Brazil’s message to international mega sport cuts deep

world-cupIt is 2014 and the Football World Cup is set in Brazil, known to the global sports community as the place where the sport of football is akin to a religion.
Having been overwhelmingly accorded the right to host the football world some years ago it seemed only fitting that the expectations within the sport’s fraternity would be that the event would prove a major spectacle, especially with the host nation seeking an unprecedented sixth lien on the treasured World Cup title.
In a sense, the expectations were all pointing in the direction of immense success. Few, if any, gave consideration to the people of Brazil and their daily economic and social realities. To many, it was only necessary to mention the word, football, and all shall be well.
Confederations Cup
In 2013, Brazil played host to the Confederations Cup, major international football spectacle. Expectations were high that the host nation would use the event as an opportunity to showcase its preparations in all aspects for the World Cup scheduled for one year later.
The world governing body and the host national sport body could not believe the reaction of a relatively large segment of the Brazilian population when the protests began.
The protesters began their long haul over the increase in bus fares in Sao Paulo. This was but the tip of the iceberg.
Before long the protesters linked other issues such as the spiralling cost of living, low wages, crime, poverty, unemployment, the declining quality of social services and the cost of tickets to the Confederations Cup, to name a few.
The protests at the Confederations Cup was a hint to all of Brazil that something was wrong socially and economically and that the people were serious about the issue of a critical fact, the cost of hosting the FIFA World Cup one year later and the stark contrast with the conditions under which an ever-increasing number of Brazilians lived.
In a football mad country, for the very first time, the Brazilian team was exposed to the wrath of their own people.
Jenny Barchfield of Associated Press wrote on 30 June 2013…More than 5,000 anti-government protestors marched Sunday near the Maracana stadium before the Confederations Cup final, venting their anger about the billions of dollars the Brazilian government is spending on major sporting events rather than public services. 
About half an hour before the match started, clashes between police and some of the protestors who massed at security blockades broke out, with some hurling rocks at authorities who responded with tear gas and shock grenades
Though smaller in size, the march was the latest in a wave of protests that has spread across this country in recent weeks. Many are describing the protest movement as the biggest seen here in decades, with more than a million people having taken to the streets nationwide on the night of June 20 ( 
The critical issue was that this protest took place at the same time as the final of the Confederations Cup where the host country was about to win and bring honour and glory to the populace.
The conditions under which Brazilians were living had come to mean more to them than football glory.
It did not matter that the protests were making global headlines. Indeed, the protesters increasingly relished the international media coverage hopeful that it would somehow positively impact their cause at home.
James Montague writing for CNN on 19 June 2013 stated… The anger was such that, even in a country often caricatured for its deification of soccer, the World Cup, its surrogate cousin the Confederations Cup and the game’s global governing body FIFA, have all become symbolic of corruption and waste.
Protesters believe the tournament has seen the rich line their pockets, while the poor make do with crumbling public services. The World Cup, it seems, has sparked something that has lain dormant for a long time.
Important to note is the perception of the people already struck by their own socioeconomic circumstance.
The world has changed. Poverty is hell. Poverty is a crime against humanity.
World Cup 2014
Perhaps FIFA and the Brazilian football authorities were not listening attentively enough when Tainara Freitas, a teacher in the protests against the Confederations Cup, said, Tonight this is about all of Brazil, we are moving against corruption. We have been suffering for too many years… And this year we rise. We have woken up. We are on the streets like in Turkey and Greece. They have made us wake up about this. The World Cup in Brazil is about too much money. There are too many poor people suffering. The World Cup isn’t good for Brazil. It will bring tourists and money but this is not good for poor people.
It was some time later before FIFA became very concerned about the economic situation in Brazil but seemingly only in its own interest. The international sport body came across as more concerned about the country meeting established deadlines for the completion of competition venues than about the economic impact of the heavy expenses to host the grand event in the midst of increasing awareness amongst Brazilians over the state of the national economy.
Perhaps FIFA itself was caught up in the delusion that the sport was so popular in Brazil and indeed across the world that once it began everything would be cast aside, at least until the conclusion of the World Cup.
