Why can't we be like Brazilians?
It was something unbelievable: Frequent winners of the soccer World Cup protesting against hosting the event which they won after stiff competition...
It was something unbelievable: Frequent winners of the soccer World Cup protesting against hosting the event which they won after stiff competition from other nations
Who wouldn't envy sports-loving Brazil, one of the leading members of the Third World? It is hosting the Confederation Cup, a premier international soccer tournament, preparations are in full swing for the 2014 Soccer World Cup and then the most glittering prize of them all, 2016 World Olympics: A triple sports bonanza which could stress out even the most affluent nations in the world. Brazilians are demonstrating on the streets, not in wild joy at their nation being blessed with the sports hat trick but at the economic pressure they will have to bear in this mighty endeavor. The nation, accustomed to strikes and huge protest marches against former ruling military 'juntas', now rose in anger at the economic feasibility of the crowded sports calendar for the next three years. It was something unbelievable. Frequent winners of the soccer World Cup protesting against hosting the event which they won after stiff competition from other nations. Would England or Australia ever baulk at holding, say for instance, a World Cup in Test cricket? What was wrong with the Brazilians? A sluggish economic giant with enormous growth potential which, however, has not been realized ( very much like India), Brazil can ill-afford luxuries like additional five-star hotels, sports stadia and an entirely new infrastructure for which funds would have to come from taxpayers. This was the view of a large number of Brazilians, NGOs and government employees who were expected to build such an infrastructure. No wonder more than 2, 00,000 people took to the streets in the most recent public protest after the authorities increased fares for public transport. With inflation sharply rising, this was the last straw and finally even the soccer fanatics seemed to realize that football would not put extra food on their plates. Every Brazilian city and town witnessed demonstrations and police had to baton charge and fire teargas shells to disperse unmanageable crowds. Brazilians are accustomed to huge public protests. During the nation's military dictatorship from 1964-85, huge protest marches were common in Rio de Janeiro. The 'juntas' often ordered the troops to deal harshly with the demonstrators and many people died. The present people's Police are not so harsh but could be provoked into more stringent retaliation against increasing mob violence. "Peaceful demonstrations can be allowed," observed President Dilima Rousaffina. "Young people want to let off steam by demonstrating." In May inflation rose to an unprecedented 6.5 per cent and funds meant for public welfare projects were diverted towards the sports extravaganza. Independent observers pointed out that in many cases these funds were misused by corrupt organizers and greedy contractors who had little experience in building such a huge infrastructure. The tense situation was not helped by the comments of FIFA President Joseph Blatter that demonstrators controlled by various NGOs were seeking international publicity by aligning themselves and organizing protests. As Rio de Janeiro seethed with anger at the steep bus fare hikes, Blatter's comments were insensitive, particularly in a region under longstanding economic duress. Latin America, along with Africa, was at the bottom of the international economic prosperity scale. A region of dozens of small nations, Latin America had been grievously exploited by a succession of tyrants, military dictators, American business imperialism and ravaged by civil wars. Its population rose sharply because the people, staunchly Catholic and pro-Vatican, would not practice birth control. During the Cold war, the US which regarded the region as its personal backyard, armed the smaller nations with deadly weapons for backing anti-Communism. The process saw the downfall of liberal rulers whose only fault was their tolerance of Marxism. The right-wing dictators stashed away huge wealth in Swiss banks, erected huge statues of themselves in various decorative poses and trampled on the rights of their people. Their saga came to be written in blood. Brazil, for a long time, could not escape from their clutches. Its enormous natural and mineral resources were looted by foreign imperialists and it had its own share of harsh military rule. Finally, democracy established itself in the mid-1980's. Unaccustomed to democracy and confused as to what kind of economic policies it should follow, Brazil, like another Latin American giant, Argentine, stumbled along the democratic path. There was one silver lining. Natural athletes, Brazilians and Argentinians excelled in sports. As middle and long distance runners from African nations like Kenya and Uganda swept the international athletics field, soccer took roots in the region and proved to be an outlet for national pride. Brazil and Argentine were frequently at the top and men like Pele, Maradona and, more recently, Lionel Messi were the new national heroes. We are familiar with how nations in the Third World, in their quest to join the Big League, often try to organize important international conferences and sports meets without having internal resources and trained manpower. African nations spent scarce resources on building huge international airports and acquiring the latest in commercial aircraft, five star hotels and conference halls so that they would qualify to hold Commonwealth Conferences or important economic meets where their leaders would stand next to Queen Elizabeth or other major international leaders to be photographed. Once the conferences were over, the hotels and halls often rotted, the people struggled in centuries-old poverty. These nations did not have the expertise for such an extravaganza and money often went into the wrong hands. We are not surprised at what is happening in Brazil; it has only borrowed a leaf from India. Though big in size and regarded as a nation with terrific economic potential, India is one of the poorest nations in the world, ranked among the lowest in poverty alleviation, number of schools, consumption of food grains and so on . But we have had an unlimited passion for holding grandiose events, be they connected with sports, cinema or international events. The Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games came frequently to India. Expensive structures came up in urban areas along with five star hotels. Once the events were over the properties were divided among organizers, politicians and sports authorities. Massive corruption was exposed during the 2011 New Delhi Commonwealth Games and the chief organisers like Suresh Kalmadi went to jail. Our sports standards never rose and there is now a talk of hosting the football World Cup where we stand among the lowest in the world. Holding of such grandiose events helps only a few people. Mumbai was starved of housing plots but we had an ever-increasing number of cricket stadiums all controlled by politicians The Brazilians had every right to protest against the forthcoming sports galas. They were far more talented sportsmen than Indians. No one grudges them the sports events provided they are conducted properly, corruption checked and the common people not exploited. Then the entire world would cheer the yellow jerseys which had brought magic onto the soccer field.