The Confederations Cup and FIFA’s drop in the bucket approach to combat poverty in Brazil

THE GREEDY BASTARDS’ WORLD TOUR CONTINUES: When FIFA boss Sepp Blatter announced the world’s governing body would spend close to $100-million at next year’s World Cup for social assistance you can excuse the Confederations Cup protesters in Brazil for failing to acknowledge this seemingly impressive gesture.

While good ole ‘Septic’ held his press conference, the demonstrations raged on in the streets of Rio and Sao Paulo and across a nation where it seemed to many that the world’s governing body and its multi national sponsors were essentially throwing them a few crumbs.

As bloody protests escalated and demonstrators held up signs and shouted slogans such as “Go Home FIFA”, Blatter and the world’s football elite calmly sipped champagne.

The protests, which had their origins over outrage of a 10 per cent rise in bus fares in Sao Paulo rapidly transformed into a nationwide movement enraged by the spending of public funds for the 2014 World Cup instead of better education, health care.

At the exact moment wine maker Tattinger was toasting its new bubbly alongside FIFA executives, police were firing tear gas at protesters in Brazil’s fifth largest city of Forteleza.

“Champagne Taittinger will manifest its presence at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in the months to come through various initiatives with the help of its 150 distributors around the world,” a statement from the winery said.

The champagne will retail at close to $90 per bottle (all figures U.S. currency) in Brazil, a sweet treat for the Nouveau riche but the equivalent of more than ten days salary for those in the lower end of the income scale.

“This is not our problem, it is a political problem, but we hope something will be changed so that by the time the World Cup begins next summer we can have a platform to deliver it,” said Blatter responding to questions about the widespread unrest. “We have patience, trust and confidence in the government.”

A true statesman and buck passing politician couldn`t have put it better. For now: Let them eat cake!

It’s no wonder the protesters are up in arms over spending on the 12 World Cup venues and a complete Brazilian tourism image makeover pegged at near $13.9-billion when recent census estimates have revealed that 10 per cent of the population bring in just 1.1 per cent of the country’s earnings.

The government has no chance to make any substantial portion of that multi-billion dollar expense back and its citizens are painfully aware of this.

More than 1-million people took to the streets in demonstrations which spanned 100 cities in public display of outrage against the enormous cost of staging the world’s most popular sporting event.

The protests weren’t all peaceful and in some cases took a turn for the worse as many demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at security forces. In at least one instance the protests were tragic, as a 18-year-old man lost his life when a car drove through a barricade in Sao Paulo state.

On Monday, the day after Brazil’s 3-0 championship final win over Spain, FIFA announced that matches at the World Cup would be haulted if police teargas from demonstrations in the streets impacts the air quality in stadiums next summer.

Instead of looking at the root of the problem - the demonstrators and their concerns - the governing body has chosen to focus on the nasty side effects which are really of their own doing.

In order to gain some perspective here it is important to look at the last World Cup, South Africa 2010, where FIFA made an estimated profit of $2-billion, in a country where 50 per cent of its citizens live below the poverty line.

Sure FIFA can argue that a lot of this money goes back into football and staging tournaments like the U20 World Cup and youth tournaments around the globe, but doesn’t the world’s governing body and its cast of multinational sponsors owe a bit more of a debt to the people it is exploiting for profit?

Are there no visionaries or statesmen amongst the world’s football elite?

Surely you would think the corporate spin doctors at McDonalds, Sony or Visa would see an opportunity here. A movie trumpeting the good of their giant profit-hungry corporation helping the football loving street people in the slums, a charitable initiative where a percentage of proceeds go to helping the homeless or building schools.

No takers on this? We thought not.

The previous World Cup in South Africa and the upcoming one in Brazil could have been a public relations coup for FIFA and its umbrella of high-profile sponsors but they have clearly missed the boat again just as they did in South Africa three years ago.

The charitable work of FIFA and its cast of multi-national corporations is really the equivalent of flipping a beggar a nickel from a pocket full of bills and gold coins, when you consider the amount of money exchanging hands coupled with the widespread poverty and socio-economic misery which exists in the 2010 and 2014 host nations.

Indeed FIFA’s commitment to such charities as SOS Children’s Villages is commendable and Blatter’s recent announcement of a $100-million fund for the 2014 World Cup to aid Brazil’s poor is a step in the right direction.

You can’t help sympathise with the protesters in Brazil for exposing FIFA and the Brazilian government for their greed and short sightedness and rightfully claiming that these efforts are really nothing more than a drop in the bucket.

Note: This blog post is an editorial. We would love to hear your opinions on the protests in Brazil. Please share your comments with our readers in the space provided below