By Heli Shukla:
Football lovers all around the world are gearing up for FIFA 2014. This one month extravaganza is set to take place in Brazil for the second time. But the Brazilians are not happy about it. Amid all the cheer from everywhere in the world, the voices of protest against FIFA 2014 have been silenced. The pleas of Brazilians have gone unnoticed. Why is the world’s biggest football tournament scoring the wrong goals?
Brazil was chosen as the host country for FIFA for a second time in 2007. The economy was in full swing, with an annual growth rate of up to 5%. An obvious cause for jubilation, preparations for the same began in full swing. However, in June 2013, massive protests erupted in the country. Originally beginning around August 2012, these protests were against rising transportation fees in buses. Known as Revolta do BusÃ£o or Bus Rebellion, the first rebellions started in Natal. While the protestors managed to convince municipal authorities to reduce bus fares, demonstrations in other parts of Brazil relating to the same ceased to discontinue.
Protests against rising bus fares were nothing but a tipping point in the expression of discontent amongst Brazilians. Rising inflation in a developing country like Brazil was being met with solutions that only made it go higher. Brazilian masses bore the brunt of failed economic policies on the part of the government. The prime reason behind this assorted economic mess was over budgeting in FIFA 2014.
With only half the stadiums being finished, the cost for FIFA 2014 has run up by several million dollars. Financial scandals relating to FIFA and the 2016 Summer Olympics have put the country in massive debt, naturally resulting in inflation. With only two weeks to go before the tournament, organizers are having grave doubts regarding Brazil’s readiness for the World Cup. FIFA is also planning to shift several venues. Coupled with Brazil’s already grim socio-economic situation, its capability as a host has been extremely compromised.
The biggest loser in this chaos is the Brazilian public. With inflation rates as high as 27%, the average Brazilian is losing a lot more than the gains he was previously promised. Major sporting events like the Olympics and cricket and football World Cups do rake in a lot of money for host countries. However, mismanagement of such money in developing countries is rampant. While Brazil is at the peak of its economic crisis right now, another developing country that hosted a mega sporting event is still facing the brunt of the same. Brazil’s economic downturn because of mismanaged FIFA funds bears striking resemblance to India’s situation prior to the Commonwealth Games.
Complete neglect of social development costs, high inflation, increase in displacement, misuse of labor coupled with an overbearing economic down slide, were the after effects of the Commonwealth Games in India. Sadly, Brazil’s socio-economic situation is taking a turn for the same. The Commonwealth Games cost the Indian government over Rs. 2,300 Crore and FIFA 2014 is setting Brazil’s government coffers back by an astounding 28 billion Reals (approximately 13 billion dollars).
According to a report on counterpunch.org, the World Cup was promised to the citizens as a “private enterprise deal with not one cent of public money”. Yet, national funds allotted for roads and railways were shamelessly pumped into FIFA to keep up with its timetable. This dream was sold to the Brazilian masses by ex-President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. A popular politician, he relentlessly lobbied for Brazil’s World Cup bid not realizing his over ambitiousness in doing the same. Structured policies to alleviate the socio-political and economic situation in Brazil’s then expanding economy would have done a much better job at taking the country forward.
Brazil is known for its socio-economic inequality. The poorest of the poor pay the highest taxes but are the last recipients of any government spending. Their ire pouring out in the form of these mass protests is definitely not uncalled for. While the current government, formed by the Brazil Worker’s Party has done a considerable amount of work in changing the situation, a complete revival will take a longer time to manifest.
These protests also cast light on a larger issue, who benefits from mega sporting events like these? Is it the hosts? Is it the organization? Is it the players? Or is it the spectators? One thing remains clear; the permanent loser is definitely the sport. While economies can be revived and faith of the masses can be resurrected, one thing that definitely cannot be won back is lost love for a sport. The CWG scam did not prevent the games from happening, but it did bring down the level of the sports played within it. Similarly, scams in the IPL franchise have in no way lessened its importance, but they have turned cricket lovers against the commercialization of the sport. FIFA 2014 will take place and will also be loved by football fanatics worldwide, but it will leave a bitter taste in its star team’s country: Brazil.