The Politics of the World Cup

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With the World Cup in Brazil, seemingly looming over a large amount of the world population I found myself thinking about the politics of football. Much has been said already about the current host nation Brazil: the lavish stadiums and buildings erected for the tournament juxtaposing the abject poverty of some of the Brazilian people. In an ironic way the largest international football competition on the globe is an accurate testament to the capitalist system operating today. It displays many of the symptoms of it’s endemic flaws: corruption, spoils, inequality, and even the typical prioritization of profit over people. A lot of these issues manifest themselves in FIFA, particularly the top brass. Sepp Blatter, the current President of the organisation, looks set to secure a ridiculous fifth term, despite evidence of his corruption [1]. The representation of him as FIFA’s Don Corleone seem beautifully apt at this moment in time.[2] All in all, the International Federation of Association Football is a sham internationalist organisation. In this also, we can see parallels with world politics and the politics of football. Like the prominent global organ of football (FIFA), the political systems in place in the United Nations are a sham. The security council’s five permanent members are prominent among the worlds largest arms dealers, particularly the United States, and this is no coincidence. [3] As well as this, both the World Cup and the current international political institution (the UN) promote a form of internationalism, however it is one which is ultimately bound by the geopolitical landscape of the modern day. One which is bound within an outdated system attempting to support the power of the nation state, whilst feigning pursuing the motive of true globalisation.










As for Brazil, as I have referred to before there are a variety of problems which are rife, creating a juxtaposition  between Brazil’s inequality and the lavish stadiums and global scope of the World Cup. As TIME reported: ‘the existence of such a blatant double standard as beautiful, if unfinished, stadiums set against a country rife with slums and underfunded schools and hospitals has lit a spark.’ [4] This is stoked by another truth of World Cup hosts – amply argued by Carla Dauden on Youtube – that the host nation often does not even see any of the money [4]. This may in fact be true. The country is sucked dry garnering money for stadiums and infrastructure improvements and then when the supposed economic benefit actually arrives most of the money goes to FIFA. I admit that this is seemingly pessimistic (and fatally economically-centric) viewpoint, there is a massive cultural and social advancement provided by hosting the tournament. However, in a system eternally subservient to profit and near bereft of consideration of the consequences on the world and it’s population such a view has it’s merits. One reason for this is the rife corruption which permeates politics in Brazil. [5] Particularly evident in the case study scenario of the World Cup: The allocation of cities to host the tournaments events and new buildings mostly bring allocated according to the ruling Workers Party’s (PT) political whims – what I have termed here as “spoils”. [6]

All in all, this world cup has let politics shine through more than usual because of Brazil’s footballing history. During the 1980s the famous footballer Socrates ‘used football to promote democracy while scoring goals.’ [7] A discussion of which I will not go into here, but is an inspiring story which shows the potential and positives of the sport. Indeed, sport does have the power to considerably break down the barriers of nation states, possibly even showing a vision of what true internationalism would look like. However, as long as football contains bogged down by FIFA inadequacies and corruption, and host nations see it as a profit making economic boost we may see strife like that in Brazil again. Throughout this essay I have limited myself purely to commenting on the World Cup and not any other tournaments – mostly because it is a more complex arena which I feel I could not amply comment upon. Nonetheless, whilst the world cup has considerable cultural and social (and could have political) merits, championships – particularly those in England – are nothing more than capitalist money making exercises in brand management. They give an illusory free trade element with players moving around world clubs, although still there is an inequality which allows the rich (corporate backed) clubs to pay extortionate amounts to their players, monopolizing talent.

In conclusion, I see the World Cup as an opportunity for nations to show a true internationalism, one in which players, and fans, from across the world can come together in pleasure at watching and playing sport. I do not wish to declare that we should have no national teams and embrace a utopian global football cup – I understand this is unrealistic at this time. All I wanted to express was an utter disgust at the practices which have been allowed to dominate a sport which has so much equalizing potential. Host nations must look towards providing a World Cup which celebrates football in this light, tearing themselves sharply from pure consideration of profit and dealing out political spoils.

*1 []

*2 []

*3 An interesting graph and analysis despite the absence of China: []

*4 []

*5 If you can forgive the libertarian conclusion: []

*6 []

*7 See notable documentary on Al Jazeera: []


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