• Brazil, the World Cup, and Development: Connecting Soccer, Politics, and Economics

Beyond the Stadium Walls

Wow, it’s hard to believe that today was our last day in Brazil! It seems like just yesterday we were anxiously waiting to leave for our j-term trip abroad, and now it’s all over. Coming from a person who knew little to nothing about Brazil before our trip, let alone the political system, I’m leaving here with a complete abundance of new knowledge. I’ve experienced that the rich culture of the Brazilians includes a passion for the game of soccer, music and dancing that fills the streets during their Carnival, and ultimately, a warm, embracing spirit towards visitors like us. There is truly something intangible about the atmosphere you feel when in the country of Brazil.

Despite these wonderful characteristics, this course has opened our eyes to the underlying issues of the Brazilian government system and the corruption that occurs. According to Alfred P. Montero, in his book Brazilian Politics, “social inequality is the most distinct feature of Brazilian society… with the top 1 percent of the population retaining 40 percent of the wealth of the country” (Montero 5). We saw this shocking inequality first hand through our experiences here. Ironically, surrounding the newly renovated Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro where we attended a soccer match, are thousands of favelas. The rich and the poor are literally next-door neighbors, yet the issue of extreme inequality still exists. The contrast between the poor people we saw as we walked the favelas in Rio and the rich people that vacationed at the dazzling Porto de Galinhas beach put Montero’s words into perspective. There are two extremes of inequality here, many Brazilians struggling to live, and others basking in a glamorous lifestyle.

With so much poverty present in Brazil, the 2014 World Cup has been a pronounced topic for political dispute here recently. As the government spends billions of dollars building brand new stadiums and “cleaning up” the cities for visitors, the poor once again are getting the short end of the stick. At the last stadium we visited in Manaus, we spoke with a project manager for building the stadium that said, “Building a stadium for the World Cup is a much bigger deal because it is for the entire world to see, not just Brazilians.” This statement really struck me. I believe his attitude about the World Cup is parallel to the Brazilian government, hence why they are investing so much money into it. The world can watch the stadiums and games on TV, but what they fail to realize is the poverty that lies literally just beyond the walls of the arenas.

Montero, A. P. (2005) Brazilian Politics: Reforming a Democratic State in a ChangingWorld. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Print.