A New Kind of Hell for FIFA

Fires burn in streets as Brazilians protest against FIFA’s 2014 World Cup

For the first time, Brazil’s soccer teams are on the wrong side of history. When all was said and done after the 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil, the game never provided anything sustainable to improve peoples’ lives.

For most Brazilians caught in a daily grind that exists in crowded traffic and poor transportation, the average citizen will have at least something to bring a smile to their faces. They will know that truckloads of FIFA executive will be going to a fresh hell for a very long time.

To the people of Brazil, FIFA had left them out of the equation long before the 2014 World Cup. Polls reflected little local support amongst the average citizen. Politicians promoted the event like it was the second coming of Christ. However, the voting public never got to vote and began to ask questions, “Do we really need to build 12 opulent stadiums across Brazil?”.

As stadium construction began, a national outcry became rioting. Even the fans of soccer showed a distaste for such an event when so many other things in Brazil needed immediate attention.

In Rio, the city and state government said that only 11,000 people were forced out of their homes, but the reality was more like 100,000 people had lost their homes and were never compensated.

Rio police squads were dispatched to beat up poor and elderly protesters for being angry that they no longer had a place to live.

From the beginning, FIFA promised that it would support social causes, but it didn’t take long to see that it was all about soccer, not about funding higher pay for teachers, building more hospitals, paving streets or improving transit.

During the hostilities few in government noticed the slogans that began to appear on new construction sites: “Good riddance to FIFA” and “No we will not go to the world cup”.

Recently, more than a million protesters gathered across Brazil as a call to end the power of FIFA, which had bought themselves legislators, judges, real estate moguls, property developers and the powerful cement titans. FIFA had bought itself the president of the country, Dilma Rousseff.

Today, Recife’s hulking Arena Pernambuco, one of the stadiums constructed for the World Cup is virtually empty. The neighborhood of Timbi was demolished, sending 130 families to look for new homes. With fewer people living in Recife, crime increased and stores pulled out of town. Recently, the city sponsored a game, but with fewer people unable to buy tickets at inflated prices, Pernambuco is little more than a sea of empty seats.

In all 12 host cities none of the stadiums are self-sustaining. Some are still not completed a full year after the World Cup. Two other stadiums in the northeastern cities of Natal and Salvador attracted an average of fewer than 15,000 fans over the past year, a third of their capacity or less. The Estádio Castelão in Fortaleza managed only an average of just over 18,000 fans to see a game.

Brasília, the national capitol of Brazil, hosted a game between two popular teams in the Brazilian A Leaguen, Botafogo and Atlético Mineiro. It was hoped that the city could attract spectators but only 4,000 people showed up in the massive stadium. Moreover, Brasília’s Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, which cost R$1.4 billion (US$526 million) to build is the second most expensive stadium in the world.

In Manaus, the Arena da Amazônia will operate at a loss estimated to cost $700,000 a month (US$256,000) for the next 25 years.

According to Folha de Sao Paulo the most expensive stadium to maintain is the completely refurbished Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, at R$4 million (US$1.46 million) per month.

It is quite likely that major sports heroes and soccer club executives across Brazil will figure prominently in the coming wave of arrests. Even big name Brazilian players of the past will be photographed wearing orange jump suits. After all, they were the enablers in the biggest sports scandal the world has ever known.

Since the 2014 World Cup, Brazilians have become painfully aware that streets are still not paved and new sewage systems are well behind schedule. The pipe system for São Paulo’s clean water is falling apart after decades of neglect and Rio’s water supply is vanishing from its reservoirs due to cracks.

There is a chill in the air when anyone wants to talk about soccer in Brazil these days. The 2016 Olympics are around the corner, but Brazil is in recession and the middle class is a slippery slope on the “divide”.
On one side are the prominent and powerful. On the other side are the poor who live from day to day in places they had fled from decades ago.
Many Brazilians were impacted by the 2014 World Cup. According to Articulação Nacional dos Comitês Populares da Copa NGO some 250,000 people were expelled from their homes because of the construction work required.

On especially hot days, bus riders must commute to and from their job, and are reminded of their decaying country when the air conditioning no longer works and old roads are under endless reconstruction. Many revolutions have begun under less desperate circumstances.

Inside the sweltering heat of a crowded city bus, one can look out and see a white elephant, one of FIFA’s empty stadiums. They are little more than the empty promises that hucksters like to make.

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