17 March 2014
Brazil is facing major challenges. Violent public protests, an aggressive police crackdown, and infrastructure failures show a nation at times limping towards the 2014 FIFA World Cup 12 June kick-off in Sao Paulo.
Among the thousands of ticket holders heading to this year’s Soccer World Cup in Brazil are those who likely have no clue what to expect of South America’s biggest country. Soccer fans focusing only on stadium action will not be disappointed with 64 matches on show. As the Museum of Football in Sao Paulo puts it, a “football tree was planted in Brazil and has produced some of the greatest players ever”.
Brazil will in all likelihood pull off the month-long tournament for FIFA, while the latter laughs all the way to the bank, leaving yet another southern hemisphere country with large sums of debt and useless stadiums.
In 2010, South Africa spent billions on a tournament which arguably failed to deliver on its economic promises. It now appears, the event was riddled with corruption as, in one known example, construction companies acquired contracts to build stadiums via dubious buisness practices.
Back in Brazil, the situation is not much different. Both BRICS – an acronym for the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa alliance – nations are considered to be developing countries, with divisive social inequalities, racial discrimination and governments struggling to deliver on basic needs for citizens.
FIFA has confirmed most tournament tickets have been sold to Brazilians, while the majority of international ticket sales went to English speaking countries: America, Australia and England.
Soccer fans are in for a surprise if they thought the cost of goods in Brazil was cheap. Brazil is the most expensive country in the region. Using an international pop culture staple such as a McDonald’s meal, indicates the price jump — double South Africa.
Another price jump is if you need to see a doctor, so the soccer fan should pack medical insurance. A doctor’s consultation at a private health care facility cost this journalist R1,500. Medication too was pricey.
In late November 2013, there were concerns about the construction of stadiums after a fixture on the Sao Paulo stadium crashed. Protests have ensued for months across Brazil. In the tourist-hyped Rio de Janeiro, local police this year launched a tear gas attack on forty families in informal settlements to clean up the area around that city’s stadium.
Protests late last year, revealed discontent with corruption around the stadium construction too. Government officials in Sao Paulo confirmed in an interview with this journalist the city’s stadium would be privately owned, but the city would assist with financing its construction.
Protesters have demanded that their government direct funds away from stadiums and take care of what matters most to them: basic services like healthcare, education and housing for the poor.
Brazil hit by riots ahead of the World Cup. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien.
A R2,3-billion stadium built in Manaus, in the Amazonas region, is meanwhile being considered for use as a prison holding cell after the soccer tournament. It has been reported that the 44,000-seater Arena da Amazonia stadium could be used to house temporary prisoners. The Raimundo Vidal Pessoa prison can hold only up to 300 awaiting trial prisoners and needs the capacity to house at least 1,000.
This stadium, according to FIFA, is being built in a city near the Amazon River, which is “not a traditional hotbed of Brazilian football”. Some locals have been outraged at this decision, as the stadium will be used for only four matches.
One Brazilian protester, Danilo Luís Faria, went so far as to plead, “The only thing we can ask is: don’t come for the World Cup. Just don’t. Let it be a fiasco. Spread the word. We can’t stand this kind of abuse.”
Soccer fans ought to pack an awareness of the social inequalities that fuel the country’s gang system and violent crime.
So this is the backdrop to Fifa’s “carnival of football”. It sounds very similar to South Africa, except the issues feel more overwhelming in a country of 191 million people.
Kamaldien’s documentary film ‘Imagina na Copa’ which focuses on protests against the Soccer World Cup in Brazil will launch in Cape Town on April 9. It highlights the alleged evictions from favelas, which the government denies, to clear areas of Rio de Janeiro ahead of the Soccer World Cup.
To contact the author and filmmaker send an email to yazeedkamaldien [at] yahoo.com.