RIO DE JANEIRO: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has compared protests outside the Confederations Cup stadia in Brazil with the recent unrest in Turkey.
Blatter and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff were booed at the cup’s opening ceremony in Brasilia last Saturday while protests raged outside against high ticket prices and the development cost of staging the finals.
Further demonstrations took place in Rio de Janeiro at the weekend about a rise in bus fares as protesters took advantage of the international media focus on the country which will host the World Cup finals next year.
Blatter took up that theme in an interview with the Estado de São Paulo newspaper.
“We have also seen these things in Turkey lately,” said Blatter, “and we have full confidence in the public authorities. The role of football is to unite people. I know a little about these demonstrations and it’s clear people are taking advantage of the presence of the international media to use these occasions as a platform for their causes.
“Football is stronger than the dissatisfaction of a handful of people. I have told Senhora Dilma and [Sports Minister] Aldo Rebelo that we have every confidence in them. Now that the games are under way people will see that there is no more to be gained and the situation will calm down.”
Just in case that is not proven, Rebelo has warned that stern measures will be taken against protesters.
He said: “We are not going to allow any of these demonstrations to hamper these games. Anyone who tries to get in the way needs to know that the government will stop them.”
Rebelo said that the police had been successful in holding protesters at bay before, during and after weekend matches though he hoped the rest of the world would see Brazil as a democratic country but one not afraid to maintain law and order.
Whether that line would hold was cast into doubt as protests escalated – and not only in the Confed Cup cities.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through half a dozen of Brazil’s biggest cities, blocking streets in in signs of growing unrest over poor public services, police violence and government corruption. In Brasilia, where demonstrators swarmed in angry mood past the Congress and Presidential Palace.
Another factor which had provoked protest was the heavy-handed response of riot police in Sao Paulo last week.
An opinion in the daily sports newspaper Lance suggested that the protests were characteristic of Brazil and mirrored the manner of its delayed preparations for the World Cup.
“These protests should have been launched back in 2009,” said the paper. “They are just like the World Cup preparations: too late.”