The Confederations Cup began on Saturday and was opened with a fantastic game of football in which Brazil demonstrated their blistering pace and attacking nous to dominate Japan and secure a 3-0 win which will momentarily allay their fans fears after a mixed couple of years.
However, the scene was marred by violence outside the stadium in Brasilia in which police opened fire on 1,000 protestors with rubber bullets and tear gas, trying to incapacitate the crowd who are angry at the incredible costs the Brazilian government has put aside for the Confederations Cup this summer and World Cup in 2014.
They argue that although Brazil is developing into a major power financially there is still much to be desired when it comes to the living conditions and quality of life for millions over the country. Huge improvements are needed in their medical institutions, education sector and in the favelas which blight most major cities.
It is a question which was raised at the last World Cup in South Africa when it was asked how the government there could justify the billions needed for revamping – and in some instances building from scratch – new stadia to host the month long tournament.
South Africa is also no stranger to poverty and many of the new sports structures were imbedded within the shanty towns which are home to millions all over the country. Even more sickening for protestors was the news that the £3 billion spent on the World Cup only recouped a meagre £323 million – far short of the profits predicted.
Even closer to home in Europe the impact of hosting these international football tournaments has been felt quite profoundly.
Poland and Ukraine hosted Euro 2012 and both needed to undertake huge programmes to improve transport links, accommodation and stadia once again. The footballing authorities demand huge amounts from countries that have the “privilege” of hosting their competitions and if these aren’t met they’ve shown that they are happy to withdraw their prize.
The $2.8 billion figures quoted by the European neighbours were just to cover the cost of stadia alone, and the $200 million from ticket sales weren’t going to make that bill any easier to swallow.
It can be of no surprise to UEFA that they were low on offers to host their European Championship in 2020. When plans were announced that the edition of the competition in seven years’ time would be shared amongst a number of countries it was clear that they understood how unpopular their multi-billion pound flying circus was.
It is no coincidence either that FIFA’s new frontier of choice for the World Cup is the Middle East, at a time when the region has been flooded with oil money. As fans of Manchester City will know, their money has a huge amount of influence in the footballing world and can make almost anything happen.
When Formula One owner Bernie Ecclestone came under fire for allowing the Grand Prix in Bahrain to go ahead, after the huge internal unrest and violence in the country, he answered back that it is not his place to judge and that if they pay they can get the event.
He even said that if a chance came along to hold a race in Syria and they were willing to stump up the cash then he would consider the offer. It will become a sad state of affairs if FIFA and UEFA have to chase the cash in the same way.
Football’s leading authorities need to settle for the “boring” countries, like England, Spain and Germany, who have their stadia and transport links sorted, until a brighter global financial situation emerges and World Cup joy can be spread again.
image: © copagov