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World Cup 2014: An Insider’s View

Winning another World Cup is every Brazilian’s dream but they demand better amenities and less corruption in politics.

Dr Puspitapallab Chaudhuri
Mon, Jun 23 2014

Photo Courtsey: Wikimedia

About Dr Puspitapallab

Dr Puspitapallab Chaudhuri is a professor of Physics at the Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil. His research interests are in Atomic and Molecular Physics. Growing up in Kolkata, he is interested in sports and keenly observes social issues.

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World Cup 2014 is in full swing. The last few days have seen many developments on and off the ground. Defending champion Spain are already out of the competition, so are mighty England. Italy and Portugal are struggling and Brazil await a berth in the second round.

The Brazilians are receiving tourists with open arms. Their affability, warmth and cheerfulness are making some 600,000 tourists, from all over the world, feel at home. A few social unrests and the so-called “anti-world-cup” protests happened here and there, but nothing to jeopardise the billion-dollar tournament. World Cup matches are on schedule and the stadia are full to their capacity. Everyone is enjoying the greatest show on earth with the same exhilaration as can be compared with the joviality of the Brazilian spirit.

So far, so good, but these public protests continue to be a matter of concern for the administration and the Brazilian people in general. They are small now, but were much bigger even few months back, and nobody knows what’s in store for the future. These demonstrations started last year and evinced a lot of interest from the world media. In most cases, they were interpreted as an antipathy of the Brazilian people against organising the World Cup.

These protests are a new phenomenon in Brazil´s social and political landscape. In my two-decade stay in Brazil, I have never seen such public demonstration where thousands of people spontaneously came out on the street to protest against corruption and demanding more investment in infrastructure, health and education. On the contrary, I have always found the Brazilian people to be rather passive.

It is a rich developing country with its plethora of natural resources, huge agricultural and industrial output, and a vibrant democracy. In the last few years, the country witnessed a significant growth in areas with urban and social development. According to a World Bank report, Brazil is the world´s seventh wealthiest economy. However, like all other developing countries, it has many socio-economic problems and the political system is plagued by deep-rooted corruption. These problems were being discussed in the local media and the society at large.

So far the Brazilians learnt to live with their corrupt politicians. Every time a new corruption story surfaced in the media, the population got outraged but the public anger disappeared in no time. So when the first public demonstration appeared on the street protesting against corruption and the increased cost of organising the World Cup, it took everyone by surprise – the security forces, media, politicians and ordinary people.

The estimated cost of hosting this edition of the World Cup is more than 11 billion US Dollars and it is by far, the most expensive version of the tournament since its inception in 1930. Naturally, the protesters got instant support from ordinary people like me. Demonstrations continued for several days all over Brazil with the participation of millions. They were planned to be peaceful and spontaneous to convey a strong anti-corruption message.

Right from the beginning, these demonstrations were accompanied by a group of people who indulged in violence and vandalism. This was enough to demoralise the popular movement, and a few days before the World Cup kicked off there were no more demonstrations of appreciable proportion. And, now that the World Cup is on, all Brazilians are focused on their team´s performance – Brazil has to win.

Last time when Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950, they lost the final against Uruguay. That defeat is still haunting the Brazilians. Even for those who were unborn then, winning the World Cup is of utmost significance.

Football has become an integral part of Brazilian culture. Winning the World Cup for the sixth time is important for the politicians too as it will help them to stave off the negative criticism from both within and outside the country. A few infrastructural developments - new stadia, improved airports, a vibrant tourism sector, some highways and over bridges - will speak in their favour as the legacy of the World Cup.

Still a few questions remain unanswered. What will happen to those infrastructural projects that are incomplete? What will happen to those peaceful demonstrations? Will they reappear to pressurise the government to do more for the people? Will those hooligans still try to demoralise the movement?

It is strange that vandalism is more organised and regular than the demonstrations. We usually do not see this type of orchestrated vandalism in everyday life in Brazil. Why did they appear only when there are public demonstrations? Will the Brazilian people be able to convey to the world media that they were never against organising the World Cup? All they asked for is provision of basic amenities for ordinary Brazilians. In fact, they wanted both – the World Cup title as well as development.

Winning the World Cup for a record sixth time is the dream of every Brazilian but they demand more investment in basic amenities like health and education and less corruption in politics.

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bullet Comments:

Nirmalya Nag (Tuesday, Jun 24 2014):
Nice piece, giving the reader both sides of the issue. Thanks Dr Puspitapallab Chaudhuri for this article.


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