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More Important Than Football

PROTESTS in Brazil’s biggest cities are over the billions of Dollars the country is pouring into preparations for the 2014 World Cup, the first in Brazil in 60 years.

Hungry, unemployed youth are on the streets – they consider their future more important than the FIFA Confederation Cup, the 2014 World Cup, and the Olympic Games in 2016.

“If your kid gets sick, take him to the stadium,” said a banner on Sunday outside the Maracana Stadium, Brazil’s football shrine, in reference to the priority given to stadium construction over health, education and jobs. Who would have thought Brazilians would protest against football?

Turkey is another protest point. Its fanatical football supporters, many of them in the crowds that have been jamming streets of Istanbul for over three weeks, would create more headaches for FIFA if they occupy the FIFA U-21 competition that begins tomorrow.

Turks are incensed over a government decision that could convert a public park to a mall. The issue has provided the platform for hundreds of thousands of angry Turks to take on their government. They are resisting every move to force them off the streets.

France, Ghana, US, Spain would play in Istanbul, which would host 11 games, including the final, and is the epicentre of the unrest. Rioters would not miss any opportunity to get more international television exposure. Nigeria would play outside Istanbul in the early games of the FIFA event.

Matters could be hotter now that hundreds of thousands are rallied in support of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who remains defiant. A clash between the groups could escalate the protests. Rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons have been fired at the protesters. As they are dispersed, they re-assemble. “Nobody can intimidate us. We don’t take orders from anybody except God,” Mr. Erdogan told his party supporters in Ankara, where protests have also began.

The recourse to the Almighty means Erdogan, like the former rulers of Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, would not listen to his people. He has learnt nothing from how the people threw those rulers out, against all predictions. People, everywhere, react angrily to decisions that threaten their welfare.

In Turkey, the people want their recreational ground intact. Erdogan says he has authority to stop the protests. In Brazil, they are questioning appropriation of national resources, particularly the uncontrolled costs of constructing the stadia. In both cases the people want a say in how they are governed – they are demanding it.

Anti-people policies, whether in Brazil, Turkey or elsewhere, endanger the world as visitors to Brazil and Turkey must have realised. Nothing is more important than lives, surely not football or a mall.



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