Friday, July 11, 2014

Football Parables

Before I got swallowed into the belly of the World Cup mania, I was concerned about reports of strikes in Brazil. Certain citizens were unhappy about the cost of hosting a World Cup while the state of healthcare and education were neglected. Promises of infrastructure and other community benefit couldn't mollify these discontents, and they seemed to be justified come D-Day. Eventually, after many protester-police face-offs, when the teargas cleared, the World Cup kicked off.

World Cup protest grafitti by Paul Ito. Image from

Come the semi-final and Brazil's national team was thrashed 7-1 by Germany. There were people crying in the stadium as it happened. I felt bad for Brazil as well, especially in the light of the protests that preceded the tournament. Probably the protestors had been shamed into quieting down their consciences and supporting their home country. They would certainly lose out on social infrastructure, but they could gain some national pride - if they won. The World Cup trophy could be some sort of consolation for all their troubles. But all the consolation they got was a consolation goal in the semi-final.

To my point: what gives sport the right to have such momentous consequences? "Sport" is supposed to be fun, entertainment. In my head it has connotations like "jest," and associations with "play." But it goes and becomes so costly, so tragic for the losers that you wonder. With millions of dollars spent for a gold trophy at stake, it looks like the sibling of gambling. Then it begins to make sense that the risk-reward prospects find willing takers.

I'm speaking from experience as well. My own Sunday League adventures in the district league featured a 4-0 loss just last week. We put in so much, all teams in the league, but the winner takes all. Cruel.

I would be remiss to neglect the massive profits to be reaped in the commercial side of the World Cup. Official sponsors market their products through such events. "Buy our product and pay for the World Cup!" (Not exactly in those terms of course.) But from the perspective of the average Brazilian citizen, the carnival roared into town and moved out with their school, road and hospital.

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