A brief look at the deaths of four construction workers at the World Cup 2014 stadium construction sites, and at several other scandals associated with next summer's tournament, FIFA, event organisers, and the Brazilian political elite.
Despite everyone knowing the opposite to be true, the Brazilian sports minister claims that all the world cup stadiums will be finished and ready to hand over in January 2014. His smugness over the speed of their completion has come with a heavy cost.
In late November at a stadium in Sao Paulo, two construction workers were killed when a crane collapsed and fell onto the vehicle they were sitting in. One of the dead men’s daughters had told reporters that her father had said he was convinced that he would have a serious accident and die at work.
A local branch of the construction workers trade union claims there was an instance of whistle-blowing hours before the accident, warning of serious health and safety issues with the crane. Despite crippling work schedules, Odebrecht, the construction company running the project deny there are health and safety issues at the site. Observers are cynical about the investigation into the deaths, as the government is under lots of pressure for the world cup to be a success, and Odebrecht are huge donors to political parties during elections in Brazil, so absolutely no conflict of interests there!
Yesterday, Marcleudo Del Melo Ferraira, a construction worker, died in hospital after falling 115ft whilst working on a stadium. Several hours later another construction worker died of a heart attack – his family claim he was heavily overworked and stressed.
A spokesperson for the construction workers union stated that:
“A general strike would be ideal, to show the reality that nobody wants to see. The government only shows the pretty part of the works and forgets who’s there making them happen. This Monday we will be there, demanding our rights as workers and exposing this reality. The accident happened because there wasn’t a safety technician on site. The labor ministry has to get off their chairs and audit the works, even when people at working at night.”
The families of the of those who have died have told the Brazilian media that construction workers had to work seven days a week in order to get the stadiums ready for the deadlines.
Andrade Gutierrez, the building company responsible for the stadium where the second two workers have died claim that they will carry out an “internal investigation”. Such a move is nothing more than the shameless covering up of the conditions that have led to people dying at work – which the Brazilian government and FIFA are more than happy to collude in.
FIFA’s lack of concern or action should come as very little surprise when you consider their silence over the widespread slavery of migrant workers at the word cup construction sites in Qatar. A recent investigation has highlighted that at least one person a day is dying at work. The forced labour of tens of thousands of people, confiscation of passports, refusal to allow workers to drink in 50 degree heat, and the deaths of dozens of people, has led FIFA bastard, Sepp Blatter, to say words to the effect of, “I’ll have a word with them.” The following is taken from an article I wrote In Freedom newspaper earlier this year:
“The appalling conditions that migrant workers are enduring whilst building stadiums for Qatar’s word cup in 2022, was covered in ‘Freedom’ last year. A clearer picture of working practices and exploitation across Qatar has now emerged.
To enable Qatar to have suitable stadia and infrastructure to host the second largest sporting event in the world, they are embarking on one of the biggest construction projects the world has ever seen. They are spending hundreds of billions on purpose built stadiums, a new road system, a new international airport, a new seaport, and hundreds of hotels. The project will take the best part of a decade to complete and will require the labour of close to 1.2 million people.
94% of all those employed on the project will be immigrants – predominantly from South Asia. Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and the world cup (and everything around it) being very much in the public eye – the working conditions and pay of those involved is a disgrace on a colossal scale.
The workers are paid poverty wages, which are often withheld by supervisors for trivial reasons. Health and safety considerations do not exist on building sites, which as you would expect has led to a high rate of accidents. Workers are all housed in huge sprawling camps that often lack running water, or adequate drainage. Illnesses associated with living in such squalor are high.
Should workers decide they no longer wish to work in Qatar, they have to ask the site supervisor for permission to leave. One of the conditions of employment is that workers hand over their passports to the bosses. This makes leaving difficult as permission is often refused, as are wages if they ask to leave. Workers are also contractually barred from leaving one contractor for another, barred from forming or joining trade unions and the Qatari court system refuses to hear any cases relating to workplace issues.
The situation in Qatar is no secret, yet what has the international community has had absolutely nothing to say about it. Human rights watch and a couple of trade unions have issued tokenistic statements condemning Qatar, yet FIFA, organisers of the world cup, and those who awarded Qatar the tournament in 2022, have said very little about goings on in Qatar, effectively turning a blind eye. When asked about human rights abuses, they said that the - "World Cup in the Middle East offers a great opportunity for the region to discover football's power as a platform for positive social change. FIFA upholds the respect for human rights and the application of international norms of behaviour as a principle and part of all our activities."
