It is little over a week until the world's greatest footballing competition kicks off in Brazil. The world is beside itself with excitement at the thought of the FIFA World Cup taking place in the spiritual home of this glorious sport, where the famous trophy has been lifted a record five times. When you think football, you think of that yellow and green strip. You think of the likes of Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and now Neymar. You think of Brazil and those kids kicking a ball around the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. What you don't think about, however, is the consequence that this tournament is going to have on the Brazilian population and how this glorious competition may not have such glorious affects for those who we view as the footballing nation of the world.
The harsh realities in Brazil are driving tens of thousands of people to the streets in protest against the competition and the resulting elevated public spending. There are calls for a general strike amid outrage that only 10% of the public transport projects which were promised to be the legacy of the 2014 World Cup, have been completed. Protests have broken out across the vast country, with the latest springing up in the capital, Brasilia. The campaign slogans are calling for better education, healthcare and transport systems and the image moving the nation is one of a starving child with nothing but a football to eat on the table. Such images are distressing, as is the thought that these problems and uprisings could continue well into the competition.
(Photo credit - Paulo Ito/Facebook)
The events at last year's Confederations Cup, which was held in Brazil, suggests that such problems could and will arise. The competition was used as a warm up for this year's World Cup and was marked by violent protests against the government. The fear for England, and other competing countries, is that these will continue during the competition. The fear here in Brazil, however, is that they won't continue and the government will not stand up and address the burning issues which affect the nation.
It is claimed that this competition is costing Brazil more than 11 billion pounds. This money is not contributing to the health, education or transport budgets and it is argued by many that a large proportion of this money is merely feeding the bank balances of the corrupt politicians. There is outrage that stadiums are being constructed across the country at costs as high as 60 million pounds, in the case of Brasilia, despite the fact there are no top-flight teams to play there following the closure of the tournament. There is expected to be four of these white elephants come the end of July.
Despite all the uproar associated with the upcoming World Cup, Brazil is still one of the firm favourites to lift that coveted trophy come July 13th. If the most important footballing trophy is restored to its spiritual home, the world will see the magic and passion this country has for their treasured sport. However, this will only mask over the harsh realities facing the Brazilian nation and the resentment and frustrations will continue bubbling away until the government and the world takes notice of the pleas of football's greatest nation.
This raises many questions. Should FIFA let Brazil host this competition? Should we as tourists attend this competition? Or, alternatively, should Brazilians simply forget their woes and get behind their team? Oh, and what about the 2016 Olympics? There are many unanswered questions circulating. The protesters are screaming "não vai ter copa (the cup won't happen). Sadly, this is the only thing that is not being questioned. The World Cup is happening, with or without the support of the people! Is it right? I'm not so sure.