FIFA’s Confederations Cup resumes today in Brazil, but the hot talk will not be restricted to soccer and things happening on the field.
The protests that have threatened to unhinge the country could become toxic to the tournament, as well.
FIFA spokespeople on Friday were forced to issue denials amid reports in Brazil that the rest of the tournament could be canceled. “Neither FIFA nor the local organizing committee have ever discussed the possibility of cancelling the tournament,” a spokesman told the BBC. “There are currently no plans to discuss it. These reports are pure speculation.”
Massive protests involving more than 1 million Brazilians, according to reports, have taken place throughout the country, including the two cities where games will take place today.
In Salvador, Brazil and Italy meet in a match that will decide which teams advances as the group winner and who goes in as No. 2. Both teams are already assured passaged into the tournament semifinals.
That city was the site of one of Thursday’s massive protests, and more of the same is expected today around the match.
Japan and Mexico, also-rans in the group that includes Brazil and Italy, meet in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao. Police in that city fired rubber bullets and tear gas bombs at protesters, who were attempting to breach FIFA’s secure areas around the host stadium.
The protests are not about soccer, per se, but spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics became a flashpoint for the demonstrations.
The demonstrations over corruption, ineffective government, the dismal state of education and public services, have even conspired to put the country’s national country’s obsession with soccer into a twist. None other than Pele, generally beloved in the land and generally known as the greatest player ever, has even found himself dragged under in public opinion.
This story in the The Nation says the Brazilian government has already spent $13.7 billion World Cup-related projects, with the overall investment scheduled to grow to around $16.5 billion. Compare that to the annual national budget for education (around $19 billion) and it’s not difficult to see where the Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for next year’s much bigger World Cup, would be caught in the middle of the county’s suddenly awakened social unrest.