FIFA in Brazil: Ugly Exploitation Undermines Beautiful Football

“The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty”

Uruguayan writer and football chronicler Eduardo Galeano’s famous lines were reflected in the turbulent protests and popular discontent that hit the streets of various cities of Brazil prior to FIFA World Cup. While Brazil was announced as the host of this edition uncontested, seven years back in 2007, people around the planet whose passion revolves round the beautiful game were elated, as the land of “beautiful football” which produced the greatest artists of the game was given a nod for the second time after 64 long years. Brazil was not only announced as the host, but also huge promises were made that this World Cup would revive her emerging economy, and a respectable living for the toiling masses, the section that forms the base and the pillars of football-culture of the Latin American nation. A huge investment was promised that would create millions of job-opportunities to boost the GDP of the nation. Seven years down the line, people of the cities from Sao-Paulo to Porto Alegre, Rio to Manaus re-decorated for hosting the matches were on the streets, after bearing the brunt of severe taxation, unfulfilled promises, ruthless evictions, child-sexual abuse ‘tourism’, deterioration of emergency services, and under-payment for work in construction projects.

Football is called “Joga-Bonito”, which means ‘beautiful game’ in Portuguese, and Brazilians believe they alone can produce this beauty. The pride and honour of producing it to entertain the world and to achieve the glory of five-time World Champions is deep-rooted in the hearts of generations of Brazilians. The spontaneous poetry of Brazilian football – distinct from the European game – gave birth to icons like Pele-Garrincha-Tostao-Didi-Vava-Rivellino-Socrates-Zico-Romerio-Ronaldo-Ronaldinho… the list could go on.

But this time, despite being the host of the greatest spectator show of football, the song, “Desculpe, Neymar” (Sorry, Neymar), written by famous Brazilian musician, Edu Krieger, has been a hit amongst the street-protestors and on the internet. The song addresses and apologizes to the latest sensation of Brazilian football, Neymar, and his fellow team-mates for not being able to cheer the event and the national side characteristically, citing the unresolved pain and misery of the people and the additional burden imposed on them by the mega-event. The spirit of revolt has stimulated such culture and creativity, in sharp contrast to the official title song produced by FIFA’S organizing committee. The lyrics of ‘Desculpe, Neymar’ goes: “We can’t be real champions. We have beautiful and monumental stadiums, as our schools and hospitals are on the verge of collapse…” Surely Neymar and company, who donned the traditional golden and green shirts in the opener at the historic Maracanã at Rio, felt the pain of the protest banners as much as the warmth of the supporters. Brazil has the legacy of stars like late ex-skipper Socrates, who while playing at Corinthians in 1980, stood up firmly in favor of democracy to protest against the military Junta and its totalitarian control over the clubs and the game.