Ruthless Opportunism Betrays Brazil’s Beautiful Game

EspañolBy Eduardo Britto

The world knows well how passionate Brazilians are about football. The sport is not only my country’s national pastime, it’s our international pride. The Brazilian national football team has won more World Cups than any other country in FIFA history, which would lead one to expect Brazilians to be ecstatic that our nation is hosting the games for the first time since 1950.

Instead, as the tournament enters its second round, the atmosphere in my country is one of disappointment, sadness, anger, and revolt. In a country where over 50,000 people are murdered every year; where people die in public-hospital queues waiting for medical care; and where the quality of public education is one of the worst on the planet; it is unreasonable to expect people to forget all these issues for a short summer and instead focus on a sporting event. The Brazilian government has spent US$11.3 billion to host the World Cup — the biggest sum in the tournament’s history — despite the fact that Brazilians live in indescribable chaos.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have hit the streets in recent months, protesting against the event. Admittedly, most of the demonstrations have had no clear agenda, which is quite understandable, considering what an overwhelming waste the tournament has proved to be. It is difficult for demonstrators to determine what they should stand for or fight against, considering how unreceptive the government is, as it has pushed the World Cup forward over the past few years against the will of the people. Many are calling for improvements in infrastructure, health-care services, education, safety, transportation, and government transparency. However, Brazil’s problems are so numerous that most citizens are desperate for any sort of change.

Brazilians are disgusted that our national sport is being warped into a political ploy. The ruling Workers’ Party has seized the World Cup as an opportunity to broadcast a good image of Brazil internationally and rally support domestically for its regime in the upcoming October election. Fortunately, the massive protests serve as strong proof that Brazilians are seeing through the government’s false face.

Despite the romantic picture the Workers’ Party is painting for the international community about Brazil’s growth, my country’s GDP growth has plummeted over the past few years from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 0.9 percent in 2012. Industrial production has contracted massively as well. Last December, Brazil experienced the biggest contraction since the worldwide financial crisis of 2008. While the Workers’ Party has led the country through some of its greatest growth spurts in modern history over its 12-year reign, an expensive World Cup may not be enough to placate the people in October’s election.

Most outrageously, the government has bent over backwards to give in to FIFA’s outrageous demands to host the games. It even went so far as to evict over 250,000 people from their homes to make way for new stadiums and public works related to the World Cup. Many of these families had no prior notice and were given no reparations for the destruction of their homes, crushing the spirits of people struggling to survive in an already destitute environment.

With this reality in mind, it is sadly understandable why the Brazilian people, who are renowned for their football fandom, are so pessimistic about the World Cup. The sport that so many Brazilians worship like a religion has suddenly been diminished because of government incompetence and a lack of empathy toward the people’s needs. It is a tragedy of colossal scale, not just of foreign policy but of the Brazilian people’s national heritage.

Eduardo Britto is a law student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

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