In the Independent, James Young reports from Rio de Janeiro:
The most recent wave of protests began at the beginning of the month in Sao Paulo over what may seem an insignificant 20 centavo (7p) bus-fare hike. But the level of the increase was less important than what it represented. Once again, Brazilians felt they were being asked to pay an onerous price for a shoddy service. Buses in big cities are overcrowded, infrequent and journeys can take hours.
Now the leaderless, non-politically affiliated protest movement has a variety of goals. Better public healthcare is one. “I recently spent eight hours in a hospital waiting room with dengue,” says Lee, a bank worker protesting on Friday. “People were sleeping on the floor.” Another is an improved education system. “We work hard and pay high taxes. And we get nothing in return,” he continues.
Frustration over the country’s institutionalised corruption has attracted many to the protests. Influence-peddling scandals such as 2005′s Mensalao (“big monthly allowance”) affair and, more recently, the saga of Carlinhos Cachoeira, accused of running a political bribery network, have left many desperate for change.
Some protesters have focused on the £8bn spent on stadium and infrastructure work for next year’s World Cup, seen as indefensible in a country with so many more pressing needs. The brutal tactics employed by the police have added to the indignation. Rubber bullets and tear gas have been used, often indiscriminately and at close range.
In the Guardian, Jordan Watts reports on the continuing disturbances in Brazil:
Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, and key ministers are to hold an emergency meeting on Friday following a night of protests that saw Rio de Janeiro and dozens of other cities echo with percussion grenades and swirl with teargas as riot police scattered the biggest demonstrations in more than two decades.
The protests were sparked last week by opposition to rising bus fares, but they have spread rapidly to encompass a range of grievances, as was evident from the placards. “Stop corruption. Change Brazil”; “Halt evictions”; “Come to the street. It’s the only place we don’t pay taxes”; “Government failure to understand education will lead to revolution”.
Rousseff’s office said she had cancelled a trip to Japan next week.
A former student radical herself, Rousseff has tried to mollify the protesters by praising their peaceful and democratic spirit. Partly at her prompting, Rio, São Paulo and other cities have reversed the increase in public transport fares, but this has failed to quell the unrest.
A vast crowd — estimated by the authorities at 300,000 and more than a million by participants — filled Rio’s streets, one of a wave of huge nationwide marches against corruption, police brutality, poor public services and excessive spending on the World Cup.
All that changed on June 13th when the state’s unaccountable, ill-trained and brutal military police turned a mostly peaceful demonstration into a terrifying rout. Dozens of videos, some from journalists, others from participants and bystanders, show officers with their name tags removed firing stun grenades and rubber bullets indiscriminately at fleeing protesters and bystanders and hunting stragglers through the streets. Motorists trapped in the mayhem ended up breathing pepper spray and tear gas. Demonstrators found with vinegar (which can be used to lessen the effect of tear gas) were arrested. Several journalists were injured, two shot in the face with rubber bullets at close range. One has been told he is likely to lose his sight in one eye. The following day’s editorials took a markedly different tone.
By June 17th what has become dubbed the “V for Vinegar” movement or “Salad Revolution” had spread to a dozen state capitals as well as the federal capital, Brasília. The aims had also grown more diffuse, with marchers demanding less corruption, better public services and control of inflation. Many banners protested against the disgraceful cost of the stadiums being built for next year’s football World Cup. Brazil has already spent 7 billion reais, three times South Africa’s total four years earlier, and only half the stadiums are finished. “First-world stadiums; third-world schools and hospitals”, ran one placard.
[. . .]
So, why now? One reason is surely a recent spike in inflation, which is starting to eat into the buying power of the great majority of Brazilians who are still getting by on modest incomes, just as a big ramp-up in consumer credit in recent years has left them painfully overstretched. Bus fares have not risen for 30 months (mayors routinely freeze fares in municipal-election years, such as 2012, and in January this year the mayors of Rio and São Paulo agreed to wait until June before hiking in order to help the federal government massage the inflation figures). In fact, the rise in São Paulo’s and Rio’s bus fares comes nowhere close to matching inflation over that 30-month period. But bus fares are under government control, unlike other fast-rising costs such as those for housing and food. Perhaps they were simply chosen as a scapegoat.
More broadly, the very middle class that Brazil has created in the past decade — 40m people have escaped from absolute poverty, but are still only one paycheck from falling back into it, and 2009 was the first year in which more than half the population could be considered middle class — is developing an entirely new relationship with the government. They see further improvements in their living standards as their right and will fight tooth and nail not to fall back into poverty. And rather than being grateful for the occasional crumb thrown from rich Brazilians’ tables, they are waking up to the fact that they pay taxes and deserve something in return. Perhaps their government’s triumphalism over those shiny new stadiums was the final straw.
