Brazil’s national soccer team is the most successful team in the history of the FIFA World Cup. They’ve won five times and are one of only two teams to have won the tournament back-to-back. Brazil is the birth nation of arguably the best player that’s ever lived, Pelé, and the only team to play in every single World Cup since it’s beginning in 1930. All of this is impressive, but it’s not good enough for Brazil to pull off a successful hosting of the 2014 World Cup.
Burdened by protests, financial setbacks and building delays, the largest country in South America is struggling to meet the needs of this massive tournament. A large undertaking, they set out to establish stadiums in 12 cities across a country roughly the size of the continental United States.
As time goes on, the price tag for these large tournament events increases like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which cost $50 billion, and was the most expensive Olympics to date. Millions were invested into Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup and protests were started as an answer to the increase in public transportation costs. These protests grew to represent government corruption and unnecessary spending on things like soccer stadiums instead of hospitals or education, things Brazil desperately needs.
It is said that soccer is the sport of the people, but monetary advantages aren’t really seen on a soccer pitch. All you need is a ball and some people and you’ve got a game; by contrast American football requires expensive pads and helmets to be competitive. So if soccer is the people’s sport, one would just need to look at its people to see the success or failures of a soccer nation; and Brazil’s people have been shouting against the World Cup ever since Brazil won the bid in 2007. Graffiti has lined the streets, thousands of people have been evicted from their homes, and its citizens have taken to the best form of protest the digital age has to offer: social media. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram, all have depicted images from a poor and struggling Brazil unhappy with their government.
On Friday, World Soccer Talk received a booklet detailing the #CupofCups and why Brazil is the right choice for this world stage. It says quite a lot that this booklet was created by a PR agency representing the Brazilian government. The booklet outlines stadium costs and transportation spending, but does not outline the future of Brazil. Jobs were created to build these new stadiums, but at the cost of eight lives lost to finish the new structures. Airports were redone and are still yet to be finished, likely to remain mostly unused once the World Cup has been given to the champions.
Brazil hopes to launch Brazilian soccer into a new level of competition, but the attendance for the championship game of the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, also known as the country’s premier soccer league, was 14,951 this past season. Corinthians, one of the most financially successful teams in Brazil, had its highest home attendance at 39,361 for the 2013 season. Now with 12 brand new stadiums ranging from 38,359 to 78,838 seats, Brazil will continue to struggle with attendance issues for its own teams.
Some of the roughly $11 billion going into the World Cup has been invested in transportation, airports, telecommunications, ports, safety and tourism, hoping to ignite interest in people to visit the country after seeing it on TV. What I’m sure we won’t be seeing on TV is the struggles of the people who live there. The homeless of Brazil took to the streets Wednesday June 4 to protest the matches and blocked the roads leading to one of Sao Paulo’s main highways. Workers in Brazil are also promising more protests and strikes when the games start and traffic police went on strike June 5.
Although Brazil may be one of the favorites to win the World Cup, a golden trophy will not guarantee them financial and political success. There will likely be a larger divide between the upper class and lower class of Brazil, larger than what already exists. Although Brazil has guaranteed extra safety precautions for tourists and teams, they cannot control their citizens protesting the outrageous spending on an unnecessary tournament that will benefit those who stand to gain nothing but more money.
Unfortunately we must wait – wait to see how our favorite teams perform and wait to see how the people of this colorful and proud nation react to the global spotlight. We must wait to see how their government will react just like we wait for injury updates and match reports. For those of us not there experiencing Brazil 2014 in person, we must pay attention to not only what we see on TV, but also what we see online. Let’s not only watch #CupofCups, but #NãovaiterCopa as well.