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29 April 2014 Edition

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World Cup summer of discontent

The Workers’ Party Government are clearly terrified that the protests will escalate and the response to a protest by around 1,500 in Sao Paulo on 15 April was to arrest 54 people.

AS BRAZIL gears up for the World Cup, they may be about to witness a reprise of last year’s mass protests against austerity that coincided with Brazil hosting the Confederations Cup.

That competition was seen as a rehearsal for this summer’s World Cup and, in general, Brazil was felt to have come through the test with flying colours. However, the new round of protests threatens to undermine that.

The Workers’ Party Government are clearly terrified that the protests will escalate and the response to a protest by around 1,500 in Sao Paulo on 15 April was to arrest 54 people.

It seems extraordinary that the most successful soccer nation on the planet (the only country to have reached the last stage in all 20 tournaments since 1930; contesting seven finals and winning five) should be the scene of such opposition to the holding of the competition.

The protesters contrast the amount being spent on the World Cup by the state (including $15billion on new stadiums alone) with cuts to public provision.

Last year, the protests targeted matches, and shots fired by the police could be heard during TV coverage of the Nigeria v Tahiti game. 120,000 people protested in Belo Horizonte on the day Brazil played Uruguay in the semi-final, and there were violent clashes in Rio the day Brazil beat Spain in the final.

The stakes are far higher this summer. The attention of the world will be on Brazil, with wall to wall coverage of everything that happens around match venues, in contrast to the relative lack of interest in the Confederations Cup outside of Latin America at least. So it will be interesting to see if the protests gather strength.

Let us hope too that the rustic opponents of electricity do not turn up at Croke Park in September on the days Dublin capture Liam and Sam!

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