By Akash Ghai, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Development Three (D3)
Every four years I prepare myself for the World Cup Finals, one of the greatest global sporting events . From the first match to the last, I love watching every feint, every goal, and every reaction. The passion on the faces of players and fans representing their countries, their hometowns is incredible. In fact, I would say that the World Cup is more auspicious than the Olympics (just my opinion). I believe football provides opportunities in the most unique way. There are many examples of young boys who were once struggling to eat, and used football to stop the hunger.
The great Garrincha embodies this, born in the 1930s in a Brazilian shanty town, he had numerous birth defects – one leg being shorter than the other being his marquee imperfection. Yet, this was a phenomenon. Garrincha would glide past opposing players, using his slight of foot to fool them and create chances for arguably the greatest World Cup player in Pele. He won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups but shortly after, like his father succumbed to alcoholism, this plagued him to his eventual death in 1983.
The 2014 World Cup heads back to Brazil, 64 years after it last held the tournament. Numerous Brazilian NGOs have protested against hosting the tournament. With an estimated $4bn (£2.4bn) just for stadiums it’s easy to see why. Human Rights organisations have found the tournament to act as a catalyst for forced labour and discrimination by private companies building the stadiums. They have found poor consultation with communities and constant repression of protesters. The country is seeking stability, homes for the homeless, medical care for the sick and dying, basic necessities demonstrating why the country is still a developing one.
In June people from around the world will travel to Rio de Janeiro to watch the event. This will boost the country’s economy however,
What happens after the tournament?
The 2010 tournament was held in South Africa – memories of the vuvuzela! The South African government believed the tournament would help build the country’s infrastructure, empower its citizens and have long-term benefits. However, for example, because of the country’s notorious high crime rates – the solution was to employ more police officers during the tournament, not addressing pre-tournament crime. This did, nonetheless, build a foundation for developing national security.
The Brazilian public have already identified and voiced pre-World Cup issues. Its government cannot rely on the tournament to achieve change despite this being accomplished in other developing countries. NGOs, civil rights groups and citizens alike are banding together seeking resolution from the government on current problems. If the tournament does in fact deliver progress the government will be hailed as the saviour at the expense of those who are suffering right now.
Clearly the tournament is a huge opportunity for Brazil. What remains to be seen is how it will benefit the country’s citizens both during and after the event. Will the tournament echo the career of Garrincha, difficult beginnings followed by a fleeting time in the limelight? Or will it be a change-making moment? In 2016 the country will be hosting the Olympic Games. With this event on the horizon, eyes will be fixed firmly on life after the World Cup, focused on the impact it has had on the citizens just before Brazil hosts the world once again.