Rioting in Brasil

6 minute read

For those who don't already know, Brasil is the hosting nation of this year's World Cup. In today's semi-finals round between Brasil and Germany, and to everyone's surprise, the #3 ranked nation in football(Brasil) was routed by Germany(ranked #2) in a 5-0 game at half time(final score was an embarrassing 7-1). This game took headlines all over the world as a huge upset, since almost everyone had betted on Brasil winning, including major statisticians, economists, and the infamous banking firm, Goldman Sachs. So much for that.

What is still not quite making headlines, however, is the rampant corruption, poverty, and human rights violations that have been occurring in Brasil; this includes all the years  following up to the 2014 FIFA© World Cup™. Hopefully after this awful defeat the middle and upper classes of Brasil will begin to realize the immense costs their nation payed to host a World Cup. They lost. And on top of all of the things Brasil could have put money into that would have actually helped the country's welfare.

Growing Pains

When it was announced on October 30th of 2007 that Brasil would be hosting the 2014 cup, a lot of people challenged the proposal and the challenges are very justified. Brasil ranks among the lowest in the world for both income equality and government accountability. Brasil is a country with a lot of problems. It was only one year ago that we saw mass protests all over the country, where people were (rightfully) upset that their government was spending so much public money on a World Cup. For weeks, over 1 million people took to the streets all over Brasil, and in the process faced harsh oppression from the police.

How on Earth could FIFA justify allowing Brasil, a country with severe problems, to host a World Cup it was not ready for? We're talking about the same developing country with roughly 10% of the population living on $2 dollars or less a day. The same country that has over 11.4 million people living in favelas(slums), a number greater than the population of Portugal.  Luckily, the living conditions of these favelas are not universal in standard. Some are better than others, and many have access to basic utilities. Nevertheless, many still have no electricity, running water, or adequate access to transportation. These slums effectively become living Hell for their tenants, and gang activity only makes matters worse.  The reality is that people are starving, homeless, uneducated, and without escape. Yet the government has decided that funding a sporting project was of greater importance than its own people.

A mural by Brasilian artist Paulo Ito protesting the perverse reality of funding the world cup, Source:

Brasil is plagued by the standard ailments of a developing country, but as the world's 6th largest economy, you'd think the government would know what needs to be prioritized. Ironically, the World Cup has exacerbated many of the social problems in Brasil, such as cramped housing.

Another severe problem in Brasil is its child sex trafficking. Indeed, child sex trafficking is having a boom in business due to the large influx of foreign tourists, who are visiting Brasil not just for the 'Beautiful Game.' Children as young as 10 years old are selling themselves willingly, or forcibly by pimps, for as little as $2.00. What's even worse is the police in Brasil are notorious for turning a blind eye to such activity. It is no surprise that in a country where it's hard to get the money necessary to eat and live, people are driven to desperate measures.

[caption id="attachment_506" align="aligncenter" width="700"]A campaign to raise awareness to human trafficking in Brazil (in the sign you can read "How much is your silence worth?) - credits to

No wonder there is outrage. The financing of the Fifa© World Cup™ in Brasil has seen the government throw roughly $11.3 billion to build all the necessary infrastructure to host the cup this year. As a result, Brasil's 2014 World Cup is the most expensive of all time. Best of all, it's not done yet, as Brasil is set to host the 2016 World Olympics as well. The costs of this are not limited to capital, but time after time has seen the forced eviction of slum tenants to make room for new stadiums and related infrastructure.

In order to ensure the World Cup goes without interruption, excessive military and police force has been used to 'clean' nearby areas. Just as favelas have been evicted for construction purposes, raids on neighborhoods near World Cup areas have been under constant government surveillance and control. Rather than fix the actual problems of course, the Brasilian government has decided on suppressing anything that could go wrong until the celebration ends. In other words, full on military occupations are occurring in troubled areas during the World Cup. All of this is being done in face of the huge societal problems plaguing Brasil. For the government, issues such as homelessness, poverty, child sex trafficking, and starvation are all taking the backseat. All are back burner problems in comparison to the main dish, the World Cup.

Police "pacify" a favela ahead of the World Cup. Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Empty Promises

There is absolutely no reason why Brasil should have hosted the world cup. As an excuse, the Brasilian government and its supporters have parroted the claim that such activities bring in a huge amount of wealth for the host nation. Such notions have been empirically disproven, especially with South Africa's own World Cup in 2010. The promises of revitalized public infrastructure in Brasil were never kept, meaning any real gains for the future will not happen. Over a fifth of the projects were dropped in their entirety. This is not a World Cup for the people. This is a World Cup for the wealthy elite of Brasil and around the world. Politicians and private firms are reaping immense profits from countless construction projects necessary for the games. Firms are donating huge sums of money to political campaigns just to get the rights to lucrative contracts.

The World Cup in Brasil is a classic example of the rich getting richer. The top 10% of Brasil control over 50% of the wealth in the nation, and FIFA and fellow sponsors(McDonald's, Budweiser, Adidas, etc) are tax exempt in the area. In fact, the law allowing said tax exemptions is more than questionably unconstitutional in Brasil. It allows for designated commercial zones around the arenas to be under FIFA control, not Brasilian, as well as making the companies tax exempt until 2015. In case it's not obvious, the time frame is well pass the World Cup and would logically negate any immediate benefits. This really shouldn't be a surprise, since FIFA is notorious for corruption. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is being built with what is basically slave labor, but FIFA didn't let such risks stop them from choosing Qatar. Claims of bribes and kickbacks are plenty. With everything laid out before us, it becomes obvious who the World Cup is for.

Protests over FIFA prior to the Cup Source: Davi Pinheiro/Reuters

Sadly, for as much outrage as there already is over the 2014 World Cup, it simply just isn't enough. Even a streaker who managed to make it on field during the game didn't manage to get his message out. Everyone was quick to criticize him for interrupting the play, but almost no one mentioned that his t-shirt read "#SaveFavelasChildren." He admitted he did it both for fun and activism, but the point remains; despite everything that is wrong with Brasil hosting this World Cup, no one cares enough to really speak out against it. No national team has questioned the problem, much thanks to FIFA's dictatorship like control of football. Additionally, no one wants to see such a cherished tradition go away. Until the gall to go against such comforts is found, those in Brasil will be without a voice. Today Germany ran riot in Brasil, but many more are needed by the Brasilian people before the problems of the 2014 World Cup can be resolved.

See Also:

Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me: FIFA’s Powerful Distraction
FIFA – Flawed Incompetent Fútbol Association
World Cup Fever in the Favelas