Fan revolts can come in any variety of ways. Miami Marlins fans have boycotted their team in protest of Jeffrey Loria- the team’s owner, Philadelphia fans once booed Santa Claus and threw snowballs at him, but it’s hard to top what’s happened in Brazil the past week.
Thousands of protesters marched outside Brazil’s FIFA Confederations Cup match versus Mexico in Fortaleza Wednesday, blocking access to the stadium for nearly half hour before riot police dispersed them with tear gas and rubber bullets
Last Saturday, before the kickoff matchup of the Cup – which is essentially a dress rehearsal for the World Cup to be held in Brazil in 2014 – fans booed their own president, Dilma Rouseff, while she gave opening remarks.
These sour receptions comes in the wake of country-wide protests that originated over a proposed $.20 bus fare increase last week in Sao Paulo. The demonstrations went viral and quickly snowballed, unleashing years’ worth of pent-up frustration over government corruption and waste – with particular regard to the billions of dollars being spent on stadiums across the country in preparation for the World Cup.
While much of the attention from these protests has focused on the challenges posed to the Brazilian government, the furore must also be construed as an unprecedented backlash against FIFA, the World Cup and worldwide soccer in general.
What’s truly remarkable is that this backlash is coming from the very country that is most synonymous and widely renowned for its soccer enthusiasm. Brazil holds a record five World Cup championships and is home to many of the most famous footballers in the world – both past and present.
The protesters argue that the government should not be spending billions to build and promote World Cup venues when the country is facing more urgent issues such as inflation, a sluggish economy, poor schools and overcrowded hospitals.
The frustration reveals the ugly side of hosting these types of mega-sporting events. While they bring temporary notoriety and fanfare to a city or country, the bills for the stadiums and infrastructure are still being paid by taxpayers many years later. There are often absurd levels of corruption involved, in which officials responsible for overseeing the projects pocket enormous amounts of project-allocated funds. There are also untold numbers of people who are evicted from their homes, without compensation, to clear the way for stadium development.
While stadiums themselves are not inherently bad projects, research has shown that they bring far less return on investment than other types of economic development initiatives. This is especially true for stadiums built for temporary purposes such as the World Cup, where the jobs created are low-wage and short-lived, and most of the revenue the Cup provides goes either to FIFA – which has historically been notoriously corrupt in itself –or to wealthy investors.
If they are wise, politicians, and their constituents, that solicit their cities or countries to host these types of events in the future will be much more cautious when examining the potential costs and benefits posed. FIFA must clean up its act as well if it wants to be met with a welcome reception in the future, regardless of where its tournaments may be hosted. If hosting the World Cup can cause this type of uprising in a normally peaceful Brazil, it can certainly happen anywhere else in the world, and with much more frightening results.
Aaron Stanley is a former Fergus Falls resident living in Washington, D.C. and an avid sports enthusiast.