We, residents of Rio de Janeiro, ask you to join us on the day of the 2014 World Cup Final for the launch of a global campaign denouncing FIFA.
We join the cries of football fans around the world who are watching yet another FIFA corruption scandal break. We join the cries of Brazilian fans, ashamed at this moment in our football history in which we have been defeated by greed and the anti-democratic management of Brazilian football. We join the cries of countless citizens whose voices have been silenced and whose rights have been violated.
We cry as a city alerting the world: #SayNoToFIFA
Since Brazil’s historic demonstrations in June of 2013, many have asked: How can a country so passionate about football be so angry about hosting the FIFA World Cup? It is exactly because we love football that we are so outraged. We love and celebrate the football of the people, a crucial part of our culture that has thrived with the Maracanã stadium as its temple since 1950
Once a symbol of democratic space in Rio, a space where all kinds of residents could come together, our Maracanã stadium is now unrecognizable. It was destroyed and rebuilt with public funds, only to be handed over to private interests. The “New Maracanã”—with a lower seating capacity and higher price tag, according to FIFA standards–is a place where wealthy ticket-holders circulate and the traditional, diverse stadium culture is regulated. The painful transformation of the Maracanã is just one way in which soccer in our country favors elites more each day. We reject this process!
People > $
But there’s more. Mega-events like the World Cup justify policies and urban transformations that benefit private interests and corporations. In Brazil, the government diverted public resources for private ends and handed public spaces and services over to the private domain. Real estate speculation was promoted, and the cost of living in the city has risen.
We have seen Rio de Janeiro become increasingly divided. Tens of thousands of poor people have been illegally and violently forced out of their homes. We have seen intensified police repression and the militarization of the city. We have seen laws passed that restrict our rights and benefit the interests of FIFA and their corporate sponsors. We have seen social movements criminalized and activists arrested arbitrarily.
IOC = FIFA?
You may be asking yourself, is FIFA alone to blame? Not entirely. World Cup sponsors, the real estate industry, corporate media and construction conglomerates all act alongside FIFA. In Brazil, these companies donate millions to finance electoral campaigns and influence the public officials who gave in easily to FIFA’s impositions and allowed the violations of our rights.
This is not the end of the story for Rio, which will also host the 2016 Olympic Games. The urban transformation and impact on the city’s population will be even greater than during the World Cup. Do not be fooled: the IOC does not expose itself as much, but acts in just the same way as FIFA. We will be monitoring the Olympics closely from here, demanding transparency, democratic participation, and the respect for human rights.
This is a message from the residents of Rio de Janeiro that reflects the experiences of many other cities. We send it throughout Brazil and to the world, especially to people in countries preparing to receive the FIFA World Cup.
The day of the final is the moment for the world to say YES to the celebration of football and NO to FIFA, everything it represents and its way of operating in cities and countries around the world.