Sepp Blatter and the brown envelope brigade in FIFA towers have a different view of what ‘positive social change’ entails, than I do. However slavery is defined in the 21st century the situation in Qatar must match that definition, yet FIFA and the wider sporting community don’t appear to care.”
In response the likelihood of widespread protest and disruption at the Brazilian world cup, stinking rich FIFA bureaucrat, Jerome Valcke, has demanded that ordinary Brazilians get behind the event, claiming that:
“It is the wrong time to be protesting. It is right to protest, but for me it is the wrong time. Because it is a time where Brazil should enjoy a unique time, a time they have not enjoyed since 1950. We are not asking them to support FIFA; we are asking them to support the world cup.”
Valcke is typical of FIFA hacks and Brazilian politicians who are absolutely clueless to the poverty that the Brazilian working class faces daily. They are being asked to support a world cup that they cannot afford to pay, that will price them out of being able to pay for tickets, that is taking financial priority over health and education, and that is resulting in the deaths of over stretched construction workers.
Football legend and one of the most loved men in Brazil (and millionaire), Pele, has disgracefully said that:
“It is now time for people to be quiet because this is a great moment for our country; it is good publicity and good for tourism”
It is a great moment for the political classes, the rich, and building contractors, but for the Brazilian working class the benefits are much more mixed.
FIFA and other world cup organisers are being investigated in Brazil over claims of racism at the official world cup draw in early December. Despite being involved in the world cup publicity machine since the launch of ‘Brazil 2014’ over three years ago, several African-Brazilian individuals were dropped for the draw event – which had a world-wide audience - and replaced entirely by white individuals – who had previously had little or nothing to do with the event.
The state prosecutor for Sao Paulo has apparently received evidence to suggest that the changes were a deliberate decision. He has stated that:
“I am investigating several complaints of racism against FIFA and the TV station hosting the draw event. Racism is a serious matter in Brazil. We need to find out if a crime was committed. We do not want the image of our people to be whitened or distorted.”
FIFA has denied any allegations of wrong-doing, claiming that:
“Our stance against any form of discrimination and racism which is enshrined in our various regulations amongst others is well known.”
It is a shame that an opposition to ‘slavery’ is not enshrined in FIFA’s regulations, if it was then perhaps the situation in Qatar and their world cup preparations may be different.
Brazilians are already furious and have accused FIFA of ‘cultural terrorism’ following their decision that the only organisations able to sell food in and around the world cup stadiums will be those that have won ‘official’ bids, i.e., McDonalds and Coca Cola. This means that traditional African-Brazilian foods, such as, ‘Acaraje’ will not be sold, and its vendors will face arrest if they attempt to do so. Acaraje has been sold outside Brazilian football matches for as long as football itself has existed, and is a major source of income in poor areas around stadiums.
Whilst McDonalds are using their ‘official provider’ status to block sales of any other foods, Coca Cola are cynically jumping on the ‘Acaraje’ bandwagon and have put up billboard posters advertising Coca Cola in conjunction with Acaraje. It is safe to assume they haven’t signed a contract with street traders, so football fans can expect to be able to buy ‘Coca Cola Acaraje’ at the matches. Coca Cola deny it is a cynical marketing ploy. Instead they claim that they are ‘preserving Brazilian culture’.
Event organisers have announced that there will be a 2k exclusion zone around matches, and that anyone who sells food within that zone will be arrested.
This move is just the latest example of how FIFA and the world cup organisers are attempting to snuff out the culture and heritage of the host nation in order to ensure the world cup has a sanitised and corporate identity, devoid of any regional influence, and to ensure that any opportunities or money generated by the event are firmly channelled into the pockets of politicians, FIFA, and the various corporate gangsters who have become parasites in the bellies of major sporting events.
