The World Cup is an amazing event, and the world is literally watching every second, every game, in the hope that their nation team does well, including mine. I have been entranced by the action in the early hours of the morning in the comfort of my own home, but not without some regret and guilt. I say this because for such a proud nation with an extraordinary legacy associated with football, not everyone in Brazil is pleased to have the World Cup circus in their country.
The cost of staging such a global juggernaut that is the World Cup is unbelievably expensive and many believe this money should have been spent elsewhere. Anti-World Cup demonstrations picked up a gear last year, but it seems to have climaxed these last few weeks leading up to the tournament. Furthermore, the crackdown that has followed on protesters and striking workers in Brazil’s main cities has been controversial. Officials and police have been severe in their reaction to these groups, which has been highlighted around the world for quite some time. If the Brazilian government thought this was a situation that would disappear at the commencement of the tournament, they were sorely mistaken. However, stranger things have happened. (Only the other day I read that the world is forgetting the plight of the average Brazilian as the highest scoring World Cup opening, not seen since the 1950’s, wins over the media and fans.)
Some say that the policies or measures carried out by the military police to clean up Brazil, in particular, the so-called crime-ridden slums is clearly uncalled for. Though, there does seem to be some success on the war against drugs, but it doesn’t matter what we think, it only matters what the people of Brazil think? Brazilians want to feel safe in their neighborhoods, especially amongst those growing poor populations, where entire families living in shanty towns survive on less than a dollar a day. If Brazilians could only rid themselves of crime and drug lords, that has embedded itself so deeply into their daily life, would they not be better off ? It is pie in the sky stuff, but there has to be hope. Right ?
Images of the streets of Brazil being safe and joyous are scenes that the Brazilian government wants the world to see and believe, even though their own people have a hard time swallowing that bitter pill. The World Cup in many ways is being held to ransom by both sides for their own gains. The authorities are trying to make the population conform, often using strong-arm tactics, while those disheartened and rightly so, are protesting and creating dissidence to highlight their concerns over public safety, police violence and national sovereignty.
I am torn between my love for football and the plight of those angry and voicing their concerns over big picture issues like health care, education and building and infrastructure projects that are really needed in their cities and rural centres. How can teachers, for instance, in cities like Rio, have any chance of calling for better pay and working conditions, when the success of the World Cup is paramount ? Striking that balance between spending money where it counts and hosting a once in a lifetime event will always weighed heavily in the favor of big budget theatrics and the global dollar. I don’t like it. Unfortunately, that’s just how it works.
I fear for the average Brazilian in the streets, who in the end will be left with an unimaginable bill for millions, if not, billions of dollars. The shadow of those giant stadiums will be a reminder to all Brazilians the price they had to pay in the years ahead. I know I am being a cynic and maybe I am not qualified to comment. But that’s how I feel today. Tomorrow I don’t know, lets wait and see.