Football is supposedly the people’s game. Brazil is supposedly its spiritual heartland. Nothing wrong then in hundreds of thousands of Brazilians taking their cue from football to express impatience with their daily lot.
Perfectly appropriate in fact.
The game’s modern laws were drawn up by university and public school grandees in the days when Britannia ruled the waves. But sport in general, with football in the van, ran away from them and evolved into a worldwide mass movement.
Earlier this past week even the English were bringing their own hesitant voice of protest to the streets with a modest little demonstration in pursuit of lower ticket prices.
Nothing to compare with what is happening here in Brazil. But ordinary fans have every right to parade their concerns in a football context.
In Brazil the $9bn cost of hosting next year’s World Cup (and the Confederations Cup) is being held up to unfavourable comparison with what is not being spent on health, law and order, education and transport. Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo disputes the value of the comparison.
But it ill behoves politicians to complain about football being as focus for popular action. After all, politicians and businessmen have used and abused sport down the years.
The pattern was set 80 years ago: Mussolini capitalised on the 1934 World Cup; Hitler on the 1936 Olympic Games. Between the 1950s and the 1980s the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites (most notably East Germany) used sport as a weapon in the ideological war with the West.
Right now states from Putin’s Russia to the Emir’s Qatar are using sport as a short cut to international visibility and respectability.
Some to more sinister effect than others.
Is it all just smoke and mirrors? Profits for a few in return for ‘mere’ bread and circuses for the masses?
If so then the game is up. Hundreds of thousands on the streets in Brazil are demonstrating that they have seen through the trick. They will not be the last.
Football is the people’s game . . . and the people are using it to demand fair play far beyond the pitch.