Dashiki Dialogues: Soccer, pomp and my Rio blues

2014-06-15 15:00

So this week the world is served a story of social exclusion, soccer, pomp and circumstance. The Fifa World Cup, as it began this week in Brazil, must bring all that’s wrong with humanity’s value system into sharp view.

Billions were spent to make the tournament possible, yet human beings continue to live and die of poverty-related causes, their cries going unheard and unbudgeted for.

The whistles that blow on the pitches ring with an eerie and sardonic tone for me. The same goes for the howls and hollers of moneyed fans from across the world gathering there. How do we party when we’ve seen the blood-drenched streets of the favelas paved with bodies of babies killed to make way for this?

Even during the opening ceremony, Brazil’s bleeding were picketing. It was as if to say the unconcerned visitors can still turn this tournament into something more meaningful than a billion-dollar binge of luxuries.

Protesters were clashing with riot police near Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. The death toll among workers building stadiums had risen to nine, last I checked. Many more fell on the streets.

Then came reports of children being forced into the sex trade.

Surely we should be asking ourselves tougher questions about how we see the football spectacle in the land of samba and socialist dreams. It’s like the clashing of two dreams over the meaning of the event.

On one side is the dream of uplifting the poor that made Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva a darling of the left, while on the other we have Fifa boss Sepp Blatter with his gang of multinational corporations out to make a buck.

As the tourist promos of Rio’s windy beaches appeared on TV, I imagined them dogged by the ghosts of the dead.

Here’s a reworked version of the old soul tune, this time with a sardonic awareness of how the poor have been mocked: “I get a feeling that I’ve seen the last of you, Rio de Janeiro Blue / The salty air, your wind-blown hair, reflection on a dream / Thoughts of who knows who, flowing through me like a deathly stream / And I get a feeling, that I’ve seen that last of you, Rio de Janeiro Blue.”

There’s an unstated admittance of this discontent in how neither Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff nor Blatter made speeches at the opening.

Could it be they’re fearful of the kind of booing they received at the Confederations Cup last year? The dashing dashikis on the pitch must dialogue with voices in the favelas.

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