Widespread protests are inevitable, and will be on a much larger scale than those that accompanied this year’s confederations cup – held in Brazil over the summer. I described the events in Freedom newspaper:
“The FIFA President, millionaire, spiv, and professional idiot, Sepp Blatter, has once again put his foot in it. Famous for more stupid opinions that Prince Philip, Blatter, who once claimed that players who have been called “black c**t’s” should just ‘shake the hand of their abuser and put it behind them’ has accused protesters in Brazil of trying to hijack the recent Confederations cup for political purposes.
Whilst Brazil is being bankrupted by crooked politicians in order to bankroll the hosting of the next football world cup, Olympic Games, and associated displacement of nearly 250,000 people in huge gentrification projects – ordinary Brazilians have had the audacity to show their anger at football matches that are being broadcast around the world.
Blatter is said to be furious that football has been hijacked to make a political point. In an interview he said that – “I can understand that people are not happy, but they should not use football to make their demands heard”
Blatter and the other parasites at the top of the FIFA tree are worried that the protests at the Confederations Cup will escalate at next summer’s world cup – an event that is watched by billions worldwide.
Throughout the confederations cup, tens of thousands of protesters clashed with the security forces outside the stadium. Whilst some news agencies carried footage of the demonstrations, the BBC – who had the TV rights to the tournament – played down events, claiming they were small and short-lived. One broadcast showed an interview outside the Maracana stadium claiming the protests had ended and that everything was quiet. The interview was clearly several hours old, as it was broad daylight. Yet when the match started five minutes later, it was approaching sunset, and a quick look at an independent newsfeed online showed that there was 100,000 people gathering outside the stadium.
No doubt this crude manipulation of the truth by the BBC was instigated by the control freaks at FIFA who can prevent the BBC and other broadcasters from purchasing rights to their tournaments – should they choose to do so.
Blatter’s views were not shared by many of the Brazilian national team. Striker, Hulk, said that – “I see these demonstrators and I know that they are right. We know that Brazil needs to improve in many areas and must let the demonstrators express themselves."
Blatter smugly claims that whilst he accepts there are issues with poverty throughout Brazil, “no one forced the world cup on them” and that if they wanted to host the world cup, they would have to spend billions building new stadiums and upgrading the national infrastructure.
Brazil is in the midst of the biggest wave of strikes and protests to hit the country in over twenty years. As next year’s world cup approaches and Brazilians realise they are completely priced out of the stadiums they have been bankrupted in order to pay for, it could be a long hot summer for Blatter and FIFA.”
The following is from an article I wrote in Freedom newspaper earlier this year about gentrification at the Brazil world cup:
“The Brazilian government have expressed phoney concern that ordinary football fans are going to be priced-out of football, both at next summer’s world cup and beyond.
As part of a huge modernisation project, all of Brazil’s large football stadiums have been renovated at huge expense to ordinary Brazilians. Whilst many fans welcome – in principle – the upgrading of their local stadium, to include seats, toilets, and food outlets – they do not welcome the inflated ticket prices that come hand in hand with such changes.
Football in Brazil – and across South America – remains a predominantly ‘working class’ sport. Whilst the stadiums are not of a European standard, the atmosphere and passions generated within them is certainly a sight to behold. The concern is that these fans will now be frozen out of their newly gentrified local stadium – making way for what former Manchester Utd footballer, Roy Keane labelled as the “prawn sandwich brigade”.
The Brazilian deputy sports minister, Luis Fernandes, stated that “To have socially exclusive stadiums as a result of world cup investments is not the legacy we want. The government is very concerned with this issue and it has to be addressed very seriously. I think we could have a gentrification of the stadiums”.
It must have passed Fernades by that the government has engaged in a policy of systematic and brutal gentrification of the areas in and around football stadiums since Brazil was awarded the world cup. Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have been violently displaced to make way for huge infrastructure projects to support the world cup, and Olympics.
Some club owners have gone on the record to say that following the world cup they will be looking to attract a ‘different clientele’ to matches.
Historically food and merchandise has not been available at football matches. Fans take their own food, and buy counterfeit merchandise from unlicensed street vendors. This is about to change – as stadiums welcome in the likes of MacDonald’s and Burger King - and the police are planning a crackdown on street vendors to make way for new ‘official’ merchandise stores.
Everything is now being made ‘official’ and corporate. If a fan wants to enjoy the same match experience, they will now expect to pay 300% more for the ticket, food, and t-shirt.”