Brazil – A country divided by the World Cup.


Brazil is nowadays the centre of the world; the South American country, which is the biggest and both most populated and important of the area, hosts the FIFA 2014 World Cup for the second time in its history after organizing the 1950 tournament. It is also the first time in the area since 1978, when it took place in the neighbouring country of Argentina. The World Cup is the most important football competition in the world and will face 32 national teams from 5 different continents, which will fight to get to the final at Rio de Janeiro.

The reality is that Brazil does not appear on worldwide news because of a brilliant organization or because of the enthusiasm and acceptance of Brazilians, despite the country is worldwide known as “the land of football”. It is on the news mostly because of the opposite: there are numerous antigovernment protests and strikes almost every day in all the largest cities of the country, mainly in Rio and Sao Paulo, demanding so many different things.

Because of this worldwide attention that both the event and the hosting country are receiving, I decided to focus on its society and the division of opinions regarding the World Cup for this interview, so someone better than a Brazilian who has experienced the protests on his own city? The person in question was Thiago Lopes, a 22 years old student of International Relations, as me, at the Brazilian north-eastern city of Natal, which is one of the twelve hosting cities of the tournament.

Thiago

Thiago at the “Christ the Redeemer”, which has become an icon of Brazil.

I started asking him about the opinion of the society regarding the World Cup. He told me that at the beginning, when Brazil was elected to host the event in 2007 everyone was extremely happy about it, but of course things have changed; “All my friends are now against it. I honestly think there are more people hating it than liking it but after the World Cup really starts, people will be happier and will accept it because of our passion for football.”

But the truth is that the World Cup has started and there are still lots of people on the streets. That was our next step on the interview; the protests. “In 2013, with the Confederations Cup, we had the biggest protests in Brazil. In my city, Natal, people took control of various kilometres of streets until the end of the day – literally the whole city was there, screaming and complaining about several things at once: the World Cup, the politicians, the hospitals, the education… But after that, the protests decreased day by day because it began to be just a mess.” And that’s the truth, it became a completely mess because of the huge amount of things people started to complain about, as Thiago told me later: “Everybody protest together: I’m protesting against the World Cup, the person next to me is protesting for a better minimum salary, another one against politicians or improvements in hospitals and schools…That’s why it doesn’t work, they don’t focus on one aspect.”

Then we moved to the organization of the World Cup and the role played by both the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football in English) and the Government leaded by Dilma Rousseff. “Who does the World Cup benefit?” That’s the question many Brazilians ask themselves, so I did it to Thiago and he told me that three were the most favoured by the event: “it benefits politicians, FIFA and the tourism sector. The first one stole a lot of money during those days as it is a very corrupted state. FIFA is taking the control of the country without paying anything because we the Brazilians put the money. At the same time they are constantly making requirements that the country has to follow or they will cancel the whole thing, they are even closing some streets and of course they are the ones taking most of the money from tickets and merchandising. The last one, the tourism sector is taking advantage of it by disproportionately rising prices during the World Cup.”

So, those three were the ones pointed out by protesters, but mainly the Government of the country, that made lots of promises to Brazilians which most of them haven’t turned into reality, because as Thiago pointed out, they are still building many of the infrastructures, even the inaugural stadium at Sao Paulo; “they have built giant stadiums and airports, but honestly after the World Cup we won’t have a reason to use them. In my city, Natal, we used to have an airport just 15 minutes by driving and the new one is one hour away and located in an unsafe place. They even promised metros in every capital hosting the event but of course, that never happened.”

I wanted to finish the interview by asking about the repercussion of protests surrounding the World Cup on the image of Brazil, because at least before matches started it didn’t seem to lead to a positive one. Thiago consulted one of his economy teachers and they both thought that “Brazil is probably going to break this year because of the World Cup, we spent a lot of money and now everything is more expensive in comparison to last year: food, gas, public transport… Even my rent has increased and when I asked why so, the answer I got was – it is because of the World Cup.

The interview made me better realize how difficult is to organize a huge event like this one in a divided country as Brazil; but will the passion of Brazilians for football, almost considered a religion, make the World Cup a success for the country? To the contrary, will the huge protests of last year be repeated in an even bigger dimension? Just time will tell, but for sure, the whole world will centre its attention on one place, and that place is Brazil.

-Of course, I thank Thiago again for the interview–

Gonzalo Miró Martín

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