Brazil on Fire

As a long -suffering England fan it is now amazing to have Brazil as my adopted team, and last night in Rio de Janeiro, at the final of the Confederations Cup, they demolished world cup winners Spain. It was amazing to hear the Brazilian fans in the Maracanã sing their national anthem with gusto, as did the team too, and right from the start it seemed as if fans, country and team were as one, totally on fire.

It has not always been this way, and for the last two or three years Brazil have put in a few shaky and slightly less-than-confident performances. At times it has been quite shocking to experience the monumental criticism the team have come under from fans, commentators and journalists, a team who like England often suffer the burden of such monumental expectations from their supporters. But with the Copa das Confederaçöes (Confederations Cup) being renamed as the Copa das Manifestaçöes (Demonstrations Cup) there seems to have been a new explosion of pride in Brazil, the country, the people their flag, their anthem and their football, and the effects were there for all the world to see. I really can not recall seeing the national team so energised as I did last night.

Suffering the greatest collapse in approval of any Brazilian President, Dilma decided not to appear at this final having been roundly booed at the opening game. She said that she had some work to do this weekend, and has also said she is very calm about the drop in her ratings. In not being at the final, we were all spared the exploitation and the stealing of the team’s thunder by her and her party, PT, in the celebrations, so that is a victory in itself.

Brazilians love their football, but not the corruption which goes with it, and I have been thinking about whether or not people should boycott the football, or use it as a force for good. The Confederations Cup has helped the rest of the world understand much more the problems in Brazil, problems which I now see the whole country discussing together in bars, at work, in taxis and on social networks. It is terrible to see the preparations for the World Cup, where the stadium of São Paulo Football Club (maybe the Manchester United of Brazil?) could have had just a modest investment to update the facilities to receive a much greater volume of journalists and media. What has happened is that Corinthians (another team based in São Paulo) have been given a whole new stadium which may or may not actually be ready for the cup. This is not sustainability, this is not ecological thinking, just waste and the need to make money, pure and simple.

So what now for the world cup? The New York Times wrote a devastating piece on why the protests are happening in Brazil, including this summary of the legislators here:

Almost 200 legislators, or a third of Brazil’s Congress, are facing charges in trials overseen by the Supreme Federal Tribunal, according to documents compiled by Congresso em Foco, a prominent watchdog group. The charges range from siphoning off public funds to far more serious claims of employing slave labor on a cattle estate or ordering the kidnapping of three Roman Catholic priests as part of a land dispute in the Amazon.

Source: New York Times Public Rage Catching Up With Brazil’s Congress

These are the people who have responsibility for the preparations for the world cup. They are the ones who fans from around the world expect to help them, host them, and do all they can to ensure a successful stay in Brazil. Folhas de São Paulo, a major newspaper found many problems with the Confederations Cup including

  • Transport issues for fans trying to reach the stadiums
  • A lack of food and drink at the stadiums
  • Ticketing confusions
  • Jam packed metro services
  • Failure of 3G mobile networks
  • Of the 44 works Mobility launched in 2010 to meet the needs of the Cup, only one was completed on schedule.

Source: Ingresso, transporte e alimentação têm falhas na Copa das Confederações

For this championship, only 5% of fans came from abroad, so air travel and accommodation issues were not tested. And of course it remains to be seen if all the stadium will actually be competed on time.

Protests continue in Brazil, and a very small number of truck drivers paralysed a number of main roads into São Paulo this morning. It really is not too difficult to paralyse a city which is so reliant on road transport, and there is talk of an unofficial strike starting at 5pm today.

Policemen and firemen express their support for the protests

Policemen and firemen express their support for the protests

But what I really take from these last couple of weeks is that Brazil has managed to find its national pride. Many of the Brazilian football team have spoken out in support of the protests, and the comments from readers in the British press have seemed pretty much in support of the people. The youth have found an outlet for their creativity, both in banners and electronically, and these are a youth which lack the fear and memories of the brutal dictatorship, fears which still haunt and frighten the generation of their parents. It remains to be seen how the protests will unfurl, and many different groups try to take advantage, or hijack the loose-knit movement of what are almost unanimously peaceful people who have suffered for too long from a legislative class of people who have no love, no love at all for this amazing country.

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