiding them and their demands from the world’s gaze. Brazil doesn’t need to market itself to the world with a misleading image, thanks to the media these days. A country that promises fun and sun, carnival and sun kissed smiles personifying this beautiful South American nation cannot be hidden from the world anyway.
Photos Source: cartoon movement.com
I remember reading about the London Olympics in the year 1948 known as the real austerity Games. The government during that time was determined to do the Games on the cheap. Well despite the austerity and so called raggedness it was considered a success and did make profit too. Looking at the economic backdrop from that period we can spot similarities, a world economy in trouble, why certain measures can’t be taken that benefit the larger community especially the segments that suffer the most because of the excessive spending?
Besides the protesting youth the heroes of yesterday like Romaria and Rivaldo coming from humble beginnings to hoist the World Cup in 1994 and 2002 respectively also criticize the government’s exorbitant expenditures. For Romario serving as a congressman in Rio de Janeiro and a World Cup dissenter, the C.B.F (Brazilian soccer federation) is a “disgrace”. According to him corruption in football be it C.B.F or FIFA is the reason for all evil. Yes for all those people coming out in the streets with loud demonstrations, the World Cup is about donning the canary yellow outfit and cheering for their country rejoicing in the much loved game, for them it is not about multimillion dollar stadiums or being sidelined by the social, economic and political injustices.
While trying to get the views of my friends, most of them were just excited about the game, enjoying the reverie like myself. I have also put a facebook profile picture donning the yellow Brazilian T-Shirt. It is not that they are not for sports or for that matter soccer, the reason why most are unhappy is very clear.
“The overall Brazilians could never afford a FIFA ticket; small bars who would transmit the games have to pay absurd fees to FIFA, making it impossible to be done. In a nutshell, this is it. This world cup is not for us, at all, just for some rich alienated foreigners. The nations may be coming together, but at the cost of our blood and homes. If this is the price, I really rather to keep them apart and our children alive.”
“They could organize a real world cup, as will be done with the European championship soon. In several countries in stadiums that already exist, so that millions don’t have to be spent on stadiums as in Manaus, that is going to host, how many, 4 games?”
Rodolfo Pedro Sello
“A short term revenue generation /immediate job creating action through a FIFA World Cup vs a long term sustainable development through investment in health n education. You tell me what should be priority and a much more solid option?”
Taimur K Bandey
“General discourse has two general tendencies, these days: 1) Elitist and fewer representatives 2) Non-elitist and more representatives. You are right but for “bigger” picture you need to study about contemporary economic models, of how trillions are spent on defense and when it comes to giving shelter, governments cant find a penny, about how billions are spent in festivals and when it comes to improving social conditions of under-privileged, we can’t find a penny and so forth. It was not event specific. If a World Cup had to happen in Brazil, it should have catered for local sensitivities and address them instead of putting a superficial exhibit of billions lost in entertainment (for the privileged)”
Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi
The protests clearly demonstrate that this World Cup is not going to be a feast of national unity, putting on a temporary great show setting aside the grievances of many people. Sad to see that instead of becoming a feel good moment of national pride this event was commercially and politically exploited to a great extent.
So who should be held accountable? Definitely the ruling government blinded by the money pouring in for their personal good and these big corporations. FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is a non governmental organization founded in 1904. FIFA is responsible for administering the World Cup and other international competitions of international football. The organization located in Switzerland is marred with allegations and accusations of corruption and money laundering. FIFA is also criticized for its lack of accountability and transparency. Seeing the grievances of general public of hosting nations the accountability of FIFA matters when it comes to the business of football and governance of sports. Effective governance of such institutions is important and a matter of general public interest. It is interesting that the wealthy nations preach and talk about democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency but when it comes to practising these ideals we look for backroom deals.
Just to avoid similar sentiments in the future it is important to pay heed to where the problem lies and try to find a solution. It is not just about World Cup, when it comes to Olympics we see similar behavior filtering out the realities of life. The life of under privileged, we don’t consider important. Yes they are important only during the time of elections, when we beg for their votes, making false promises.
Time and again FIFA demonstrated that it has no fiscal, hierarchical, supervisory and public reputational accountability. Efforts to reform FIFA from within or as a consequence of public pressure, media and watchdog organizations can result in a positive change. Moreover as FIFA doesn’t fall under the relevant jurisdiction for corruption policing, accountability needs to be indirectly applied by national and international governments such as European Union or European Council. There should also be a legal accountability through regulation and enforcement of legislation on FIFA’s marketing partners. International Olympic Committee does set a precedent by showing the importance of multiple mechanisms of accountability working in harmony.
FIFA and the member organizations and confederations do have the ability to be an actual force in change. FIFA deals with more countries than the United Nations and interestingly these countries are more responsive to FIFA’s policy change than UN. With transparent and good governance in sports things might not look bleak as it look today.
A graffiti artist in Brazil
Photo Source: Google
As FIFA continues to make more money it is time that the demands of the protesters in the streets should be heard too. FIFA needs to be careful in this matter to avoid their legacy being tarnished. With the growing criticism all the people involved in this show can’t hide anymore behind the false do good publicity stunts.
We are not against sports, we never were. We are against the use of sports as a cudgel of putting an over the top, pompous show. Use of sports as a neoliberal Trojan horse is what we are against. We definitely don’t want capitalism to seep into the things we love including “futebol”. Count everyone in your celebration next time as everyone living on this planet wants to enjoy life.
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