Brazil and the World Cup: Beyond the Dreams of Victory

An ugly side emerges when the beautiful game comes to Brazil. Source: CDN



When Brazil was granted the right to host the FIFA World Cup in 2007, the government viewed the world’s most popular sporting event as the ideal opportunity to showcase the country’s rampant economic progress and confirm its status as an emerging global power. Millions across the nation were jubilant as the news broke, with the organizers claiming that the World Cup would bring an unprecedented amount of tourists and investment opportunities. More importantly, they claimed that the infrastructure projects demanded by FIFA to stage the tournament would bring about urban and social development. Interstate highways would be built, along with modern airports, subway lines, improved security and state of the art arenas worthy of the world’s best footballers.

With three weeks to go until the tournament kicks off, the optimism of 2007 has turned into spectacular disappointment for Brazilians. The government has spent over $13.5 billion on preparations, more than any other host nation in the World Cup’s history, and almost all infrastructure projects such as the bullet train that would connect Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro never left the sketching board. The new stadiums have suffered multiple delays and are comically overpriced, with the costs rising 263% above budgetary estimates.

The astronomical costs of hosting a month-long sporting event along with increasingly precarious public services took its toll in June 2013 when millions of Brazilians did what they had not done in almost 30 years; they went out into the street and protested. The June revolts obliterated the government’s illusion of social, economic and political stability across the nation. The people demanded explanations as to why so much of the taxpayer’s money has been spent on the World Cup while the country’s hospitals remain overcrowded and its schools remain empty.

Brazil has seen unrest and not joy in the build up to the World Cup. Source: Daily Mail

Since the June revolts, not a day has gone by when Brazilians were not protesting. Whether it is anarchists or teachers, whether it is the streets of Recife or in the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazilians have not been shy in voicing their objections. Citizens are no longer satisfied complaining about the government behind closed doors. In a country historically governed by political oligarchies, the people are no longer submissive towards its ruling elite. They are willing to go out into the streets and contribute to the democratic process in an active manner.

While a Brazilian victory in the tournament will go a long way towards securing President Dilma Rousseff’s reelection in October, the rhetoric that the current government can propel the country back to the staggering growth rates of the past decade looks increasingly flawed. The ruling Worker’s Party, in power since 2003, has massively contributed to curbing inequality and achieving fiscal stability. Nonetheless, it has also neglected investment in education and urban development for the sake of the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games. Economic development, which along with massive social welfare programs was responsible for taking 30 million people out of poverty between 2003-2010, has stalled. In 2013, Brazil saw a mere 2% GDP growth.

The country’s status as an emerging global power looks increasingly under threat unless new ideas and innovative policies are implemented. Unfortunately, hosting the World Cup has long ceased to be an honour and has turned into a burden not only for the government, which remains idle amidst growing popular unrest, but also for the people, forced to pay the tournament’s heavy costs. In a nation that is in a perpetual struggle to tap into its potential to become a great power, hosting the World Cup has only caused the struggle to intensify.

Protests in Brazil have lasted for months and with the Olympics coming soon, there might be no end in sight. Source: Business Insider

Consequentially, football matches will not be the only matter of attention during the World Cup. With Brazil in the spotlight, protests are expected to expand and it is vital that they are able to take place without repression and police brutality. The staging of the World Cup represents more than the opportunity to show Brazil’s true colors to the world; the empty promises and tarnished dreams of a beneficial hosting experience has shaken the country from its state of civic inaction. While a minority of protesters will focus on vandalizing public property, the majority of people out on the street have legitimate concerns that deserve to be taken seriously.

Even amidst the resentment surrounding the World Cup, Brazilians still dream that when the final whistle blows in the final on July 12, it will be Neymar and his teammates hoisting the trophy. However, Brazilians can also dream of a more just and equal society where the people are given priority over the staging of mega-sporting events. Only by protesting and incurring change at the grassroots level can such progress occur.

Gabriel Funari

Gabriel Funari

Associate Editor, Latin America at InPRA
Gabriel Funari  is a Brazilian by birth and an internationalist by circumstance. He has lived in the Netherlands, South Africa, Germany and the UK prior to attaining an International Studies degree at American University in Washington, DC. Passionate about Brazilian politics, Latin American regional integration, New Left movements and post-colonialism, he aspires to challenge conventional narratives surrounding international politics and seeks to contribute to the crucial issues of our times through vibrant dialogue and debate.
Gabriel Funari

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