22 June 2014

What happens when the Cup of Cups runneth over?

The Cup of Cups is limited to the field of play and even then there are massive problems with the governance of the game. We see innumerable possibilities of concussed players staying on the field after getting dinged. There is no doping lab in Brazil capable of analyzing anything but belly button lint and FIFA is threatening to sanction the Mexican fans for saying “Puto” while tens of thousands of Brazilians call Diego Costa a “viado” with impunity. While we have seen amazing football, been on emotional roller coasters and exposed to the furious athleticism of the male body as consumer spectacle (thank you Puma) this continues to come at a heavy cost.

Scalpers, ticket touts and cambistas who are operating freely around the Maracanã are exploiting the desperation of fans to get into matches. Outside the Spain x Chile match a dodgy looking Englishman tried to get US$ 2500 for three tickets. That is maddeningly expensive and exploitative and theoretically illegal. There were dozens of these transactions happening on a newly constructed overpass that linked the stadium to the hospitality center on the other side of the tracks.  The hastily constructed overpasses and lack of organization may eventually create some nasty problems. Combine this with a military police that is not there to help but to hit, and there is an explosive combination waiting for the fuse to be lit.

Continuing north from the Maracanã and into the Manguinhos favela, at the same time that tiki-taka was dying, the Military Police assassinated Jonathan, a 19 year old, by shooting him in the back. As geographer Carolyn Prouse has pointed out on her blog, the protests that occur far from the eyes of the national and international media are not necessarily against the World Cup but for basic human rights: “There is less circling of the cops with cameras when people are running for their lives. And because favelas are typically depicted as being run by drug traffickers, it is very easy for the state and the media to accuse protestors of being paid by the traffickers, as ridiculous a claim as it may be. This is a form of criminalization of protest activity that rarely sees any media coverage in World Cup reports. And it’s done to silence activists.”

In short, the military model of dealing with insurgent populations has been amplified with the World Cup. While the ostensive policing of areas around the stadiums may be a normal aspect of football culture in Brazil that does not mean that it is acceptable. The cordons sanitaires that are part of the fan experience have their inverse in the cordons du terroire of a repressive police apparatus.

If we think of the stadium as a city in miniature then by looking at what is going on there we can better understand the dynamics of the city. If fans are renting their spaces in the stadium, and those prices are too high for them to pay, then they look for a cheaper seat (in a bar), spend their savings or try to invade. If ticket prices are comparable to housing costs, we see the same thing happening in the mega-event city. The middle and lower classes can no longer afford to live near places of work and leisure, get pushed to the periphery and are forced to cede space to the international tourist class (however defined). Those who try to invade (squat) are treated as criminals and expelled from their occupations. In this sense the deportation of the Chileans who tried to squat  in the Maracanã is the equivalent of the violent repression that Cariocas have faced when they try to occupy vacant buildings. 

The invasions of the Maracanã undertaken by the Argentines and Chileans during the first two games are getting all of the media attention and the security will be reinforced in all stadia. However, this does not go beyond a mere re-entrenchment of the hyper-territorialization of FIFA-space. The continuation of this process by more repressive means is happening throughout the World Cup host cities.

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