The World Cup: Brazil’s Band-Aid

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has come to a close, but the societal impacts of the international event are still felt around the world. This was arguably one of the most exciting World Cups in recent history, and it came with its own fair share of drama before and during the Cup.

Take a look at the host nation, Brazil, for instance. Prior to the World Cup, Brazil received huge backlash against its bid to host the event, given the high level of poverty in the nation and the dilapidated state of most of its stadiums. Once FIFA gave Brazil the “honor” of hosting the Cup, the country’s infrastructure budget went into overdrive; not for basic roads, schools, and upgrades for sanitation facilities, but rather for fancy stadiums and other amenities to accommodate international tourists who could afford to attend the games.

Although impoverished conditions have improved in Brazil since its World Cup bid in 2003, the fact remains that over 15 percent of the population lives in poverty. The estimated $12-14 billion the Brazilian government spent on preparations for the World Cup could have been put to much better use if it had been allocated for education and health care, rather than frivolous sport expenditures.

People have argued that, in addition to the “honor” of hosting the Cup, Brazil gets a huge cut of the earnings from ticket sales, merchandise, tourism, and money from World Cup enthusiasts. Unfortunately, this cut isn’t as big as everyone assumes, as FIFA gets to keep a rather significant chunk of change from the World Cup earnings while leaving Brazil to foot a majority of the expenses of hosting the Cup.

Has Brazil profited from hosting the World Cup this year? No. Will it at least break even? I highly doubt it.

Non-economic protests surrounding the Cup were also very justified: authorities were evicting countless poor Brazilians from their homes in the metropolitan slums known as favelas to make room for World Cup accommodations and infrastructure. A poorly-constructed bridge in one of the many host cities–Belo Horizonte– collapsed on July 3, killing two people and injuring 19 others. Many other issues plagued Brazil before the commencement of the 2014 World Cup.

In short, Brazil needed a miracle to overcome its economic and social woes. Making it out of the group stage allowed Brazilians to turn a blind eye to all these problems in favor of enjoying their soccer team’s success, game after game. Brazil was the favorite to win, until the match against Colombia when their star player Neymar fractured a vertebra, ending his World Cup stint at once. Brazil still scraped by with a victory in that match, but then they had to face a daunting opponent in semifinals: the Germans. Swift, calculated, and efficient–the stereotypes apparently hold true–die Mannschaft had dominated most of its games in the World Cup and came into the semifinal game hoping for a goal or two, at least enough to beat Brazil and move on to the final game.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know Germany demolished Brazil, 7-1. To say the least, this game was humiliating for Brazil, given that they were playing in their own country in front of millions of viewers. Once their dreams of a World Cup victory were dashed, suddenly the societal problems Brazil had been able to ignore for the past couple of weeks came back into focus. Brazilians took to the streets, protesting their team, their politicians and everyone else who could be considered responsible for their societal woes. A victory for Brazil would have allowed them to ignore these problems for a little while longer, but perhaps it is more of a band-aid solution than a long-term one. What the country needs now is to focus on improving the living standards of all of its citizens, not paying a handful of soccer players millions of dollars just to get their asses handed to them by the Germans.