Public Comment

World Cup for Whom?

Artur Salles Lisboa de Oliveira.
Friday June 13, 2014 - 10:32:00 AM

The World is likely to get surprised by the attitude of Brazilians toward the World Cup, especially when the games will be held in Brazilian soil. Given the fact that we have five world championships on our belt, soccer is perceived as a stronger driver of feelings such as pride and happiness. However, it is time to think over the importance of soccer in Brazil and no better time to do it than now. 

Brazilians are eager to rallying on the streets to claim better conditions of living throughout the World Cup. Therefore, for many people – I would say, most of them -, soccer comes in second. Strange as it may sound, the fact is that Brazilians are fed up with watching politicians charged with illegal actions in charge of the most important jobs in the current government. And what about public safety and infrastructure? Politics in Brazil is the art of promising everthing, not delivering anything and getting reelected four years later. 

Government supporters are making a huge effort to tell a different story: according to them, since Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was elected for the first time in 2003, Brazil became a promising country, whose government policies focus on the poorest by offering hand-outs without any prospect of deep changes in the educational system. In fact, opposition leaders argue that the maintenance of the Workers Party in power relies on the money offered to those who live in precarious conditions of living. Having said that, how are the streets of Brazil on the World Cup eve? 

Anyone who walks on the streets of the Brazilian cities a few days before the games will struggle to see any celebration which stands out. Few waving flags in front of cars and some people standing in line to purchase t-shirts. Anything beyond that is political propaganda of an event which has been criticized by a substantial share of the population. Perhaps, in case of the national team performs well on the pitch by defeating strong opponents, Brazilians are expected to get more excited about the World Cup, so that some issues might be overshadowed by the celebrations. At least for a while. 

As Brazil sets stage to choose the new incumbent in September, many journalists support that the final outcome of the World Cup might be decisive for the elections. If the national team fails to claim its sixth championship in Brazilian soil, people’s dissatisfaction regarding their lives are likely to increase in such a way that the government will be blamed for both – the underperformance on the pitch and issues regarding public safety, health system and infrastructure. What if the national team succeeds in its pursuit of the victory? 

The government will take advantage of the celebrations to gain political momentum, especially when the latest polls confirmed that Rousseff is losing ground as a result of growing inflation and sluggish growth in Brazil. Therefore, about the question “World Cup for whom?”, I came to the conclusion that both sides of the Brazilian politics – current government and the opposition parties – might exploit the outcome of the games for political purposes. However, they are unlikely to benefit together from the same outcome. 

So, the question is: which result would fulfill the demands of the society?