BY STEVEN BELL
The lead up to a World Cup is a period where fans of the sport are filled with excitement and a child-like enthusiasm for a game; a game where nations compete in arguably the biggest competition in world sport.
The years leading up to this colossal event are filled with building up hopes and expectations as they soar to an unrealistic level; hopes which come with the apprehension of the nightmare scenario which could be beheld or the joyous dream option which many will pray for well in advance. All this adds to the sheer spectacle a country puts on for the fans and players, and no other country has a carnival reputation like Brazil.
However, in these modern times, it seems passion and zeal for the sport is not enough as money matters are playing a more important role than ever before. Brazil 2014 is not immune to this, and is possibly the most economically analysed World Cup in history.
Political, social or monetary economics, it doesnâ€™t matter. Brazil 2014 has been besieged with opinion, and at times scandal, for what has been described as â€œthe furthest behind of any host nationâ€ by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Perhaps the way the Brazilian Government are going about their business is the most unsettling, with evictions taking place in many favelas and seemingly little option for the evicted families. Naturally, this has led to many protests and violent outbursts tainting the image of the host nation. Last summer, the Confederations Cupâ€™s friendly, warm status was blemished with protests from around 1 million people complaining about the increased prices for public services and fewer of these services available to locals as the country placed all their attention on 2014â€™s World Cup; a World Cup which could encourage more of this behaviour.
This social unrest comes at a time where the financial implications can be seen by all and not just the residents of Brazilian cities and towns. A lot of this discontent is obvious to see; Brazil has an economy where the poor are becoming poorer due to inflation, yet millions of dollars are being put into new stadiums and infrastructure to house a sporting event. Of course, with an economist hat on it can be said that the economic benefits can far outweigh the cost over a period, but this is perhaps too easy to throw out there when the people cost is not taken into account. A great example of why looking at figures on paper can at times conceal underlying fact.
Over the past few years, the money in football has become more and more public and available to everyone. But there is a reason for this. The amount of money the game produces, and spends, is at an all-time high. Take this World Cup. If England never made it to Brazil, it has been estimated that the FA would have lost out on an estimated Â£50m; this would be made up of sponsorship, merchandising and potential tournament prize money. The wider economy would be affected, too, with pubs, airlines and bookmakers all losing out on the boost from a World Cup Campaign, as well as business like TV retailers and grocers to name but a few. We donâ€™t want accountants and economists running all tournament preparations of course, but the importance of this input in modern football is astounding.
Face-painted, colourful dancers cavorting in the streets, flags of all nations waving around the scorching days in Brazil with the samba music as the soundtrack; this is the image many had in mind for this World Cup. FIFA certainly did. Not political and social unrest with demonstrations and protests. Not violent evictions of residents and a resentment and bitterness towards a fantastic spectacle. Not widespread anger and criticism of a corporate monster out to profit for themselves and themselves only.
To look solely at the issues which have crept into the preparations for this World Cup would simply be wrong. Brazil will put on a show like no other and I am sure this will be a tournament to remember. The glamour of the competition will take over very soon and forgotten will be all the socioeconomic difficulties in the lead up to June 12th. Although, perhaps not for a portion of Brazilian natives for whom this is simply a lavish extravagance dramatically impacting their lives.
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