Friday, November 1, 2013

Civil struggles overshadow World Cup in Brazil

By: Kevin Noonan
Produced & Edited by: Daniel Medlock

In the nation of Brazil, soccer surpasses its designation as just a game. 

One cannot effectively examine the culture of Brazil without mentioning the role of soccer in society. Even a self-proclaimed “non-football fan” Camila Muniz from Salvador, Bahia, admits the social impact the game has on its citizens.

People in Brazil associate football with their own identity, a piece of their nationality,” Muniz said.

Neymar is seen as a national hero. 
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
“Soccer players like Ronaldinho and Neymar are almost seen as national heroes and many of the kids want to be just like them.”

Given this context, Brazil appears to be a perfect fit for the FIFA World Cup, right? Surprisingly, this question remains unanswered.

The Government's Big Lie

Since Brazil was announced as the host of the 2014 World Cup in 2007, the rights of Brazilian citizens have taken a backseat to funding the worldwide event.

The frustration of Brazilian citizens tends to be directed at the Brazilian government. Despite claiming the six new stadiums required for the World Cup will be funded by private means, the government has burdened its citizens by funding the construction of these venues with taxpayer money.

Milton Lima, an English teacher in Campinas, São Paulo, feels that the government has a level of deceptiveness, which has become commonplace in a nation rife with corruption.

Brazilians knew [funding would be public] all along. Even with the politicians saying that the stadiums would be privately funded, interiorly we knew that it wasn’t true and it was a lie,” Lima said. “I think this frustrating feeling among the citizens is increasing every day.”

Lima notes his frustration that Corinthians, a financially successful club in Brazil, which is located in São Paulo, is getting a new $200 million stadium without having to pay taxes on its construction.

A Nation on Edge

This spending led to protests during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The choice to fund venues without addressing major infrastructural issues such as transportation and education caused the people of Brazil to take to the streets.

Renan Bortoletto, a business control analyst based out of São Paulo, believes the protests have been a positive thing for the country.

“The protests are an example of the determination of Brazilians,” Bortoletto said. “We love our country and want the best for Brazil. This is why people are trying to change things here and this is the time, because everybody is looking at us.”

While the protests have led to some changes, such as increased salaries for teachers and doctors, Lima believes, “just enough was done to shut us up.’”

Rafael Ortiz Sanchez, an audio technician from Campinas, São Paulo, believes the protests were a good thing for Brazil in principle. However, the behavior of some protesters suggested citizens were not completely united in their cause.

“If the people protesting really cared about things being done right, Brazil would change,” Ortiz Sanchez said, “When I was in the middle of those people, I saw people who thought it was a party. Those people weren’t really thinking about the issues and some people were using the protests as a reason to be violent and break in to places just for fun.”

The protests have shown a violent side of the country that would certainly be a dark mark on FIFA and the World Cup. While violence has been prevalent at a local level for soccer clubs, both Lima and Ortiz Sanchez feel that violence will be a non-issue during the World Cup.

“We have some problems of course, in the past we had a lot, just because of the color of shirt that is being worn.” Lima said. “Today, of course it still happens, but I don’t think that it is something that is very relevant.”

“I don’t think there will be many problems, but it could happen," Ortiz Sanchez said. “If a small group finds another small group, that could start something.”

While Brazilians have a passion for soccer, perhaps their strongest passion lies in receiving fair treatment from their government. Lima’s opinion of his nation hosting the event has shifted since the announcement was made in 2007.

“My idea of the World Cup in Brazil has changed completely,” Lima said. “I had this hope that Brazil would have a once in a lifetime chance to change its infrastructure. I began to realize as time went on that I forgot how Brazilian politicians work here. Today, I have a completely opposite opinion than I did six years ago”

The Defining Hour

With less than 10 months remaining till the first match of the 2014 World Cup, more questions remained unanswered. Five of the World Cup Stadiums are behind schedule and Arena da Amazônia, a stadium being built in Manaus, Amazonas has been proposed to serve as a prison after the World Cup by The Amazonas Court of Justice.
Photo via

Among Brazilians, public opinion varies as to whether or not the World Cup will be a success for the country. Wendel Ozana, a production engineer based out of Campinas, São Paulo, believes that the event will be a success in Brazil.

“In my opinion, the World Cup will be much better than the Confederations Cup,” Ozana said. “This event will be perfect and Brazil will show to the rest of the world, a perfect organization and I expect it from the organization in Brazil.

Ortiz Sanchez, on the other hand, believes that the event might be a disappointment.

“We always hear about these stadiums and big soccer matches and the other World Cups. We have always heard about how these events are organized, secured and perfect,” Ortiz Sanchez said. “I don’t think Brazil is going to be so perfect. I think that the people who have experienced the World Cup in Europe and come to Brazil expecting those things will be disappointed.”

Although soccer is called “the beautiful game," protests and lack of infrastructure will likely be anything but beautiful for FIFA officials. 

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