When I think of true love, I remember some of the greatest relationships that have survived the worst trials and tribulations. These relationships overflow with passion and are defined by extreme levels of dedication that borders on obsession. When the two meet they can’t be repelled; an immovable object meets an irresistible force. It’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s Beauty and the Beast, it’s Brazil and Joga Bonito.
If you aren’t aware, Joga Bonito is “play beautifully” translated from Portuguese. When we think of Brazil we think of eternal sunshine, white sandy beaches and beautiful women whose dance moves leave you mesmerized. You can personify Brazilian football in exactly the same way. Any time you watch a game in Brazil, it’s never raining, the skills and tricks are out in full force, and you almost always find yourself with your jaw on the floor. In Europe the game has become so cagey and tactical that you are sometimes waiting for it to come out of its shell. In Brazil, the game will grab you by the collar and drag you towards it. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants and for generations it held locals captive. Brazilians have done and will do almost anything for the beautiful game and to play beautifully. It made perfect sense to have the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, especially now that the Brazilian economy has been booming.
As we’ve seen recently, all is not as it seems. The love is still there but the obsession has been tempered. Some things have become more important than the beautiful game and Brazilians are willing to break up with it or at lease go on break in order to improve their circumstances. You would think Brazil would be the last country to protest football, these protests are unbelievable because it’s happening in Brazil of all places.
The Brazilian populace are protesting transport fare hikes (which have now been reversed), corruption in government, high taxes, poor state of public infrastructure and over $20 billion of public funds used to pay for the World Cup. This last point has put the ongoing Confederations Cup in the cross hairs of all Brazilians. Protests have occurred in and around football stadia, FIFA vehicles have been stoned, and there is a resentment towards football never seen before in the soccer mad nation. Perhaps the World Cup is the biggest target and gives protesters a stage to have their message heard. Recently, over 1 million Brazilians marched across the country to protest the World Cup and the issues that have arisen as a result. Banners like “This is fair play”, a play on the FIFA slogan, and “First world Stadium, Third World Schools” have become commonplace. Brazilians love their football, still more than most, but no longer are they willing to put their overall well being ahead of the beautiful game. The effects of the drug are wearing off because there is an overwhelming desire to improve the Brazilian situation.
Now people are fearful and potential tourists are debating whether or not they will make the journey to Brazil for next year’s tournament. Everybody is wondering whether this negativity will last until next year and if tourists will be violently targeted. Brazilian president Dilma Roussef has cancelled a diplomatic trip to Japan to handle the crisis in the country and rumours are gaining momentum that the Confederations Cup may need to be cancelled as Brazil cannot guarantee the safety of officials, supporters and players. Though it seems unlikely, many are whispering that the World Cup may have to be moved to another country with England being mentioned as a possibility. Yes England has world class stadia already at its disposal and a wonderful football culture. They also have world class hotels, transportation and medical facilities. Let’s remember though, the Brazilian economy is growing more rapidly than the British economy which has stagnated since the 2008 recession. No matter the quality of infrastructure, hosting a tournament of this size will strain the resources of the British government and this will cause great contention. It will take billions to host a tournament of this size and after the Occupy London protests last year we should expect thousands to protest in solidarity for the Brazilians leading to major protests in London as well.
Like in any relationship, there will be good times and there will be bad times. Sometimes the bad times arise from external factors that pile stress on both parties. In the Brazilian case, the love for the beautiful game is still strong, you can see it in the stadiums and in the streets. However, the people are no longer willing to put their lives on hold for Joga Bonito. If the Brazilian government can open up dialogue with protesters and prove to them that corruption is being dealt with, reduce taxes and show a commitment to actual development in the country then all the resentment towards football and FIFA will dissipate. Once it does, we will all flock to Brazil, we will all soak up the sun, marvel at the beauties, dance in the streets and fall in love all over again with.
Until then, Brazil’s relationship status with the beautiful game will remain complicated.