What the Protesting Brazilians Learnt from Their BRICS Compatriots
The legendary Pele got an earful from the hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets of Brazil who refused to heed his appeal to “forget” the protests and support the national football team. Unthinkable as it is, does it indicate that popular protests have finally overcome their inability to challenge the sporting mega event, that the modern-day “circus” is now seen for what it is: a scam of massive proportions?
This article was published last week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website. This article is the expanded and revised version of what appeared on the Quartz.com website, http://qz.com/98428/deceit-fraudand- fi rst-world-problems-brics-graduated-tothe- sports-big-leagues-and-now-regret-it/
On the night Brazil beat current world champions Spain to win the Confederations Cup football final, Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari was asked a loaded question. About what it was like playing football at a time Brazil was shaken by street protests, some violent, against institutional corruption and lopsided public expenditure. Scolari responded with fury. “Not my area”, he said and, after asking the journalist if he was English (which he was) barked, “So what happened before the Olympics over there? Maybe you want to take a look at your own country before saying there’s something wrong with mine.”
The Confederations Cup victory aside, June 2013 will go down as the winter of Brazil’s discontent, sweeping along in the heart of its anger, football and the Rio Olympic Games of 2016, the two events expected to pitch-fork the country into global acclaim. These two Brazilian sporting showpieces, the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have, however, turned into something else.
Putting Futebol in Its Place
A crowd of 5,000-odd that protested near the Maracana Stadium on the night of the Confederations Cup final, was drowned out by cheering fans and street parties that followed the victory. The days leading up to the final, though, had been different: 50,000 clashed with police a few miles from the stadium in Belo Horizonte where Brazil and Uruguay were playing their semi-final. In the capital Brasilia, there were peaceful yet more symbolic protests on the day, where the crowds kicked footballs over a police cordon towards the Brazilian parliament, the Congress.
Scolari’s churlish reply about the London Olympics and “not my area” was his instant retort following his team’s emphatic and impressive win. Until that, Brazil’s players had been far more sympathetic to the protestors with its rising star Neymar, saying in his Instagram microblog, “I want a Brazil that is fair and safe and healthier and more honest”. Once the flush of the Confederations Cup victory has died down (along with Scolari’s anger), the questions asked by Brazilians throughout June are bound to return. The first protest had centred around bus and metro fare hikes in Sao Paulo, but in the space of three weeks, the outcry around the country grew over failing social services, rampant corruption and misplaced expenditure. The crowds grew from tens of thousands to those totalling a million-strong on 20 June in many cities, with the World Cup and the Olympics turning into symbols of everything wrong with the government and the country’s elite. Continue reading