Sadly, FIFA, the local Football Federation and the government all gambled wrong. The protestors got much better organised and were insistent that their protests would be ignored at the peril of those in authority. They did no relent.
The situation in Brazil was not helped by the fact that the construction work fell behind and one accident occurred after another. The foregoing only added fuel to the fire burning in the hearts of the angry protestors.
As far as the protestors were concerned the authorities were too busy to address their concerns and therefore opted to make the FIFA World Cup a major international showpiece of how Brazilians are now prepared to respond to what they have perceived to be corruption at its best.
FIFA’s own internal problems did not help. The several revelations on the Bin Hamman issue that resulted in him being banned for life, the documentation in the Trinidad Express of Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, including his association with Bin Hamman and the disbursements of monies to CONCACAF members at a hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and the recent rise to prominence of the award of the World Cup 2022 to Qatar, all assumed greater importance.
As the Brazilian football team boarded the buses to leave for their Pre World Cup Training Camp the protestors surrounded them and chanted. They again highlighted their plight.
When the team arrived at the Camp, the protestors were waiting for them and again took the opportunity o raise their concerns.
This was Brazil, playing at home and the protestors would not let up.
On the opening day of the World Cup even as the sport world was being treated to the cultural package and the game between Brazil and Croatia, there were protests in Sao Paulo, Bela Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and several other cities.
The day after Brazil won its first game there were approximately one million protesters spread across several cities in Brazil with more workers joining the protests.
This is Brazil hosting the FIFA World Cup.
Brazil in the World Cup
Perhaps Brazil’s performances in the current FIFA World Cup can in part be explained by the immense pressures they face at home.
Always perceived as a threat to the very best in the sport of football, Brazil’s brilliance in the Confederations Cup now seems so very distant.
Sport psychologists are very adept at pointing to the several factors that impact the performances of elite athletes. The average football fan unfortunately has not time for such niceties. As far as the average fan is concerned football is what happens in the middle. Mention of critical psychological pressure has nothing to do with performance.
This is of course a major fallacy.
The conditions under which the Brazilian team have to play has everything to do with their performances. The players are Brazilians and it is their family, friends and football fans who have been in the streets and continue to be there protesting against the country’s hosting the World Cup.
They cannot be immune to the fact that one protester was killed by someone desirous of breaking up the protests by driving his vehicle through the crowd of protestors in one State.
If FIFA wishes to be immune to the demonstrations the Brazilian players certainly cannot make the same claim.
Mexico, a team that defeated the Brazilians in the final of the Olympic Game sin London in 2012, held the team to a nil-nil draw on Tuesday last much to the chagrin of those with high expectations of the Brazilians.
To the protesting Brazilians however the draw may well be seen as justice at work. They may feel that it is just reward for the authorities’ callous disregard for the causes they espouse and which will keep them on the streets for a very long time to come.
The Olympic Games are due to be held in Brazil in two years time. Once the World Cup is finished the protestors would train their sights on this global sporting spectacle. Those who ignore this do so at their peril.
The international sport movement must understand that things happen in waves.
In the Caribbean in the 1930, without the fanciful communications technology of today a wave of protests struck several English-speaking colonies that became known as the Labour Riots of the 1930s.
In the 1970s Black Power protests swept several countries in sequence.
We witnessed the protests that swept several countries in Africa and the Middle East.
What has happened in Brazil sends an ominous sign to the international sport community that the governmental and sport authorities cannot ignore the socio economic conditions of a people.
While people are prepared to support global sport events these must be tempered by the socio economic realities under which the people of host nations live. It will only be a matter of time before people protesting issues such as have arisen attendant to the Confederations Cup and FIFA World Cup will find supporters in other countries.
Organisers of Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and such mega sporting events must rethink developments taking place.
The world today is a very different place and people are not prepared to have their socio economic conditions ignored to the point where they can identify corruption and waste being given preference over their own lives and that of future generations.
Sport authorities and governments must take time to listen to the will of the people.