Can football unite Brazil?13 June 2014


Rousseff had been booed by Brazil fans as she addressed the crowd before the opening game of the Confederations Cup against Japan a year earlier and there was no danger of her making the same mistake as the World Cup finals officially got under way.

“Beneath those green and canary shirts, you embody a powerful legacy of the Brazilian people,” she had said two days earlier. “The national team represents nationality. It is above governments, parties and interests of any group”.

Brazil is unsure how it feels about the World Cup
The truth is that Brazil is unsure how it should feel about this World Cup, uncertain about how an outpouring of patriotism might be received when there are so many groups appalled that the country has committed $13.5 billion to fund a football tournament when schools, hospitals and public transport go neglected.

Some Brazilians want to enjoy the party while it lasts and worry about the rest later. Others, not least those protesters who tried to block a road leading to the stadium hosting the opening match yesterday feel very differently. And the split is marked.

The protests, which were echoed later by other demonstrations in Rio, were attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets by police with Amnesty International saying the police use excess force. “The Brazilian authorities must, without delay, investigate why excessive force was used against peaceful protesters, bring those responsible to justice and ensure this does not happen again,” said Atila Roque, director of Amnesty International Brazil.

‘Our Cup is on the Street’
Similar demonstrations have been organized under the theme of “Our Cup is on the Street” via social networks in 100 cities, including World Cup host cities such as Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Porto Alegre and Recife.

The split between protesters and, what one cant help thinking are wealthy looking, Brazil supporters at the opening match was obvious as the national anthem was belted out at the Arena Corinthians. Amid an emotive sea of yellow and green shirts and flags, the smiles on the faces of the supporters that had tickets hardly suggested a preoccupation with thoughts about pressing social issues.

The opening ceremony felt, in many ways, in keeping with the hapless planning of this tournament. A cast of 660 dancers paid tribute to the country’s nature, people and football with a show around a “living” ball in the centre of the pitch. The empty seats in the crowd told their own story.

The Green and Yellow is muted
Many outsiders might have expected Brazil to be cloaked in green and yellow and positively bouncing to the sound of beeping car horns and samba drums but it is hard to overemphasise just how muted the build-up has been. Fear of reprisal certainly stalks some.

Miguel Gonçalves, a shop owner in the Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood of Flamengo, chose to follow tradition and decorate the street on which he lives but some took offence. “When I was putting up the flags, someone stopped me and asked ‘So you are supporting the politicians? You are supporting Fifa?’ ” he explained. “I said, ‘No, I am supporting my country, I am supporting the Seleção. This is football, not politics.’ People are mixing these up.”

Whether football retains the power to unite a country divided, only time will tell.

From The Times and Guardian

Sao Paulo Prepares For Start Of World Cup