KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo believes that, whatever the ultimate upset of Brazil’s national team failure, he was a World Cup winner because of his faith in the nation’s love affair with football was rewarded by the limited nature of street protests during the finals.
Rebelo’s confidence augurs well for the mood in which test events begin next week, with sailing, for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
A year ago the cities of Brazil were afire with the anger of mass demonstrations over just about every issue in a turbulently expectant society. Brazil’s government and FIFA were taken aback by the virulence of the protests and the panicky reaction of the military police did not help; indeed, provocative crowd control tactics inflamed tensions rather than cooled them.
The temper on the streets is calmer now. Protests and protesters did not vanish entirely during the World Cup finals but they numbered in hundreds rather than millions.
Rebelo acknowledged: “There were small demonstrations. However they took place only mainly in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre and people did not really attend.”
Seeking to explain the change in mood, he said: “The demonstrations during the Confederations Cup were viewed as demonstrations against the Confederations Cup but they happened because the population wanted to protest against problems with bus fares, education and health.
“Some people tried to give it a flavour of a demonstration against the World Cup but that was not the case at all.”
This perception was behind Rebelo’s steady insistence that the World Cup would not see similar flare-ups.
He said: “When people started publicising that there would be protests against the World Cup I never believed in that because I trusted that the World Cup, because of its meaning to the world and to Brazil, would absorb all these dissatisfactions.
“It’s because in Brazil football is not only a sport like any other; you must realise that football in Brazil is a part of the identity of our people beyond being a sport.
“It was the first platform of social development for the African descendants and the native peoples and the poor population to be able to emerge in Brazil socially and economically.
“It’s like a window that opened up in a country of great inequalities when there was not even education offered to this strata of the population [so] it’s very dear to the population.
“This explains why there were no big protests or demonstrations during the World Cup because not only is football very strong in this country but because the World Cup is the peak of football.”
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