Ireland’s sizable Brazilian population was out in force on Dublin’s O’Connell Street in solidarity with their countrymen. The Confederations Cup, now underway, has become a beacon for protest in Brazil among a people who see billlions spent on white elephant stadia while hospitals are overcrowded, water is cut off in schools and public transport is in chaos.
Dublin’s main thoroughfare saw a large gathering of Brazilians who displayed banners reading “Sorry for the inconvenience. We are building a new Brazil.”
The rocketing price of hosting next summer’s World Cup has contributed to a wave of public protest against the rising cost of living, and accusations of political corruption.
Saturday’s opening game in the Confederations Cup saw 39 people injured and 30 arrested at a demonstration outside the country’s Estadio Nacional in Brasilia where up to 1000 had attended.
Inside, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff were roundly booed as the hosts took on Japan in the competitions opening game. It prompted Blatter to call for respect, which only encouraged the crowd further.
There were further reports of disruption ahead of the second game between Italy and Mexico at the Maracana stadium.
As the country struggles to finish facilities in time for next year’s World Cup, FIFA have been attacked by Brazil’s legendary Romario, now a congressman:
“Brazil needs to stop this business of becoming a slave of FIFA…The sovereignty of the country must be respected,” he tweeted last year.
South American football correspondent Tim Vickery told BBC World Service: “Brazilian society was explicitly told in 2007 that all of the money spent on stadiums would be private money.”
“It hasn’t worked out that way at all. More than 90% of the money being spent on football stadiums is public money.”
Brazil is a country with startling gaps between the rich and the poor where high prices put basic luxuries out of reach for the millions below the poverty line. The increase in transport fares has sparked massive demonstrations in Sao Paulo that have spread around the country.
There have been large scale public protests against the cost of hosting the World Cup but also against the destruction caused to facilitate the construction of stadia.
The proposed removal of Favelas to make way for roadways has incensed Brazilians while the Maracana was the scene of repeated demonstrations against the demolition of a native Indian museum on the site.
Brazil’s politicians have also been accused of corruption and football has not been immune. In April of this year, former FIFA president Joao Havelange resigned as honorary president after a report ruled he had taken bribes.
With the spotlight currently on the country, it’s no surprise that football should be used as the vehicle for Brazilians, at home and abroad, determined to highlight the plight.