17 July 2013

Lightning Counterattack

From Brazil, FIFA President Sepp Blatter flew to Turkey to open the under-20 World Cup. As his private jet was taking off, he boldly threw $100 million at the Brazilians, saying that the money would be used for some kind of social fund. The absurdity should be apparent, but if it isn’t, allow me to spell it out. If FIFA is so worried about their profits that they refuse to pay taxes, require duty free shopping on a continental scale and don’t have to open their accounts to public scrutiny, they why don’t they think twice about throwing out US$100 million? As I reported here some time ago, if FIFA were to actually pay their volunteer Brazilian labor force minimum wage (which is not, of course, adequate), the wage bill would only be around US$ 7 million. Why not take that US$100 million, invest in education, language training and actual projects rather than let it flutter down out of the sky into the dark corners of congress? Really, R$1 for every Brazilian as a return on our R$30 billion investment is pretty disgusting.

In other disgusting news, the Xaracana consortium has decided to ban every item and practice of Brazilian football culture. There will be no more large flags, banners or musical instruments. Fans will be prohibited from smoking or taking their shirts off. Swearing might become a criminal offense. They might even replace the referee with a robot and have drones determine offside calls. The head of the Xaracana S.A. has explicitly stated the obvious (which sometimes people need to get the ideas more completely in their heads) that there needs to be a “change in the type of fan” that goes to the stadium. This is consistent with all of the other World Cup venues. The cheapest ticket for the upcoming Vasco x Flu classic is R$60. The average ticket price to see Vasco x Flamengo in Brasilia last weekend was R$70. The 5.860 people that saw Santos x Portuguesa @ Santos paid an average of R$29. Tchau Neymar.

The continued absence of Brazil’s torcidas organizadas both in the protests and in relation to the stadium projects is as disheartening as it is revealing. Contrary to the ultras in Egypt and Turkey that have long been politicized and are pushing for social change (see James Dorsey’s amazing blog), in the Brazilian case, the torcidas have done nothing. They are perhaps so compromised by their dependency on the clubs to maintain their little pockets of power and so unable to overcome their long-standing rivalries with other clubs to unite for a common cause that they are impotent actors in a very complicated economic and political chess game. Their collective inability to politicize their own involvement in Brazil’s football world has greatly weakened their own position and been a loss for Brazilian civil society. This trend may be reversing itself with the statement of the Força Jovem do Vasco regarding the Xaracana, but it is the only such position that I have come across.

In case things in Rio weren`t difficult enough, here comes the Nope to really bungle things up. Not only is he bringing millions of McDonald’s eating adolescents, he’s brining 3 full holidays, shutting own traffic everywhere and substituting the rubber bullets of the Military Police with the live ammunition of the Brazilian Military. Yup, if you try to get within 13 kilometers of the site of the big mass in the west of Rio (not coincidentally, a site owned by one of Rio’s wealthiest who is having it fixed up nicely so that it can then be subdivided), you just might get your head blown off. The city is being progressively occupied by the military and of course they all want to behave like Rio's PM. Chega de evento. 

Fortunately, it is another lovely day in Rio. The sun is shining, the sewage is flowing into the bay, two and half million Catholics + the Pope will be sharing their personal effluence with us and we have three major holidays coming up! Bring on the Copa when we will have the entire month off. Put that in your economic return multiplier and smoke it. 

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