Every four years, soccer fever takes over the world. People make room in daily conversations to discuss the World Cup, and this love of sports can break the barrier that divides social, educational and economic classes.
The sport’s democratic nature, since you need no more than a soccer ball and enthusiasm, has turned the competition into a truly global event.
This is a celebration for everyoneone that the organizing country, in this case Brazil, pays for. And even though no country in the planet is more soccer-crazy than Brazil, the cost of hosting the World Cup is still very controversial, even today.
The high price of organizing a contest of this scale in a country with serious social shortcomings always poses a contradiction in priorities, between the demands of the FIFA and the most urgent national needs.
Based on past experience, the expensive stadiums built in South Africa for the last World Cup have now become white elephants that are seldom used. The best example is the Cape Town Stadium, which cost $600 million and today sits empty, used only for hosting private parties and sightseeing.
This lesson was not lost on Brazil. Demonstrators are just asking that, since “World Cup quality” airports were built, why not invest in hospitals so that they can have the same world-class quality.
Soccer and politics are not unrelated issues. Politicians know this well, especially in Brazil, where Dilma Rousseff’s government bet its future on hosting the competition. And with this being Brazil, having the local team win is even more important in order to prevent popular frustration turning into demonstrations. After all, almost $11 billion were spent on the World Cup instead of investing in other areas that needed it more.
For the great majority of fans watching the games on TV, this is an opportunity to spend time together and have fun with a soccer overdose.
The teams are representing their countries and inspiring sports nationalism, and it is acceptable for everyone to wrap themselves in their flag. However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is just a game, that despite awakening great passions, this is no more than entertainmentand what is in play is a ball and not national pride.