According to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, the World Cup provides an opportunity to push for change. In an analysis of the next World Cup, to be held in Qatar, the report mostly details the controversy surrounding the Qatari regime’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup and the actions of the companies and organizations involved in the process.
We tend not to worry about the goings-on or the background of the host country unless protesters start speaking up; if they can or dare to do so. This makes an event like this the perfect opportunity for people to claim their rights and take advantage of the world’s attention to the country, just as the Brazilians have done.
The 2014 World Cup started mid-2013, and obviously not from the first kick-off. Unfortunately, the Cup’s show has included tear gas and protesters being beaten back. Ana Rosa subway station, in São Paulo, is one of the latest scenes (on June 9th), where several banners were put up saying Não vai ter Copa (“there will be no World Cup”) and calling for better healthcare and education. However, note that protesters are not against the Cup: their qualms are about the money spent unfairly.
Beyond the show and marketing
At the start of the process, Brazilians were told that all the money spent on construction projects of the tournament would be private; nevertheless some of the projects’ viability seemed rather questionable, and claims started to fly. Carla Dauden, a Brazilian female filmmaker who resides in California, for example, criticized the situation in a video explaining how the investment in stadiums should be devoted to improving education, health and job creation.
Brazil is not alone. The country and its background are the key determinants, but at the end of the day injustice stems from the people behind the deal-making. Take Qatar’s World Cup for example, mentioned at the beginning of the article. Why is this case so salient? As the country prepares to host the 2022 championship, The Guardian has unveiled that thousands of Nepalese workers are enduring labour abuses. The hard, manual labour required to ready the country for the tournament is carried out by workers not only from Nepal, but from many other countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is reported that migrant workers are lured to Qatar under false pretenses. Once they arrive in Doha, these workers, whose passports are taken away so that they cannot leave the country, see how what was promised to them turns to dust.
Nonetheless, FIFA has keptmute about the mistreatment of workers in the tiny gulf state, only calling this practice “unacceptable”. Meanwhile, Qatar’s 2022 committee said it was working with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as various ministries, to address migrant labour issues. Although the Qatari regime recently issued detailed guidelines in the hope that it would address concerns about its employment laws, it has not helped to stop the rising number of fatalities among workers, thus questioning the efficiency of these guidelines.
And yet the show goes on
Regardless of the controversy, the protests and the human rights violations, the Cup seems to be on. The tournament is not just a matter of sports and the best football team, but of business as well. In her video, Carla Dauden argues that
“Most of the money that comes from the games and the stadiums goes straight to FIFA […] and the money that comes from tourists and investors goes straight to the hands of those people that already have money.”
The numbers are impressive. According to FIFA, television coverage of the last championship (held in South Africa) reached over 3.2 billion people. The final match alone, between Spain and the Netherlands, reached 909.6 million in-house viewers. In addition, by the end of the 2014 World Cup, FIFA’s revenue is estimated to be around 4 billion dollars.
Opportunities for “dirty business”, in other words, are abundant. A company under the control of Mohamed Bin Hammam (former football administrator and president of the Asian Football Confederation) is rumoredto have paid USD$1.2 million to Jack Warner, former president of CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), to ensure Qatar’s victory in hosting the FIFA championship in 2022.
Going the right way?
Events of global proportions unfortunately go beyond the spirit of sport: they also play on the fields of politics, prestige and economy, where nationalism and exuberant amounts of money are at stake. The big question then arises: Should Brazil and Qatar have been picked to host the World Cup?
Brazil has become an important actor on the international stage: not only is it the first Latin American economy and the seventh worldwide, but it is also part of the BRICS (a grouping of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and one of the most remarkable developing countries. However, even if Brazil’s international image is positive, its own population may not agree.
Perhaps, as Foreign Affairs claims, it is time for Brasilia to reconsider its domestic priorities and learn from other nations such as Mexico, Colombia and Singapore, whose investment has been devoted to improving education and health, instead of an unnecessary and misleading foreign policy. As Eduardo Gómez, author of the Foreign Affairs piece states, “The BRICS’ focus on becoming global leaders has come at a price. They have paid less attention to domestic policy — especially health and education policy, which, because of the BRICS’ large sizes, are usually handled by local governments with limited oversight. Now, facing economic slowdown, the BRICS are facing neglected populations as well.”
It is therefore time for Brazil to turn around and take a look at its own people, because if it does not, the next celebration on the street, fueled by the excitement bubbling in the Brazilian hearts, will not be related to a World Cup, but to a coup.
In the end, as Christopher Atkins says, “depending on which side of the argument you choose to listen to, the hosting of any major sporting event can both be seen as an opportunity for great development, or an impending disaster”. But one may wonder, why not listen to both arguments properly?
[Cover photo: Football Fever, by Moazzam Brohi on Flickr]
This is a non-profit explanation.