Antônio Sampaio – Foreign Policy, 7/12/2014
The World Cup isn’t over yet, but Brazil’s politicians are already facing fallout from the devastating defeat of the national team at the hands of Germany on July 8. That some Brazilian fans decided to react with violence comes, perhaps, as little surprise. The day after Brazil’s historic 7-1 loss to the Germans, rioters burned more than 20 buses in São Paulo, the country’s economic hub. In Belo Horizonte, the city that hosted the match, a gathering of thousands of people turned nasty when protesters set a Brazilian flag on fire and others threw rocks at the police.
The government has now decided to send reinforcements to security forces in both of those cities as well as to Rio de Janeiro, the site of the final match. All this comes in addition to thousands of soldiers already sent to the main host cities as a contingency measure at the start of the Cup. Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo has expressed particular concern about renewed activity by the anarchist Black Bloc movement, masked youths who have provoked numerous clashes with the police in recent months.
But the political repercussions from the defeat are likely to go farther than the actions of a few dozen football hooligans. After all, it was precisely Brazil’s plans to host the Cup (at a cost of some 11 billion dollars) that triggered an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, protests, and political activism a year ago — all of it underlining that futebol no longer occupies the same place in Brazilian hearts that it once did. Now the beautiful game is at the center of an agonized national rethink, a mass, middle-class movement against outdated infrastructure and failing services. And the crushing July 8 defeat is giving new momentum to the demands for reform.