The Register‘s John Leyden takes a predictable line after the international governing body for soccer went with a German firm’s product over an English competitor:
The GoalControl-4D system features 14 high-speed cameras around a football pitch focused on both goal mouths to help match officials determine whether or not the ball has crossed the goal-line.
The ball’s position is continuously and automatically captured in three dimensions when it is close to the goal, GoalControl explains. If the ball has passed the goal line, the system’s CPU sends an encrypted radio signal to the referee’s watch in less than one second.
GoalControl offers the possibility of providing replays as well as the ability to be installed within existing goal frames and nets, without needing hi-tech additions to the match balls themselves.
The technology will be put through its paces at the upcoming Confederations Cup in Brazil. If trials progress as planned the technology will be deployed at next year’s eagerly anticipated tournament.
GoalControl (which sounds like US commentator-speak for a goalkeeper) was picked ahead of three other FIFA-licensed technology providers, including British firm Hawkeye. So yet again the English have lost a football shoot-out against the Germans.
It’s huge news, not because the results are particularly surprising — there’s plenty of other evidence, even recent evidence, that match-fixing is rampant in global soccer — but because the sheer extent of the allegations means that we can no longer delude ourselves about what’s happening. This is what’s happening: Soccer is fucked. Match-fixing is corroding the integrity of the game at every level. It’s not just South African friendlies or Korean league games or Chinese “black whistles”; it’s not even just the occasional Calciopoli-type scandal that you can explain away by saying “well, Italy is Italy.” Operation Veto found suspect World Cup qualifiers, suspect European Championship qualifiers, suspect Champions League games. It found 150 suspect matches at the international level, on multiple continents. It found 380 suspect matches in Europe overall. It found a suspect match involving Liverpool that was played at Anfield, arguably the most celebrated club and stadium in England.
These are tip-of-the-iceberg numbers. The investigation didn’t turn up every instance of match-fixing everywhere; they’re just talking about the possibilities they’ve turned up. Concise evidence of what’s still hidden: Europol revealed that they’d found $11 million in organized-crime profits. Sound a little low to you? Chris Eaton, the former FIFA security director who now runs the International Centre for Sports Security in Qatar, thinks the actual number is maybe a hundred times that high.
So let’s say I told you that a major international law-enforcement agency had uncovered a mountain of evidence that indicates the most popular sport in the world was being manipulated by a criminal ring that was profiting to the tune of — conservatively — millions of dollars. On one level, that’s good news, isn’t it? I mean, it’s terrible that it happened, but now that the police know, things can change! We’ll see arrests! We’ll see books opened! The truth will come to light! At a minimum, FIFA will take strong and immediate steps to make sure this never happens again. Right?
Let me answer that question by referring you to the phrase that I hope will be your primary takeaway from this piece. Soccer. Is. Fucked.
In international competitions, it’s always hard to watch when your first and second favourite teams play head-to-head. Had Canada made it to the World Cup, I’d be cheering for Canada first, England second, and USA third. Canada didn’t qualify (again), so I had to watch my other two preferred teams fight it out. A draw at least leaves both teams alive for advancing out of the group stage.
To see how the game unfolded according to the Twitterati, check this Guardian page, where it tracks the progress of the game against the hashtagged posts on Twitter.
The official World Cup soccer ball is not popular with some folks. Keepers, in particular:
[G]oalkeepers dislike the Adidas ball more than Diego Maradona dislikes reporters and photographers. Although to the keepers’ credit, they have not yet fired at the balls with air rifles or run over them in their cars.
Basically, the ball is being criticized for being too light and too curvy, as if it were a fashion model who eats too little food and has too much plastic surgery.
Altitude and technology will not only cause goalkeepers stress, but also make balls carry too far on crosses, causing some headers to be missed by two feet, said Marcus Hahnemann, a reserve keeper for the United States and a man not given to understatement.
“Technology is not everything,” Hahnemann said Thursday. “Scientists came up with the atom bomb; it doesn’t mean we should have invented it.”
Adidas has christened the World Cup ball Jabulani, which is apparently Zulu for “offends goalkeepers.”
Not really. The name actually means “to celebrate.” But it has been lost in translation for the guys between the posts.
I seem to recall plenty of disdain being heaped on the official ball every World Cup since I started paying attention. Watch for this article to be re-run in four years’ time, with new names appearing in the fill-in-the-blank spots.