Protests on the street, but support from the stands - Brazil's love/hate relationship with World Cup bid

The Selecao's win in their opening game has helped some to look beyond the day-to-day social issues which have been thrust into the spotlight by dissenting masses
By Greg Stobart in Rio de Janeiro & Kris Voakes in Brasilia

The beginning of the Confederations Cup has not gone entirely to plan, but there are already signs that that running battles between protesters and the authorities could be overcome thanks to Brazil's constant thirst for football.

Following initial protests in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Thursday over rising transport costs, there were threats of similar manifestantesin the build-up to matches at each Confederations Cup host city. And so it proved from the very beginning.

Saturday’s opener between Brazil and Japan in Brasilia was preceded 24 hours earlier by the burning of tyres across the main road outside the Estadio Nacional, bringing traffic to a standstill around the city centre.

Come match day, around 3,000 more people protested outside the stadium, drawing attention to their argument for more money to be spent on public services for the poor instead of luxury football grounds which could quickly become white elephants. The dissidents passed around copies of Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic, letting it be known that they had a right by law to “gather peacefully, without weapons, in places open to the public, provided they do not frustrate another meeting”.

Added to the loss of public money which could have been spent on valuable services for the needy, many are even losing their homes as a result of displacement brought about by the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

As many as 170,000 people in Brazil have lost, or are at risk of losing, their homes as part of evictions related to the two grand sporting events. In Rio alone, up to one-fifth of people could be permanently displaced, with more than 19,000 people resettled since 2009 and at least 40,000 more currently going through eviction.

Disquiet | Protesters in Brasilia get their message across before Brazil's win over Japan

"One year away from the start of the World Cup, we hoped that these great sports events would be beneficial for the population, based on the right for citizens to participate in the discussions regarding their city," Renato Cosentino, of the Rio Popular Committee, told Goal. "But we are seeing a series of human rights violations, especially when it comes to the right to housing."

Raquel Rolink, a UN Special Rapporteur for adequate housing, and native of Brazil, added in a statement: "World Cup-related evictions are taking place in violation of human rights standards but it is not too late for Brazil to change the trend. The country has the legal framework and the money and still has time to do a better World Cup - one without human rights abuses."

But no matter how much the mix of protesting masses, military presence, galloping police horses and circling helicopters has meant that the party atmosphere expected outside of the stadiums at major tournaments has been noticeably missing, there is still a great pull for the national team in many eyes.

The success of overcoming Japan with relative ease in Brasilia has helped to provide a smokescreen with the silent majority. Many quickly turned away from thinking about bus fare increases or political problems after Brazil’s win and Neymar’s star performance, instead focusing their attentions once more on the Selecao's ability to win next summer's World Cup.


Newspapers have continued to carry pictures of protests, but the Estadio Nacional, bedecked in yellow, took precedence on Sunday, and Monday's headlines were invariably taken up by Spain and Italy's successes in their respective fixtures. While 25,000 protested in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, thousands more watched on around the country, taking great pleasure in cheering on Tahiti against Nigeria as the two teams met in a stadium which cost around €230 million worth of public funds to renovate in time for the two tournaments. Even as president Dilma Rousseff declared the Confederations Cup open on Saturday, the boos for her and her policies quickly turned to cheers for the beginning of the tournament.

Football has not exactly united this particular nation, but it has certainly provided solace for a great percentage. While they may still care about what is happening on their streets and in their hospitals, Brazilians have still gladly sold out every one of the home nation's fixtures at this month's tournament.

The convincing style of Saturday's win and golden boy Neymar's starring performance have helped to inject hope into the heart of Brazilian football fans. The yellow shirt has been proudly worn by countless shoppers, commuters, market stall-holders and shop clerks over the past 48 hours, representing a team and a sport in which they can trust to regularly bring a smile to their faces, despite the current climate.

But how long can this continue? Tuesday brings the competition's first rest day, meaning 24 hours in which people may put football on the back burner once more to think of the wider picture. Then again, the Selecao are back in action the following day, against Mexico in Fortaleza, and another victory would surely bring further anticipation of bigger things to come.

Brazil's battle between football and fair play continues to be a daily struggle.

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