Brazil Lost the World Cup, So What?

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By: Juliana Moraes-Pinheiro, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

The largest country in Latin America, most commonly known for its vibrant soccer, left 200 million citizens shocked after its loss in Tuesday’s match against Germany in the World Cup’s semifinal. There were seven goals scored by the Germans against the Brazilians’ one goal. Yes, it was a historical World Cup loss. But the question is: So what? Should Brazil continue to focus on marketing its soccer culture, or should the country begin to showcase its numerous other accomplishments? The time has come for Brazil to focus on better moves is now, and I do not mean soccer moves. The Brazilian citizenry ought to stop feeling ashamed every time the Seleção loses a World Cup.

Every four years when the World Cup is launched, staunch Brazilian fans proudly and publicly display their support for their nation. These also happen to be the same people who complain about everything; yet, suddenly they fill their hearts with pride, boasting how honored they are to be Brazilian. Perhaps these people just choose to focus on what their country is best known for—soccer—when the World Cup comes around. However, the absurdity of it all is that whenever Brazil loses, the bitter taste of reality comes surging back to the life of these fair-weather Brazilian futbol fans in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, this time the taste is even more bitter than ever—the “humiliating score” against Germany came in the midst of the most expensive World Cup in history. On Tuesday, the love left and the hate came back. Most Brazilians cried and screamed, while others thought about the expenses of the games, burned the national flag, and returned to heavy protesting. [1]

There is no reason for Brazil to only be known for its soccer, carnaval, and attractive women. Brazil has much more relevant accomplishments to share with the world. For instance, Brazil has extremely advanced engineering.  Case in point is the creation of the exoskeleton—a mechanism engineered to enable the paralyzed to walk—by Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis. [2] The invention was hardly mentioned during the opening ceremony of the World Cup. Brazil also has remarkable auto and aircraft industries, and the Brazilian corporation, Embraer, is one of the world’s main aircraft manufacturers for both civilian and military planes. [3]

Additionally, Brazil is known for its high standards of its private health sector, particularly as the country is one of the world’s most popular locations for plastic surgery. Brazil also has some of the best universities in Latin America. Several of the nation’s higher-level education institutions, such as the University of São Paulo (USP), University of Campinas (UniCamp), and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) are world-renowned, USP being ranked in the 85th position. [4]

Most importantly, the 2014 World Cup has surpassed global expectations and has disproved the critics who feared that if Brazil hosted the event, it would be a fiasco. Since the inauguration of the Cup, this global sporting event has been a well-organized tournament and has been complimented by even the most critical of journalists. Researcher Dàvid Ranc from the Football Research in an Enlarged Europe (FREE), stated that Brazil’s World Cup  has been better organized than the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He also criticized the world’s misconceptions regarding events taking place in the Global South, arguing that the qualms of the developed world with regard to the games reflect xenophobic thinking. [5]

Though these accomplishments rightly make Brazilians proud of their nation, there are number of Brazilian government policies that infuriate the populace and drag millions into the streets for generally non-violent protests. The 2014 World Cup has been the most expensive in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) history. Brazil spent approximately 12 billion USD to build and renovate stadiums and airports across the country. [6] Consequently these lavish expenditures did not sit well among the Brazilians leading many of them to begin protesting, primarily due to the increase of the bus fare in São Paulo in June 2013. They also demanded better public hospitals and schools. The absurd investment in the World Cup is exactly what Brazil did not need while the public sector is in such decay.  Brazilians are now asking who will pay the exorbitant bill for the games.  For many, the loss against Germany is just one more reason to continue the protests that started in 2013.

Despite Brazil already having one of the highest tax rates in the world, the country’s public sector is not thriving, particularly in the social and health areas. Brazil is struggling in these sectors because of high rates of corruption, unequal income distribution and gross injustice toward the poor. Sadly and unsurprisingly, politicians benefit the most from tax income, not the general public. This dynamic alone justifies the protestors, who just want a more equitable structure for their nation and its citizens.

After Brazil’s loss in the World Cup, the protests were taken to a new level as protestors altered their peaceful behavior to a more dramatic one, burning metropolitan buses and the national flag . The Brazilian people deserve to be heard and the public sector problems are overdue to be solved.  Most of the country’s violence comes from the state via the military police, causing some journalists from the opposition to argue that some sort of dictatorship is back. On the other hand, government supporters expect President Dilma Rousseff to do more for the people, as she is a former protestor herself; while others fear that all the fuss will just end up “in samba,” meaning that nothing will come of these protests. Unfortunately, the truth is that not much is actually being done in favor of the population.

With the presidential elections approaching in October, it seems plausible to visualize a major and positive resolution to appease the protesters. Some critics state nothing will change regardless of who wins the election. Renato Janine Ribeiro, a professor of Philosophy at the University of São Paulo, argues that Brazil is currently in its fourth stage of its democratic agenda. The first three stages occurred when Brazil transitioned from the end of the military dictatorship in 1985, then saw a decline in inflation during the early 1990’s, and finally began an agenda for social inclusion under President Lula by early 2000’s. According to Professor Ribeiro, Brazil still needs to improve its social agenda of even stronger social inclusion policies. However, he believes that this fourth agenda, which is the improvement of public services, is happening now and looks promising since the population does not appear willing to stop their demands. [7] Ribeiro also observes that, in order to obtain substantial change, Brazil needs more than a popular outcry; it needs technical capacity from the government. Although he states that the country is on the right track, Ribeiro says there is still much to be done before Brazil can fully enter the fourth agenda of democracy.

Brazil’s success as a World Cup host should help its international image, but again I ask: so what? Why should the Brazilian people care about their country’s image in the world when it still has so many domestic problems to be solved? Brazilians are gradually turning their backs on the manipulative media and focusing on the “raw” situation of their nation. Burning the national flag demonstrates the extension of the people’s fury and immense desire for change – a desire to have the “country of the future” right now. The time to change is now, not on “Brazilian time,” of being thirty minutes late or leaving decisions to the last minute and pull the “Brazilian way” as a means to solve everything. Burning their country’s flag does not mean that Brazilians do not love their nation – its population is simply appealing for positive changes and that and they deserve to have them sooner rather than later.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to:LatinNews.com and Rights Action

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