In 2012, I moved to Rio de Janeiro and began to study the effects of urban development for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games on mostly underprivileged communities. I discovered multiple communities threatened by the kinds of “improvements” that were being carried out in preparation for these events, the most devastating being forced removal and literal bulldozing of certain communities that were simply “in the way.” But, I also found an inspiring amount of communities who were coming together and organizing in order to protect themselves and their families. One group, Chiq da Silva, works to occupy abandoned buildings in the downtown area of Rio. In doing so, they are reclaiming their rights to the city and space within it by creating socially and politically conscious intentional, community habitations. Unfortunately, I had to leave Rio too abruptly and was unable to complete my research and a documentary I was working on, but I plan on returning in order to finish. (See photos here).

(Will insert more photos here but uploading is not working currently).

Now we are in 2014, and the World Cup is in full force. In Brazil, soccer is literally a religion. After years of studying Brazilian culture I could come up with a thousand analogies and literal connections between what religion looks like in comparison to being a soccer fan. John Oliver, from Last Week Tonight, actually has a brilliant video that references this fact, and goes on to explain why FIFA, the France-based Federation Internationale de Football Association, is an incredibly problematic organization, especially in terms of its relationships with World Cup host countries It’s truly difficult to figure out where to start when discussing the problematics of the World Cup in Brazil. Especially because the media, both in the United States and Brazil, is unsurprisingly lacking in reportage about conflicts and protests (and more protests) surrounding the events. Here are just a few:

  • Displacement of entire communities in order to build stadiums, hotels, and other event-related infrastructure.
  • “Accumulation by dispossession,” essentially street cleaning but instead of roadside debris it’s people and by proxy, culture in general. The streets are being “sanitized,” which means becoming empty.
  • Spending millions of tax reais (Brazilian dollars) on building aforementioned infrastructure. The Arena da Amazônia in Manaus cost $290 million and three workers were killed during its construction. It will host four out of sixty-four matches during the World Cup.
  • Most of these stadiums will remain unused and empty after the Cup.
  • The host country makes little revenue from the events, while FIFA walks away with most of the money made during the World Cup.
  • FIFA is sexist, racist, and homophobic.
  • FIFA can literally change the laws of a country and eschew a country’s judicial system. The organization is essentially fascist with Sepp Blatter as the president since 1998.

Many Americans don’t care too much about soccer. Although, with this year’s World Cup, it seems as though soccer’s popularity, at least as a spectator sport, is rising. Even “journalist” Ann Coulter has something to say about this. Based on Coulter’s connection of soccer with “moral decay,” I think it’s safe to say that the decay comes mostly from the side of FIFA’s corruption and the Brazilian government’s complete lack of support for its people. But the ability of a private organization to be this atrocious is on par with the amount of struggle and harm done by multinational corporation (read this too). Chevron was responsible for numerous deaths and brutalities towards indigenous Ecuadorians in Lago Agrio as a result of oil drilling and unsafe, unfair operations; it was able to do so because it was an international company able to avoid both the law and the media of its own country. Think of soccer as oil, FIFA as Chevron, and Brazilians (especially native and lower-class Brazilians) as the displaced and mistreated people, non-human animals, and environmental systems endangered as a result.

Despite all of this, it’s still okay to love soccer and watch the World Cup. We often feel guilty when we enjoy something that is problematic. What is important is to be able to openly criticize and recognize the fact that something is harmful, to a certain extent. It is important to be conscious, aware, and open minded about criticizing and analyzing an overall harmful event, even while being able to enjoy a soccer match, to root for your team. I think what makes FIFA so successful is that it essentially caters to nationalism’s power to control mass amounts of people. Being able to support your nation’s team on a world stage is incredibly powerful, and FIFA makes that possible. But, people should never be forcibly removed from their homes or put into incredibly unsafe labor conditions in order to rapidly finish a stadium just for an event that will likely only happen once in somebody’s lifetime in that country. All the while, some white men in suits are in Europe counting their change. Brazil is “minha casa,” my home, and it is “minha vida,” my life, that is ultimately at stake. People experience very real consequences for something that we as Americans and Europeans abroad can turn a blind eye to in a couple of weeks when the World Cup is finally finished.

Here is an example of just how important soccer in the media is for various countries:


(in order of reference)

“Brazil: FIFA Forces Evictions For World Cup, Police Brutality Rages”. [http://en.squat.net/2014/01/11/10654/].

Chiq da Silva website. [http://www.chiqdasilva.com/site/].

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: FIFA and the World Cup” YouTube video.

Vettorazzo, Lucas. “Polícia reprime protesto contra a Copa e agride dois jornalistas do Rio.” Folha UOL. 28 June 2014.

“Contra a Copa: The Other Side of Brazil’s World Cup.” VICE Magazine. 14 June 2014.

Gaffney, Christopher. “Hunting White Elephants/Caçando Elefantes Brancos.” 30 June 2014.

Azzoni, Tales. “Brazil inaugurates another World Cup stadium.” Associated Press. 9 March 2014.

Lowenstein, Fiona. “Sexist FIFA President Sepp Blatter has made no secret of his feelings about women.” Bustle.

Makhunga, Lindiwe. “Should FIFA move the ball on racism?”. Al Jazeera. 27 June 2014.

Simon, Max. “FIFA Chief Sepp Blatter: If Gays Fear Qatar’s Homophobic Laws, They Should Abstain During World Cup.”
Queerty. 13 December 2010.

Coulter, Ann. “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay.” The Clarion-Ledger. 26 June 2014.

Wikipedia. “Lago Agrio oil field.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lago_Agrio_oil_field].




(For AP35, Cabrillo College).


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