With just two days to go for the World Cup kickoff games, the world doesn’t know
which to watch, if the game between Brazil and Croatia, or the mounting
intensity of protests just outside the stadiums.
Brazil, a country with a reputation hot for all things football, and which has given
the world some of the best football players in history and some of the most
memorable football moments on television, is now an incubator for football
disaster with millions of people taking to the streets to protesting against
the World Cup hosted in their home. If we could have expected that any country
would have gloriously received the FIFA World Cup games into their home, it
would have been a nation like Brazil. However, the hostile reaction from
Brazil’s people against the World Cup coming to their country raises many
questions on the viability and profitability for developing countries to host mega
events such as the World Cup. The protests which started last year came as a
result of frustrations caused by the hike intaxes to meet infrastructure expenses
to ready Brazil for the World Cup. While 6% of Brazilians live in mountains of
bricks known as ‘Favelas’, Brazil’s poor and middle class feel that money
should be invested in healthcare, education and nourishment rather than on
stadiums that will serve for a one time use and end up becoming liabilities to
the country after the games are over.
If the situation of South Africa post World Cup fever is to serve as Brazil’s
future, Brazilians are right in their premonitions. Four years after the World
Cup was held in South Africa, the stadiums built are hemorrhaging the economy.
In 2010 as preparations to host the games South Africa spend $3.9 billion US to
construct and renovate eight state of the art, FIFA approved stadiums proper
enough for international audiences. Out of the eight stadiums built only one is
economically viable now. Some of these stadiums are now unused because local teams
cannot afford to pay rent to use them and costs the residents an exuberant amount to
maintain. Such is the case of the Cape Town Stadium which cost $600 million US in construction
now sits forgotten and abandoned. According to Geoffrey York’s article published in the Globe and Mail,
the 55,000 seat stadium costs Cape Town around $6 to $10 million US a year to maintain and “Some residents have even
suggested that it should be demolished to save money.” The demands made by FIFA made
are highly disparate between the needs of developed nations and developing ones. Viable options that could
have saved some money and benefitted the local communities were disproved. A report by the
Danish Institue for Sport Studies concluded that in Cape Town and the City of
Durban there was no need for new stadiums when both communities had rugby
stadiums that could be renovated. Organizers voted in favor of renovation of
existing stadiums which would benefit the people living in the surrounding
shacks areas after the World Cup had ended. However, FIFA wanted the World Cup
stadiums to have a view of the sea for the television audience. “A billion
television viewers don’t want to see shacks and poverty,” a FIFA delegate told
the local officials, according to a report in a leading South African
The hope of the host country is that revenue generated from tourism
would reimburse the country’s expenditures. However it was not so for South Africa.
A research paper published in the Journal of African Economies calculated that South Africa attracted only
220,000 tourists from countries outside of Africa, spending an estimated $13,000
US on each visitor. In an interviwe with Andrew Harding, a correspondent for BBC Africa, the 2010 World Cup organizer Mr. Danny
Jordaan stated that, “expectations about the impact of 30 days of football were unrealistic.” According to Johannesburg-based
researcher Dale McKinley, the South Africa World Cup was “a success for Fifa
and the corporate sponsors made a lot of money, but it left local businesses
and the state floundering.” Four years after what they dubbed as ‘the giraffe stadium’ was built in Nelspruit,
the residents of Matasfeni Village still live in poverty, with a borewhole as their only water supply.
“Things didn’t go as planned,” said Mr Imaan Milanzi a community laison said,
“They first promised to supply water, upgrade houses and roads. But they just
built the stadium and disappeared.”
It raises the question of the logic for developing nations to invest exuberant
amounts of money to cater for international standard luxuries which its own
people cannot afford to enjoy such as private boxes and club seats for
Celebrities and FIFA officials. According to the researchers from the Journal
of African Economies, for developing countries, to host mega events is a “potentially
successful yet hugely expensive strategy to develop tourism in developing
India ran a similar fate hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. According to Business
Today magazine, the Games cost India an estimated 600 billion rupees ($10
billion US) making the Commonwealth Games the most expensive games up to date. While
65 million people live in slums in India, 1.8 million in Delhi alone, the
Commonwealth Games were never accessible to them. They could only hear the
Games from far, even though they continue bearing the costs until today. Some
of these the gigantic stadiums and renovated roads lie in spiking contrast to
the slums surrounding them.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it seems, is following suit. According to estimates,
this year’s World Cup is the most expensive event staged yet. It is costing an
estimated $15- $20 billion US to construct and renovate 12 FIFA approved
stadiums. Some of these stadiums are being constructed in towns that will not
be able to amass the fanatics necessary to maintain them after the World Cup
ends. One of these is the Amazonian City of Manaus which will spend $5- 10
million US annually for the maintenance of their stadium while the revenue that
their third level football team generates is way beyond that amount. In the poor regions of Brazil,
the disparities and inequality became acute as the stadiums began to be built beside
Favelas populated by people who love football but cannot afford tickets to the
games. In some cases the blatant abuse got worst where entire Favelas surrounding
the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which will host the final games, have
been completely wiped out to beautify the optics for the television audience.
When it comes to tourism revenue generation, already the scales are against the hosting country.
According to Professor Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College in
Massachusetts during an event like the World Cup tourists get scared away by
high hotel prices and congestion in games. Brazil revenue making is under even
more skepticism, because the negative publicity given by the protests over the
year and surmounting over the past month. Moreover, there are worries that the games will leave Brazil with a Real Estate
economic bubble like what happened to Delhi after the Commonwealth Games.
Unlike South Africa Brazil was not economically ready for the World Cup and had to move funds from Social
Services areas and increase taxes to meet the costs of infrastructure which is
costing four times than the initially estimated amount. This increasingly angered the people.
Some of the greatest Brazilian football playersgrew up in the same marginalized
and ignored demographics that are today protesting. Players like Romario,
Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Pele (one of the best players of all times) used to play football
bare feet on the streets of Sao Paulo as boys because they were too poor to afford football shoes.
Even though Brazilians love football and can boast of its World Cup pedigree in
which it has won five times and has qualified for every single tournament, FIFA’s
exorbitant demands weigh heavy on the country’s poor and has suppressed their passion
for the game. Brazil is protesting against a larger enemy. It is protesting against
the money minded enterprise of FIFA that has contaminated the sport making it into a business.
Brazil is reclaiming the pure soul of football.