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FIFA Confederations CupSepp Blatter's comments won't silence Brazilian protesters

Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 | 10:16 PM

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Despite FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s rosy view of things, there is a clear divide growing between what is going on at the Confederations Cup, and what is actually taking place in the streets of Brazil. (Vincenzo Pinto/Getty Images) Despite FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s rosy view of things, there is a clear divide growing between what is going on at the Confederations Cup, and what is actually taking place in the streets of Brazil. (Vincenzo Pinto/Getty Images)

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If there was ever a time when the often oafish FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, should have kept his mouth shut, surely it was now.
If there was ever a time when the often oafish FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, should have kept his mouth shut, surely it was now.

With the Confederations Cup in full swing, the world's attention on Brazil and mass daily protests threatening to throw the World Cup warmup into chaos, Blatter couldn't help himself by weighing in on a problem that seems more likely to expand further, before it might recede.

"Brazil asked to host the World Cup," Blatter told Brazil's Globo TV network. "We did not impose the World Cup on Brazil. They knew that to host a good World Cup they would naturally have to build stadiums."

A subtle threat. It isn't the first directed toward Brazil by FIFA.

"We'll take the World Cup away from you if you don't smarten up," is the message. That's always the message when FIFA feels you're not living up to your agreements. In this case, failing to silence dissent in your own country is the crime. But never one to let a dying flame go out, he went further in adding to the distorted world view.

"They are linking them [the protests] to the Confederations Cup," Blatter. "I can understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard."

Is Blatter appealing to Brazil's football-mad-public savvy? Probably. Is making such contradictory, inflammatory statements going to do anything to quell their anger? Probably not.

The point being: why should the Brazilians protesters not use football to make their demands heard, when they were sold on the idea that it was football that was going to save their ailing infrastructure?

Original projection

Brazil's original World Cup bids projected that they would spend less than $1 billion, the lions share coming from private financing, to makeover seven existing stadiums and build five new ones across the country.

Brazil's government, still a year out from the actual World Cup, is now estimating that they will spend more than $3 billion in public dollars to spiffy up the stadia. To put that in quick perspective, South Africa in 2010 spent only $1 billion on renovated facilities. Yes, in World Cup terms, only $1 billion is now a thing.

In the city of Fortaleza, the protesters blocked the main artery to where the country's heart lay on Wednesday -- the stadium for Brazil's game against Mexico Wednesday -- and hoped to bring the collective attention back to their city and others like it in Brasila, Manus, Salvador and Sao Paulo.

Brasilia, perhaps, is the worst example of where the social injustices have taken place.

It is there that the country has built a $600 million stadium, in a city which lacks top-flight clubs capable of packing its 72,000 seats post World Cup. And it is where there haven't been similar investments into its inhospitable hospitals and its crumbling schools.

Not so, according to Blatter.

"We said that it was not just for the World Cup. Together with the stadiums there are other constructions: highways, hotels, airports ... items that for the future. Not just for the World Cup."

Numbers continue to change

Exact numbers have continued to change since the early part of this year but it is believed that at least a dozen of the nearly 50 original infrastructure projects have been altered, dropped or changed completely.

It prompted Romario, a former World Cup winner, and now a lawmaker in Brazil's Congress, to warn in February that they were falling drastically behind on their obligations.

"The much-discussed social legacy looks like it won't get off the drawing board," he said.
Brazilian authorities are preparing for thousands more people to draw up their own plans as they take to the streets once again Thursday. This time in Rio de Janeiro, who it plays host to the Spain-Tahiti matchup.

FIFA has made a habit of not showing protest banners, which have been smuggled into host stadiums, through their television feed thus far. And, once again Thursday, it's unlikely match viewers around the globe will see anything other than what goes on during the course of play.

Make no mistake though, much like Blatter's alternate, rosy view of things, there is a clear divide growing between what is going on at the Confederations Cup and what is actually going on in the streets of Brazil.

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