Sport is not art. Sport is not aesthetic. Sport is not the story of superhumanly athletes soaring above the phoenix. Sport is an organized mass-murder of human aspirations, of high-flying hopes and a celebration of bloodied capitalism.
When the FIFA World Cup’s 2014 pit stop was announced, the world rejoiced. The preachers of the beautiful game celebrated the return of boga jonito’s grandest spectacle to its spiritual home. But now, with days to go for the kickoff of the biggest spectacle in sport, the godly figure over the city of Rio de Janeiro seems to be just a standing, helpless spectator to a mass-murder, just like the engraved arms-spreading body on the World Cup trophy.
While the world awaits with bated breath for the curtains to be raised, the canvas of the 2014 World Cup resembles a country under a pile of mortar, bricks, cement, unfulfilled developmental promises and killed aspirations. At a time when the naive world would have expected Brazil to be adorned in the colours of a carnival, the largest South American nation rather resembles a war zone. At a time when the rest of the world is waiting for their sporting stars to don their national jerseys in pursuit of the greatest glory in football, Brazil has been engulfed under one rallying cry, Nao Vai Ter Copa — There Will Be No World Cup.
It has become a perception of the majority that FIFA gave the hosting rights of the 2014 World Cup to Brazil thinking that the sport’s spiritual home will do anything to make the event a grand success. But have we questioned — “For Whom?” Who benefits from such huge events like the World Cup or the Olympics? How much of the revenue earned trickles down to the society? From what the situation in Brazil currently looks like, nothing or very little, at best.
FIFA and the government of Brazil promised the preachers of the beautiful game prosperity in the name of the World Cup. But after estimated costs of around $30 billion, there are only mortar and bricks to be seen on pot-holed roads and unfinished buildings, not schools for the young and hospitals for the aged.
Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all
– John Maynard Keynes
Statistics can often help in sizing up an industry. According to one report, the sports industry generated revenues worth $135 billion in 2013. But like any other industry under capitalism, the most spectacular sporting spectacle is showcased by trampling upon the misery of thousands who are rendered homeless, whose lives are ravaged by the money-mongering capitalist vultures. Sports scientist, Dave Zirin recently came out with a book Brazil’s Dance With the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, wherein Zirin states that the three Ds of a capitalist economy — displacement, debt and defense are at the heart of dissatisfaction and revolt among the general Brazilian public.
He writes in his book, “The calls for protest aim to highlight the pain as well as show the world who is behind the curtain, pulling the strings. There is a highly sophisticated plan that just as the government’s World Cup plans for Brazil are designed for international consumption, there is also an unprecedented global spotlight. The great journalist Eduardo Galeano once wrote, ‘There are visible and invisible dictators. The power structure of world football is monarchical. It’s the most secret kingdom in the world. Protesters aim to drag FIFA from the shadows and into the light. If they are successful, it will leave a legacy that will last longer than the spectacle itself.’”
Famous Canadian author Naomi Klein described her theory of ‘disaster capitalism’ under ‘Shock Doctrine’ as “disasters such as terrorist attacks, military coups (Chile, in particular), and natural catastrophes create a ‘state of exception’ whereby the elite finds an opportunity to impose a drastic neo-liberal agenda. The opportunity arises because the people, emotionally and physically reeling from the disaster, are too shocked to put up a fight.”
But in the world of sport, Zirin explains in his latest book that what comes to being is ‘celebration capitalism’. In the name of grand sporting events, towns and shanties are reshaped as tourism spots, the ugly sides of a city are covered up and hidden from the audience who have come in for the exhibition of all that’s not to be, of all that’s momentary. New mega stadiums are built, or old ones renovated, all from the public exchequer, but who benefits from the construction of these gala stadiums? Not the exchequer, but the real estate giants and construction mafias, tourism and security agencies, PR and sports management firms, sports merchandise companies. And as you must have perceived post the Commonwealth games in India, the swamp is riddled with bribes that initiate the many lucrative contracts that are handed along the way.
Revista Istoe is one of the leading news magazines in Brazil, and one of it’s best war journalists, Yan Boechat, is covering the build up to the World Cup from the streets of Brazil. In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, he said, “A lot of money was spent on construction of things we don’t really need. There’s a big stadium in Manaus, a place without a football culture and not even a team in the first or second division. The government removed hundreds of thousands of poor people from their houses to make space for stadiums, roads to lead to them, and other construction projects. Most of these people were sent to places far away from the city centers.” People’s bread and shelter are being sacrificed for a rich, meaningless circus to come to town.
But thank you Brazil for standing up against this capitalist display of vulgar wealth. As Boechat further added in that interview, “We are now seeing a new wave of protesters coming to the streets. Teachers, street cleaners, police officers, unions, a movement for affordable housing—all those people are going to be on the streets during the World Cup. They see this as the right moment to fight for their interests. Those groups do not traditionally mix with the anarchists and anti-capitalists.” The people in Brazil are protesting against the prioritization of the interests of big businesses over ancestral people’s rights. They are questioning the government, ‘For Whom do you work?’ They are protesting over the deeply saddening fact that their President, Dilma Rousseff, who was a member of a Marxist revolutionary group after the 1964 military coup d’état in Brazil, has allowed the World Cup to proceed at the expense of the Brazilian poor. They are protesting over the fact that the most revolutionary figure in their political history has handed a sellout of the poor to the rich.
It’s a war in Brazil now, and the FIFA knows that. And just like the Roman emperors in the coliseum, the men in charge know that for a successful and rather peaceful World Cup, the home nation has to perform well on-field. After India had won the 2011 Cricket World Cup in India, the stock markets rose by about 4.5% for the first three weeks, when South Korea defeated Italy in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, something similar happened. And oh, wait! The Ecuadorian referee for that match had later admitted to taking money from the South Korean officials. What a spectacle, right? And if you are thinking it’s the bookies’ word, take a second guess. The bankers, rather.
Goldman Sachs strategist Peter Oppenheimer recently said the company’s analysts have found out that according to past history, the winning country’s equity markets outperform global stocks by 3.5 percent on average in the first month after winning, “although the outperformance fades significantly after three months.” If their predictions are to be believed, the host nation has a 48.5 percent probability of winning the FIFA tournament, followed by Argentina at 14.1 percent and Germany at 11.4 percent. That’s how you play the game.
While Pitbull, Jeniffer Lopez and Shakira delight our senses on television with celebratory World Cup songs, teachers, students, labourers, engineers, doctors and housemakers have taken to the streets in every corner of Brazil to fight for their rights in unprecedented numbers. People are not only being displaced and evacuated, they are being killed as well. 5000 military troops are working in Brazil not to ensure the safety of incoming tourists, but to keep the protestors at bay. They are torching communities who have refused to relent.
As sports philosopher, Ljubodrag Duci Simonovic once penned down, “Just as the true picture of war are not military parades, but killed and mutilated people, desperate mothers, burned houses and fields, starving children dying in ash and mud – the true pictures of sport are not smiling faces of sportsmen at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, but their degenerated bodies, ruined health, destroyed youth, life without a future… A man deprived of rights, abused, defeated and destroyed.”
With less than a week to go for the World Cup, his words stand true. And I am afraid, but so do these — Sport is not art. Sport is not aesthetic. Sport is not the story of superhumanly athletes soaring above the phoenix. Sport is an organized mass-murder of human aspirations, of high-flying hopes and a celebration of bloodied capitalism.