Most people don’t realize how much scrutiny Brazil’s government has undergone to host FIFA’s World Cup, even though more than 1.5 million Brazilians protested against it last year. Brazil’s love for soccer is incontestable, but the population has passed it by and is enraged at the eloquent decisions of its government. The country became remarkably submissive to this foreign corporation to host the tournament. Are these international games really a life changer? Or do governments simply use them as a weapon for political campaigning?
This last question becomes clearer when knowing that the World Cup is happening only three months ahead of Brazil’s presidential election. Dilma Roussef is the current president, and the allied successor of Lula – a market genius, populist, with strong roots in socialism. Lula was president for two terms of 4 years. His biggest program was Bolsa Família (Family Allowance) – a system of poverty relief paying R$70 reals (around $25 dollars) a month directly from the state to the people. It was almost as much a political strategy as a social and economic tool.
Although we saw a lot of positive changes in the country, his government’s highlight was something else: the biggest corruption scheme in Brazils’ history, known as “mensalão” or “big monthly” allowance. This program also involved transferring public funds as Family Allowance. However, it involved larger amounts per month, and they would go to politicians from coalition parties in order to provide their political support for Lula’s current government. It looks like vote buying was Lula’s best skill. He was able to buy votes from the mass struggling population right up to the high-profile politicians of the opposite party.
Here we are in 2014’s World Cup hosted by Brazil, under the same government but with a different gender of president. After this brief historical context, isn’t hard to guess how FIFA – a cooperation involved in bribery scandals – was so keen on deciding where to do its business. Four years ago, when Brazil was selected to host the World Cup, it was said that 70% of the investments would come from private equities. Now we watch the most expensive World Cup ever, more than the two previous countries combined. Over 11 billion dollars have been spent and 98.56% of it came from public money.
If you “street-view” Lapa in Rio de Janeiro right now, you’ll see the amount of trash left on the streets, ruined buildings, and broken roads. The government have such a hard time just cleaning the streets, but don’t hesitate a second when building whatever stadium FIFA requested, or even changing laws of the country if necessary.
In 2003, the Brazilian government banned alcohol from stadiums because of the enormously high death rate amongst fans. As the giant brewer Budweiser is one of FIFA’s key sponsor, FIFA seemed anxious to protect Budweiser from a law designed to protect people. They were able to convince the Brazilian Senate to approve the “Budweiser Bill,” allowing them to sell their beer in stadiums to make even more money, with not a penny of it going to the country. FIFA is exempt from any taxes whatsoever, in any level, state, municipality and all sorts of taxes, consumption, income, you name it… in fact, the Brazilian government is allowing FIFA to forgo 200 million dollars in taxes, while the Brazilian population wasn’t even granted access to the games. Only one-third of the tickets were available to be sold in Brazil at ludicrously overcharged prices. The World Cup makes the population cheer for its country and increases nationalism, which is what current Dilma’s government needs more than ever. They are clearly not measuring any effort (money) to make this event happen, and they have been doing it in such an irresponsible way that Brazilian citizens are ashamed of it, despite their passion for the sport.
Yet, this type of practice is not anything new. There was an ancient plan, set way back in 140 BC, when Roman emperors devised to win the votes of the new citizens by giving out cheap food and entertainment. Bread and Circuses came to be the most effective way to rise in power. Along the centuries, emperors became politicians and they’ve learned how society tends to respond more effectively to emotions. No wonder there are the thousands of types of sports and hundreds of different religions spread around the world. The tool for crowd control has grown monstrously, and the bigger it gets, the harder it is to figure out. The good old Matrix.
For the past decade, Brazilian government have learned from Ancient Rome by providing food with the Family Allowance and entertainment with the World Cup in order to keep people distracted from political issues. Today, we’re not going inside coliseums to watch gladiators kill themselves – the coliseums are coming to our homes and killing us inside.