By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter
Ol’ Blue eyes himself, Frank Sinatra sung the girl from Ipanema about the allure of the fifth-biggest country in the world and its ample assets. Let’s be honest, he was referring to a scantily clad women rather than its bumper soybean crop.
Setting aside Frank’s ignorance of Brazil’s growing economy (which recently jumped above the UK to become the sixth-largest in the world) there are serious concerns of social unrest during next year’s World Cup.
Politicians are panicking that long-running demonstrations could ruin the run-up to one of the most important periods in the country’s history, as it hosts the football tournament and then the 2016 Olympics.
It is beyond comprehension for most football fans that the World Cup, in the country in which football’s soul belongs (the English codified it, they made it sexy), could be marred rioting, but it seems likely.
During this year’s Confederations Cup in Brazil, seen as a curtain raiser for the 2014 World Cup, mass disturbances broke out across the country, even outside sporting venues. More than one million Brazilians took to the streets. It was quite a surreal experience watching the games on TV, knowing that just outside the stadium there were major riots.
A 20c (£0.06) rise in public transport fares stirred people’s passions enough to take to the streets, in stark comparison to the UK, where we grudgingly pay our inflation busting train fares, moan on Twitter when our bank systems crash and leave the heating off until our breath freezes while watching the Queen’s speech.
Maybe we could do with a bit more Latin temperament.
But during the unrest wider concerns over healthcare, security, rising inflation and World Cup and Olympic overspending soon became the focus – along with a profound dissatisfaction with their elected leaders, who they believed did not understand the “real people” of Brazil.
It appears the Brazilian public think that their political system is as dysfunctional as a Pele TV commercial.
The protests petered out but have flared up occasionally as violent “black bloc” anarchists went on the rampage in major cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo.
However, a recent resurgence in protests led to the cancellation of the Soccerex Global Convention, scheduled to take place at the Maracana during the build-up to the World Cup Draw, which takes place today (December 6th).
The event had fallen victim to a “political decision” by the Rio de Janeiro State Secretary of Sport to withdraw support for the event.
Security fears are always likely during any sporting event. Every city has areas you shouldn’t visit after dark. However, the threat of violence and street crime during the previous World Cup with South Africa never materialised.
But it is rare to hold a sporting event while the country is dealing with internal conflict. The Olympics in Mexico in 1968 is one example. Ten days before the start of the Olympics dozens of people were killed after protesting at increased economic and political suppression.
In Brazil similar issues are at play. It has been argued that the World Cup and the Olympics are being used as a pretext for social cleansing as tens of thousands of Rio slum dwellers are driven out to the city periphery. At least 19,000 families from the favelas have been moved to make way for development for these two sporting events. These are the same communities the footballers who represent Brazil were taught to play the beautiful game.
There is a lot of rage from Brazilians who don’t feel that the country’s increased prosperity isn’t being focused on what matters to them. Of course they love football, but they value an education and health care more.
The politicians seem to be as ignorant to Brazil’s situation, as Sinatra did ogling women on the beach all those years ago. Security officials will need to be careful during the World Cup, because the girls from Copacabana, may be wielding a hammer.