Brazil Protests: FIFA is the Ugly Side Of the Beautiful Game

Every four years, the world comes together in what is arguably the most celebrated international sporting tournament, the FIFA World Cup. The event features many of the greatest players in soccer, many of whom have come from Brazil, where next year's competition is set to be. Yet, despite soccer's immense popularity in Brazil, many Brazilians are not looking forward to playing host to the world.

It seems surprising to find this kind of opposition in the country that gave us soccer greats such as Pele, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho. Regardless, people have questioned Brazil's current ability to do the job, and whether the tournament is at all beneficial for their economy. The costly expenses associated with the tournament, security issues, and FIFA's other problematic hosting choices all work in favor of the Brazilian protesters' arguments that next year's World Cup could do them more harm than good. FIFA, however, don't seem to agree.

Although the World Cup is an expensive burden to bear, why would Brazilians want to discourage foreigners from going to Brazil and spending money in its growing economy? While Brazil’s been identified as an economic power on the rise, this has also coincided with recent concerns over where money’s been spent in recent years. You could argue that the South American country has been long overdue for the recent protests targeting the increasing cost of living, and funds being directed to the tournament rather than nationwide areas of concern, including health care and education. Another cause for worry is that much of the tournament’s revenue will reach FIFA’s hands rather than be redirected to Brazil. The uproar over the costs of the World Cup can’t be described as unexpected, as previous countries to host the tournament have done the same. The FIFA World Cup in South Africa just three years ago caused similar reactions.  

Between the monetary concerns, protests, and latest acts of violence in soccer, there are also potential complications having to do with security. Recently, a referee stabbed a player during a game in São Paulo, and was later stoned to death and decapitated by angry spectators. That’s not the only recent death. Protesters are dying, too, and much of this is happening around stadiums. There’s also distress over the staggering number of homicides and crimes that generally occur in Brazil. The favelas of Brazil are a main point of interest, particularly as some of the tournament’s stadiums are situated near them. Due to the need for expansion of infrastructure in these neighborhoods, thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes. This undoubtedly poses a problem for Brazilians and non-Brazilians alike, as it brings up the question of whether these areas will be safe enough to linger in. 

The sport’s organizing body has also had its fair share of controversy in recent years. From regionally alienating rules — including banning Iran from competing due to headscarves — to these hosting decisions, things haven’t been running smoothly for a while. In recent years, England was denied its application to host the tournament in 2018, with the honor going to Russia. Although the decision appeared to be one of mere preference, it’s hard to deny an obvious truth: England already has all of its facilities up and running, meaning it would have been an effective choice. The appointment led to lots of anger and resentment from English supporters, and only furthered the already-rocky relationship between FIFA and the English Football Association. The decision to assign Qatar with the World Cup in 2022 has also been a matter of controversy. The choice to have the small but well-off country play host to the world has been criticized from the very beginning, with there being concerns over Qatar's summer heat and many suggesting that Qatar “bought” the tournament. Whether or not money played a role in Qatar’s win, at least the country has the means to deal with the immense pressures brought on by the World Cup. Not all potential hosts are currently equipped to handle the ridiculously high expectations that come with the responsibility. As such, the requirements to host shouldn’t be taken lightly, yet they continue to be optimistically dismissed until it’s a little too late to abandon ship. This inevitably causes problems that are usually attributed to the country in question, but should be attributed to FIFA’s decisions and willingness to overlook deeply embedded problems that can’t be fixed in 10 years. 

While South Africa successfully hosted the most recent World Cup in 2010, there’s no guarantee that Brazil can replicate this next year. FIFA's latest admittance that Brazil may have been the wrong choice for the tournament doesn't really acknowledge any of its own responsibility in the matter, nor any understanding behind the main reasons for Brazil's unrest. Despite that, Brazilians are still concerned about the state's funds, as well as security. FIFA's previous decisions regarding hosts have also done little to prove that they're adept at assessing whether a country can, or should, be in charge of the competition at that time. As a lifelong fan of the beautiful game, it makes me wonder if FIFA purposely seeks out trouble. After all, to the attention seeking, any press is good press.