I’ll write this one in English since my last Copa was in Portuguese about the epic loss to Germany now known as the Mineiraço. Now, after also going down 3-nil to Holland in the 3rd place match (why the hell a 3rd place match still exists is beyond me) this Brazil team, a minha Seleção triste, fraca, horrível, made history as the team to give up the most goals, 13, IN THE HISTORY OF ALL WORLD CUPS. The unraveling and humbling of Brazil at home is without question the top story of the tournament. I’ll have you all know that I saw it coming two years ago even before their Confederations win last year. You can only get by with dives, paid-off refs, and a shit team (probably the shittiest defense and goalie in the Cup) for so long. I couldn’t have predicted 7, but my distrust in the team is all documented on facebook baby. We had other stories too.
FIFA and CBF’s (Brazilian Football Confederation) corrupt and dirty little paws were clearly in the games. If you missed John Oliver’s ingenious tirade on the “sausage principal,” it’s now the greatest FIFA bashing piece out there and must-see TV. The overall refereeing was atrocious and as mentioned before, seemed to push the hosts forward. There was biting, a broken back, and so many dives Greg Louganis shut it off. On the other hand, I don’t know how you write a script for a few of these unless they got an A-list Hollywood screenwriter on board. Germany was clinical and precise, as expected, but they had their scares too. Algeria looked good and made them work. But oh what a gorgeous Goetze goal to make them World Cup Champions for the fourth time. I enjoyed Holland and Chile quite a bit (honestly thought Chile had Brazil). That Van Persie header is one of the sickest goals I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen thousands at this point. Australia surprised me and put on a great show with that Cahill goal. My favorite story though, the one that just seems impossible to script, is Costa Rica.
They were like the little engine that could and almost did. I couldn’t believe my eyes as the Ticos brought down Copa giants and former two-time winners Uruguay and four-time winners Italy and then played former winner England with their B TEAM, because they had already won the group. WON A GROUP WITH 3 FORMER WORLD CUP WINNERS?! Incredible David and Goliath narrative. While Brazil was vexame e vergonha, utter humiliation for the team of one of my passports, I was quite proud of my other team representing my other passport: the U.S. Though they left earlier than Brazil, I’d argue they had a more successful campaign. They played much tougher teams earlier and battled hard to earn that berth to the next round. Not to mention they lost 1-0 to Germany; not 7-1, 1-nil. While the future looks grim for Brazil, it looks quite bright for Klinsman and his young stars. The CONCACAF confederation was outstanding and had their best ever World Cup. In any case, these are the stories and battles you’ve heard about and watched on TV.
Then there are the real battles outside the white elephant stadium “Green Zones” that have received less coverage. The Shock Doctrine of Sport is nothing new with FIFA and mega-events like the World Cup or the Olympics, but with over 11 billion spent this Cup and none of it going to the average Brazilians (see my earlier article on ludicrous financial planning and management), Brazil has reacted in ways we’ve only hoped, but have never before seen. We all saw those incredible mass protests last summer during the Confederations Cup over the displacement of people and destruction of favelas, the rise of the security state, and the absurd amount of expenditure of taxpayer money and incredible profit flowing to FIFA, CBF, and Brazilian politicians while millions of Brazilians lacked basic necessities. “FIFA quality healthcare” became one of the rallying cries. In response, the military and police crackdowns once the actual World Cup began have been extremely violent, perhaps the worst in the history of mega-events.
I’ve been posting and following a lot of the protests and movements outside of the stadiums since last year’s Confederations Cup. I still have a few contacts from my student (black bloc) days in São Paulo and my family has more direct contacts keeping up with the oppression on the streets. My friend and journalism guru, Dave Zirin of The Nation/Edge of Sports, has done outstanding work on the ground in Rio. If you still haven’t read his book Brazil’s Dance With the Devil, change that immediately. People have wondered why they haven’t seen any protests during the Cup. Were people satisfied and done protesting? Did they give up and decide to just watch the games and shut up? Not on your life. Two things: first, a total sports media blackout of anything outside the stadiums was put into effect by corporate media. Next, each host city fully militarized a two mile perimeter around each stadium creating eerily similar circumstances to the Occupied Territories in Palestine, not to mention the arming of the police and military Robocops by Israeli defense contractors and drones flying overhead, was keeping the tourists in and the local population out. There were more troops throughout host cities in Brazil than U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, which greatly decreased the numbers on the streets during the World Cup. The fear is that the occupation and militarization of Brazil is anything but temporary bringing back frightening memories of the former military dictatorship in the country.
I can’t possibly go through everything that happened while we were watching the matches. What I can do, is post links that will help to show the “man behind the curtain” and show bits of the real stories that few in the mainstream were covering (I was amazed to see this from an ESPN reporter). Firstly, check out Revolution-News. I have one degree of separation from someone working with Midia Ninja, anarchist street reporters, that have been doing an amazing job covering the protests and especially the police repression (risking their butts) and posting on Revolution-News. I watched one such march and police response live on Revolution-News via Midia Ninja and was pissed off and saddened by what was happening. Zirin returned to Brazil (and got tear gassed) and had some more great insights. His blog in general is a must on these and other sports and politics related topics. If you’re short on time and can only read one piece; read this by Zirin. Global Exchange has also been running a blog by former professional MLB player and Brazil-loving guy Derek Poppert.
These are some places to get you started, but keep digging, and get out the truth out of what has and is happening behind the scenes of the World Cup. Just a day before the final, for example, a preemptive round-up of activists and journalists in Rio was leaked. I love my futebol, but FIFA, the OIC, and the other huge sports organizations that mate with local and national governments and their police and military powers for these mega-events need to be reformed, or better yet, abolished. I believe the momentum will not stop as the 2016 Olympic plans now kick into gear. I believe there is a strong possibility that as the Brazilian conscience continues to grow surrounding what has happened with the World Cup, there is a possibility the citizens of Rio can even kick out the IOC within the next two years. The great irony here, is that as I rant about my motherland far away in Brazil, my actual city is currently under police “security”as it hosts the MLB All-Star Game. When will it end? It’s up to us queridos. Punho no ar/Fist in the air!