BY R.D. MILLER
The Global Colors.
Every four years, millions of fans gather in person at watch parties in public parks and bars to see the best of the best players face off for bragging rights until another four years.
This remarkable event never seems to be far from controversy wherever it is being played. These controversies range from soccer or football, corruption, and the socio-economic responsibility it should take on in our society.
Despite the logistics, since the 2014 games begun, the Amazon colors have taken over our television, iPhones, smartphones, and iPads like a rainbow.
However, beneath it all, residents are crying for a new economic canvas to modernize and move poor people to a better standard of living.
Football is a global game that originated in England but later called soccer in the US. The game unites people. Relatively, it is not expensive to start a game. However, the gap between the rich and the poor is further than the locations where these games are being played, while poverty is closer than the two goalposts.
They are the ones being left out of the prints. After the final whistle has blown, they too will be still asking economic referees for a penalty that was not given on a foul play.
The poor socio-economic issues surrounding these games often erupt in protests. The games go on, but the turmoil lingers, blocks from where the games are being played. These issues never left, as they will re-emerge like the sea rushing back to the shores to recreate the sand paths rich footprints eroded that left the day before.
“They have overlooked the Brazilian local economy problems,” several protesters argued. It appears this color is seldom beamed to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Brazilians are now under the microscope. The carefully orchestrated images that emerge from the sideline will have a lasting effect.
The Socioeconomic Impact
The World Cup is bigger than its location, despite heartaches, especially from the premature departure by England, Italy, and Australia. However, the stage is still where players and supporters use the event to highlight their countries, send statements, and reconnect with compatriots who are still clubbing rivals.
This is like a family reunion before they head back to business and where lifelong friendships are formed, even between countries without diplomatic ties and where cultural divides are rooted in political turmoil.
The game represents a much wider reach far beyond 90 minutes on the field. It extends the communities, economics, discipline, teamwork, acceptance, talent , and diplomacy, even between nations with political tensions.
Many now are aware that the Iranians play soccer and not everything is about nuclear weapons and tension with the Israelis. Even the Israelis have a solid team.
Yes, this is the real “World Champion Series,” and they crown the true world champions after eight weeks.
The Economics: These games are being led under the International Association Federation of Football (FIFA). It is a billion-dollar industry, and throughout this region, the games are ubiquitous.
To prepare for the 2014 World Cup, they spent an estimated cost of up to US$11 billion — while the Brazilian economy remains stagnant. However, the government has predicted that it will be a net positive for the overall economy, stemming from event-related services among several industries.
Forbes magazine has reported that (FIFA) will generate about $4 billion in revenue. However, more needs to be done to promote social programs to cut poverty and not the appearance of forcing local economies to stretch their budgets to accommodate their demands.
Wherever FIFA places its goalposts, it is always under the microscope. Recently published in a British magazine, the organization is being investigated on corruption and bribes related to the Qatar 2022 bid.
FIFA’s operation is not much different from the American National Football League (NFL). Inside these games, recruitment is alive.
This is where wealthy club managers scope every play, searching for the next star and the face of new marketing global campaigns.
But beneath these targeted players, there are several communities of improvised youths looking for education, access to decent affordable medicines and safety.
Often these public investments are unsuccessful on a much bigger scale because when fans are gone and the multi-million stadiums are empty, the local people are stuck with the debt burden.
The socio-economic argument that surrounds the World Cup is nothing new. In 2010, South Africa went through the same issues on how much its government spent that could have been used to move people out of poverty.
Soccer, or football, has generated several global stars and has moved families out of poverty. Some of their stories are like some players of the NFL, National Basketball Association (NBA), baseball, and many other professional sports. In some areas, the millions generated from players who left slums (ghettos) seldom trickle down to communities where it all started.
Such as gentrification, our society has been increasingly shifting as it is becoming more diverse, and that sometimes causes tension and even more isolation.
The other Brazil off the pitch.
Many reports show that if black Brazilians could get on a boat and leave, and maybe on a soccer pitch is the safest place because they kill more blacks at an alarming rate besides the economic stagnation. Even when crime overall dropped, the number of violent deaths recorded, in comparison, the murder rate of black people has not decreased.
Maybe it is time for an economic package both socially and economically in these poor communities. After the goals are scored, and the pageantry is over for poor people of color, it is like a soccer ball with air.
FIFA always executes successful events. The game between the US and Portugal had one of the highest ratings, upward of 21 million. Imagine if these fans force FIFA to make sure some economic balance where it places the next goal posts.
With success should come responsibility, and despite the Beautiful Game that has broken down barriers, some players still face discrimination. They call some niggers, monkeys, and bananas a symbol of games by some fans.
Recently, Italian star Mario Balotelli spoke up after he faced racial slurs from a few fans, and more players must do the same.
FIFA should know how to help combat these issues. It has been around since 1904 and now has over 300,000 clubs and over 240 million players around the world.
For many youths a soccer/football field and now “pitch” as some calls, it was critical to stay off the streets after school. Although not all young players became stars, the friendships gained, and lessons learned lasted a lifetime.
FIFA is excellent at managing global operations. However, as our society becomes more diverse, isolated by ideology and personal interests, it will need more than building stadiums. Equality, discrimination, and a platform for players to speak when issues threaten to reduce the next generation of players.
Often, I join a few new fans at the local sports bars who seem intrigued with long pauses when they realize a few teams starting 11 such as the French, Germans; the Italians have black players, and some are Muslims. It is more than a game, and awareness is key.
This 2014 World Cup has been a homecoming for many South American teams, and celebrations have been tremendous. However, there is a dark side that is lurking in some countries just north of these games off the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of children who have fled their countries where a few dominating stars call home.
Most of these children without their parents are under age 10 and now in detention camps at the US border. Up to 90,000 came from Honduras, Colombia, and Guatemala as reported.
These young people fled to escape sexual violence and other inhumane treatment stemming from crime. No one will know the long-term physiological impact but it can devastate, as studies have shown.
The football organizations and their players cannot be the world police, but with success and global appeal comes the responsibility to speak in a humanitarian crisis. Billions are being spent to create perfect pictures while others seek the next Latin star to fill their stadiums from ticket sales.
Sadly, some are outside the gated walls looking to take the dangerous trip north, while they fill other pitches with toxins and the goalposts are two empty containers with lead. They can use maybe revenue generated to at least give awareness to this problem.
These extra minutes added to games can generate more revenue for FIFA. However, in a few weeks, the cameras will be gone; and well-dressed immigrant men and women from the television networks with few selected feel-good stories, while surrounded with security as if they are in a war zone, will leave town.
There will be more games to come, many players are of African descent, with similarities to an NFL player, and they too are extremely rich and more famous. Some I had to navigate drug and crime-infested areas to reach a local field.
The next referee
Today, I wonder if our socio-economic polarization, inequality disparities have reduced some of our imagination. Perhaps our major league should do more because such as Brazil, they lead us to believe that someone is watching. But has anyone notice to make a more systematic change for a better game.
When the final whistle is blown, some players will have to pass through their poor towns and cities plagued with violence. Before FIFA canvasses the next venue, it should not only seek ways on how to increase its balance sheet. It must make sure the community’s economic impact benefits all, regardless of color, class, race, and socio-economic status, because the next 100 years can only be beautiful if it remains more than a game.