FIFA and Its Accomplice: The Brazilian State

A story over at Estado de S. Paulo (“Brasil que se vire com arenas vazias, diz FIFA. ‘O problema é de vocês’”, Estadão Esportes, March 21) notes that FIFA isn’t at all interested in Brazil anymore, and that the useless stadiums the 2014 World Cup left us are not their problem and should be dealt with exclusively by the country.

FIFA bureaucrats, in their best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation, look at the post-World Cup issues in Brazil — a country that afforded them a $2 billion profit — and sarcastically say, “That’s a shame!” One of them has stated that the issues are “Brazil’s, not soccer’s,” while another points to recent protests against the government and laughingly asks, “Wasn’t it the World Cup people were protesting?”

It’s evidently convenient for FIFA to stuff their pockets and turn their backs to the country. It’s also convenient for Brazilian politicians to pretend that they were caught by surprise when inevitable consequences of the event hit. FIFA and the Brazilian state were allies in a carefully planned and orchestrated assault against the Brazilian population for over a decade — ever since the first Lula administration, extending to the Dilma presidency. The advertising campaign was massive, and promised infrastructure and stadiums that would bring about economic development and welfare.

Empirically, however, the evidence is as clear as day. Dozens of scholarly articles published over the years show that sporting arenas are huge expenses that not only are unable to develop local economies, but are unable to keep even themselves afloat. Moreover, sporting stadiums also destroy the surrounding areas, having negative externalities on the urban setting.

Truthfully, the World Cup (like the 2016 Olympics in Rio) was a thinly veiled justification for the government to concentrate dictatorship-like powers and inject more money into construction companies — probably the industry best connected to the Brazilian state.

Besides the billions of dollars spent on the World Cup, according to the dossier Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Brazil, these were the hidden costs of the event: the expropriation and forced removal of 150,000 to 170,000 people from their homes; acts of dubious legality and violations of workers’ rights (in 2011, they had paralyzed activities 10 times already) on stadium construction sites; the exclusion of workers and local businesses from the surroundings of the stadiums and violent police repression of street vendors; utilities withholding service at communities affected by removals, and public transportation that focused solely on routes involved in the sporting events, excluding poor populations from access to the city.

Some post-Cup costs are turning up now in the form of debt and consortiums that are unable to manage the new stadiums — some of them eroded by corruption accusations. However, none of that should blind us to the fact that the Brazilian state and FIFA were accomplices in extorting the population. If politicians don’t know what to do, now that the bill has come in, that hardly matters: all costs will be socialized while profits, for FIFA and construction companies, have been appropriated and privatized.

During the World Cup, Brazilians thought that the biggest humiliation they would face was the 7-1 annihilation at the hands of the German national team. The real humiliation, though, was removing forcibly 170 thousand people from their homes in exchange for the privilege of stuffing FIFA’s coffers.

In case you’re curious, there were 171 goals at the 2014 World Cup. About 1,000 people kicked out of a home for each goal.

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