World Cup rubbish - CNBC Africa

World Cup rubbish


by Chris Bishop 0

Favelas in Brazil. PHOTO: Rio on Watch

The anger is likely to rise as the tournament wears on. This is a chance the activists are unlikely to pass up even if the government sends thousands more police and yet more tear gas.

The reasons behind the protests are fair enough; in short, a highly powerful and rich organisation, FIFA, has steamed into a country, overridden one or two of its freedoms and overseen the setting up of new stadiums where the world’s pampered rich footballers can play for a few weeks.

That is the cynical view at least, and one shared by the thousands of Brazilians who are putting life and limb on the line in the streets to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to protest against poverty in the midst of opulence.

They appear determined and how they prosecute this protest in the weeks leading up to the World Cup final will be a measure of the power of the howl of anger that could echo through many tournaments to come.

Maybe the time has come for people to stand up in a world where more people are becoming poorer and fewer, richer. It is a signal that is it not enough for the authorities of a host to merely sweep the streets and its national problems under the carpet.

Poor Brazilians have a point. As a journalist, I have reported from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. They are vast, rat-infested, grindingly poor and dangerous. We had a priest with us for protection and in the background there was an almost continuous wail of police car sirens.

The poverty shocked me then and stayed with me. I can tell you that nothing in Africa, or anywhere in the world for that matter, can hold a candle to the inhumane squalor of the favelas of Brazil.

The idea I have is that if countries like Brazil can afford to build a bunch of expensive football stadiums in a fairly short space of time, why can’t it build less expensive houses for the people?

Simplistic, maybe, most truths are, but certainly worth thinking about as the howl of anguish grows louder every time a ball is kicked in Brazil. Maybe the dispossessed of Brazil have scored in the imagination of the world as neatly as their country’s strikers score on the pitch. Maybe this is the nudge that the authorities need to realise that the gaudy TV fest that is football is not the be all and end all.

On this June day, I differ with the late Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, who was once asked whether football was matter of life and death.

“No, it is much more important than that,” growled the canny Scot.

I don’t think so.