This Friday, December 6, the World Cup draw will be broadcast across 193 countries. After the messy, convoluted chaos that has been leading up to the draw, FIFA and the World Cup Committee are sure to be glad the day is finally here. And of course, they hope that once the first ball is kicked into a goal in 2014, people will forget all the disasters, protests and deaths that led up to this international event.
Football in Brazil is famous around the world, but it is much more than sport on Brazilian soil. When the Brazilian protests hit last June, the words on everyone’s lips were, ‘Brazilians don’t just care about football anymore.’ But Brazilians have, of course, always cared about things in addition to sport – the difference is that decades of government misconduct has culminated in their loss of the ability to use football as a means of controlling the masses.
Outside of Brazil, these protests and general anger might seem like a passing fad, but it’s not. It’s historic. Before June 2013, people died because of street violence and general government neglect and no one hit the streets with protests signs.
When it was announced that Brazil would be the next World Cup host, the federal government celebrated. In an attempt to embezzle more money (in addition to the $160,000 federal congressmen bag every year, not counting benefits) they didn’t realize that they were mixing politics with their most effective control tool.
After years of neglect, the government was making movements to improve transport, security and tourism in general. Security has indeed improved in Rio de Janeiro city but that doesn’t change the fact that this improvement only happened because of the international event Brazil is hosting. There would be no pacified favelas if thousands of international football fans were not travelling to Rio next June.
This World Cup improvement policy also ensures that some areas, where tourists are unlikely to visit, will continue to be dangerous, decadent and neglected. And the building of structures to benefit the tourists has also resulted in thousands of people being removed from their own homes into subpar apartments (or forced into homelessness).
Last week two people died in the building of a new stadium for the World Cup. The deaths were the result of an accident, but they are now in the body count the preparation of this event has left behind. These include innocent people being hit by ‘pacifying’ bullets; mothers, fathers and babies who die in line for the hospital every day due to a decaying health system; the child thieves whose favelas have been pacified but have not been educated because of a lacking, underfunded public school system; the people in the slums who die because of the disgusting, subhuman state of their surroundings, where the water isn’t clean and people live in litter.
All the public money and the time used to prepare Brazil for the World Cup has set the country back. This time and money could have been used to improve lives in the long term, to nip security issues in the bud, to make a plan of what to do after pacifying the favelas, to educate our young so that the next generation treats football as entertainment, not as a distraction from real issues: education, security, public services and decent quality of life for all.
Will Brazilians enjoy the 2014 World Cup despite the exorbitant ticket prices that have further segregated race and class (which go hand in hand in Brazil)? There’s no doubt about it, and there will be cheers for Neymar and Felipão to win the Cup for the sixth time. But this time, make no mistake, there will also be cheers and protests outside of the stadiums, calling for a better life, a better government, a better country.