12 March 2012

Fala sério Ministro!!!!

Politicians are slippery creatures, difficult to pin down. They never respond directly to questions and wrap their flowery vision of an unerring government in a tortured phraseology that makes a Gordian knot out of a shoelace. That they do this intentionally is no surprise, it’s part of their job. But when Aldo Rebelo, the Minster of Sport, one of the elder statesmen of the Brazilian Communist Party (CPdoB), and a former radical leader of the 1970s student movement said, without laughing, “There are no forced removals in Brazil”, he urinated on the smoldering embers of my optimismo.

The quote came during a press conference for foreign journalists in Rio in response to a question regarding the thousands of forced removals underway. In Rio alone, according to a document about to be released by the Comitê Popular da Copa e as Olimpíadas, 6,715 families have already been removed or are soon to be. This was also highlighted in Simon Romero's New York Times article last week. The number in Brazil is many times more. As many as 30,000 people in Rio will be directly removed as a result of the public works underway. Let us be clear: it is normal to remove homes and businesses for large urban projects. It is not normal to spraypaint houses marked for demolition, deliberately mis-inform, grossly underpay for the value of homes, act without legal recourse, and destroy homes before having reasonable and dignified alternatives. The idiocy of the infrastructure projects I will have to leave for another post. If there are no forced removals in Brazil, Rebelo’s definition  is the equivalent to Kristallnacht, an unacceptably low standard.

We should also not accept that our public officials utter the boldest of apologies for policies that are clearly intended to stuff private coffers at public expense. When asked to give an estimate of the cost of the World Cup, Rebelo replied: “We are not spending money on the World Cup, but rather investing in our cities.” Right, pull the other one. He obliged: “There are no social costs associated with the World Cup”. Please, Excelentíssimo, don’t pull any harder, it hurts.

When asked whether or not the Brazilian government had any programs in place to guarantee access to the new stadia following the World Cup, Rebelo started talking about the “colonialist attitude” of European teams that set up base camps in Brazil and drain off talented young boys to Europe. I don’t know of any European clubs that have done this in Brazil (there are innumerable cases in West Africa) and the fact is that they do not need to because the clubs and the CBF are all too happy to continue their obscure, amateurish and export orientated practices. Brazilian teams gain 28% of their operating budgets from player sales and only 11% from ticket sales. Ticket prices have increased more than 70% in the last five years while average attendance has declined by 16% and profits increased by 47%. The clubs are making more money out of fewer people, eliminating the lower classes from active participation in football (except as the paid clowns) and the government is turning the stadiums into theaters. Soon, watching a football game in Brazil will be like watching the NBA: rich whites in the seats, poor black and brown on the pitch. The CBF used to post a list of transfers and returns on its site but likely recognized the dangers of releasing this kind of information.

OGlobo is Rio’s local paper. It’s an embarrassment to journalism but is considered the pinnacle of everything in this provincial town. With a lower circulation than Toronto’s daily papers and a long history of sucking up to power, OGlobo can’t and won't criticize the World Cup. This is especially true given that they have just purchased the broadcast rights for 2018 and 2022. Contrary to the practices of the IOC, FIFA wrote me saying that they “do not divulge the value of their television contracts”. If you’ll forgive the scatology, this is a steamy, non-transparent pile of cocô. 

Is there no sense of irony whatsoever within the Brazilian media? I have never been around so many sniveling sycophants. They appear to only be interested in the tele-novela that is the spitting match between FIFA and the Brazilian government. At the second presser of the day six government apologists lined up to not answer questions about nothing. They sat in front of two photos: one of the Vasco torcida in the Maracanã and one of the Framengo torcida. These huge photos were taken in the old Maracanã: thousands of people standing close together, waving huge flags, homemade signs, hands in the air, fireworks, songs, chants, emoção.

As Ícaro Moreno and Márcia Lins were talking about the “progress” being made in killing the Maracanã and state vice-president Pesão talked about the new lines of finance obtained from BNDES and the International Development Bank, was no one in the Brazilian press able to recognize that the pictures that framed the scene would likely never again occur? Brazilian football culture is being killed by the very institutions meant to protect it. The only thing that (apparently) matters to the Brazilian media is fofoca (gossip), which makes for some righteous indignation about the arrogance of FIFA and some pathetic he-said she-said stories but doesn’t scratch the surface of the cruel reality that is Brazil 2014.

Finally, regarding my suggestion that the Brazilian government nationalize the CBF, Rebelo said that it was legally impossible and that he “complies with the law”. This was said as if the law came before legislators and as if the Law of the Cup weren’t explicitly designed to get around all of the laws that would make more difficult FIFA’s task of sticking their rapacious proboscis into Brazil. The power structure of the CBF needs to be dismantled. The government can do this. Sickly Ricky has gone on a leave of absence from the CBF, leaving in charge the man who stole a winner’s medal from a junior’s tournament. Mr. Jowls is still at the head of the Local Organizing Committee, which may be an indication of the demands of the job.

The Law of the Cup will go to a vote this week, analysis to follow.

1 comment:

Troy said...

And I was really enjoying keeping up with the latest developments from your blog. But I see we've gone back to the unreadable font size again...


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