BY STEVEN BELL
Its all gone rather quiet. Or has it?
“Where is all this social unrest?” asked Fifa president Sepp Blatter with a definite sense of self satisfaction.
He continued, “Nothing is wrong. Everything is good. I wouldn’t say perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist in this world.”
The Fifa leader was talking at a conference in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday and referred to the fears many, including Fifa themselves, had before the World Cup commenced in June. So where is this unrest which was to blemish the grandest of all stages?
It exists; don’t worry about that Mr Blatter.
There were expectations that protests would ruin the World Cup spectacle. And with good reason; no tournament has been scrutinised and analysed in as much detail as Brazil has.
This began with the protests during the planning stages of the World Cup, which subsequently led to an embarrassing episode for Fifa during the Confederations Cup in 2013.
With $11billion spent on a football tournament (the most expensive in history) in a country and continent where the economic issues faced have been as clear as day, logic would suggest using that money elsewhere could be more advantageous.
The argument has always been that hosting the World Cup will produce jobs and, in the long term, benefit the country moving forward. However, more than half (55%) of Brazilians believe that it will only serve to damage the economy in the long term. And with another 50% believing it is now harder than ever to get a job, where is this benefit? Brazil’s labour ministry have produced a report showing that job creation in May was the lowest it has been in two decades. With this lack of economic optimism, the competition and spectacle of the tournament has been required to shine through more than ever. And it has.
On the pitch, it seems the football on display has defeated any protests and rallies in terms of column inches. It has thrown up goals a-plenty, upsets, extra time drama and the tension only penalty shootouts can produce. A fantastic advertisement for football and an even more impressive mask for the underlying plight.
To say this incredible football has completely changed tensions in Brazil is simply wrong.
A protest in downtown Sao Paulo on Wednesday saw 300 people protest with reportedly 6 arrests. Hardly front page headlines, but certainly significant. The usual barrage of rubber bullets and tear gas was utilised by the authorities to neutralize the demonstration which was supporting the release of previously detained protesters.
Brazil’s deputy minister of sport Luis Fernandes further acknowledges the ongoing protests, albeit with a slight lack of concern. He commented;
“There have been protests every day since the start of the World Cup but they have been very small. So that doesn’t concern us….. The passion for football has taken over.”
The passion for football has taken over. Perhaps for most of the world, yes, absolutely. For a large portion of Brazilians, the fear has most likely played a much bigger part.
The very real threat of jail faces many if they do not tow the line. In fact, police have targeted prominent protestors in a bid to nip any potential difficulties in the bud and the term “peaceful protest” seems to have been ignored frequently. This combined with the success of the tournament in general has perhaps led Fifa to believe in a false sense of contentment.
Flippant may be the best word to describe Sepp Blatter’s attitude towards the Brazilian people. The non-existent unrest he refers to does in fact exist, albeit with a toned down approach.
Incomplete at this time, this story is one of major social unrest bandaged with sporting spectacle.