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Brazil - I have nothing against football; I just don’t like the business hooligans selling it

In a few days’ time millions of living rooms around the world will be filled with the intoxicating sound of football stadiums. Like modern day gladiators, special elite forces of the nations will battle in grand arenas for the biggest sporting trophy in the world. Thankfully, these battles won’t be a fight for life or death. There won’t be wild animals, brutal fighting, blood and killing at the end but there will be something else that is wild about these games and actually has brutalised the lives of millions in Brazil and around the world. That beast is called neoliberal market economy, or simply ‘capitalism’. Like the gladiator battles of the ancient times, these modern day games will be a fight for more wealth, not for the millions in their living rooms and thousands filling the stadiums but for a few who are in the business of football.

At times the total earnings of the 22 man on the pitch will be much higher than the thousands who are watching them from the tribunes.

Brazil is a country that is somehow synonymous with football. It has always been known as a footballing nation that is crazy about the game and that when it comes to football nothing else really matters for the Brazilians. But as the TV studios are getting ready for hours long post-game analyses by football experts, this football myth about Brazil seems to be crumbling away without much mainstream media reporting and analyses on our TV channels.

Somehow millions of poor, working class Brazilians, the very same people who supposed to be football crazy, are saying “NO” to Word Cup. All over the country there are mass protests by students, workers and the homeless etc.

Here are some news snapshots of what is happening in Brazil:

“Thousands of homeless Brazilians have marched on the Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, where the football World Cup is due to kick off next Thursday.”

“Last year, more than a million people took to the streets of major Brazilian cities to vent their anger at what they see as excessive spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.”

“More disruption is expected in Sao Paulo on Thursday as underground workers began an open-ended stoppage at midnight.”

“Traffic police said they would also go on strike on Thursday in Sao Paulo, one of the world's most congested cities.”

“More than a million Brazilians poured onto the streets of over 100 cities in this week's largest anti-government demonstrations yet, protests that saw violent clashes break out in several cities as people demanding improved public services, the spiralling cost of the 2014 World Cup and an end to corruption faced tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.”

“Police in Brazil have used tear gas to break up protesters on the second day of a metro strike that has left Sao Paulo's transport in chaos.”

What are these ‘football loving’ Brazilians up to? Have they gone completely mad?

Brazil has seen a year of street protests against bad governance and excessive spending in preparations for the World Cup and the Olympics, which Rio de Janeiro will host in 2016. But these protests are not a simple outpour of anger in order to sabotage the games. These are part of the ongoing response by the working class masses to poverty, inequality, and lack of proper education and healthcare services; in summary these are a response to the neoliberal policies of the Brazilian government who spends millions for the world cup but has little interest in bettering people’s lives.

What the millions of Brazilians saying is very clear:

“We don’t need the world cup; we need money for hospitals and education”

“Our government have wasted billions building stadiums that won’t bring any improvement to the lives of Brazilians. Meanwhile people are dying in the hospital lines due to lack of infrastructure”

“We need homes not football stadiums”

“FIFA Go Home”

The first demonstrations took place in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, during August–September 2012 and were informally called Revolta do Busão or Bus Rebellion. Over the course of these protests, demonstrators convinced their municipal authority to reduce the fare price. Although the bus fare increase was the tipping point for demonstrators, the basis for public disenchantment with the policies of the ruling class went far deeper.

 

Meanwhile, mega sports projects such as the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup (to which Brazil has already spent over $3 billion and with total expected cost of over $32 billion, equivalent to three times South Africa's total in 2010) as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics, have turned out to be over-budget, and have resulted in a series of revelations about gross overbillings and multi-billion dollar financial scandals.

The football fans of Brazil haven’t gone mad. They have just had enough of poverty, unemployment, homelessness and lack of social/public services. They have put people before football and they don’t want multi-billion Dollar business deals while there is no funding for the needs of majority of the people.

In May 2014 Pelé said, “Brazil is overspending on this summer’s World Cup, diverting money that could have been used to build schools, roads and hospitals”.

This comes not from a radical protestor on the street but the football icon of Brazil. Pelé isn’t supporting the protests on the streets and he has many reasons for the Word Cup event to be successful but even he can’t deny what the protestors are saying.

The World Bank estimates that nearly 16% of the country lives in poverty. According to a study by the Pew Research Centre, most people in Brazil are not happy with how things are in the country. 72% of people surveyed are “dissatisfied with things in Brazil today. Six out of 10 Brazilians say hosting the World Cup is a bad thing for Brazil, because it’s taking money away from public services like health care and education. On top of it, forced relocations of an estimated 250,000 residents and controversial "pacification" efforts in Brazil's thousands of slums, or favelas, angered the population.

Brazil ranks among the world's highest nations in the Gini coefficient index of inequality assessment. A study on the subject shows that the poor segment constitutes roughly one third of the population, and the extremely poor make out 13% (2005 figures).

Brazil’s housing deficit is around 7 million units.

World Cup Brazil will generate $4 billion in total revenue for FIFA. The vast majority of the money will come from the sale of television and marketing rights

The business of the World Cup is not cheap to operate. For Brazil, FIFA will make total payments of $576 million to the participating member associations, the clubs of participating players and for the club protection program. The biggest lion’s share of the payments will go towards a record $70 million of prize money. The 2014 World Cup winners will receive $35 million, while the 16 teams that are eliminated in the group stage will each collect $8 million. Taking into account the total number of teams, players and the duration of the World Cup, the per-player, per-day amount will be $2,800.

The minimum wage in Brazil is $300 per month. According to 2011 figures the country's overall average monthly salary is less than $700

According to the Brazilian daily Estadao, a worker on the bottom end of Brazil’s pay scale earns roughly $77 per month, meaning it would take him or her three years and three months to earn what an average person at the top end of the spectrum makes in just one month: $3,019.

The Brazilian football fans haven’t gone crazy. They are bringing their game on to the streets to score a goal against big business sponsored, money making scheme of FIFA World Cup, run by business for profits.

Many of us won’t be going to Brazil for the World Cup, but we must support the Brazilian protestors and boycott the World Cup.

If they say “Go Home FIFA”, we should say, “No equality, no justice; no football. I am not watching the World Cup

Solidarity with the Brazilian protestors!

Join the I am not watching Brazil World Cup 2014 event www.facebook.com/events/308676139297453 

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