Why You Should Root for the World Cup Protesters

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The Guardian

Why You Should Root for the World Cup Protesters

Fifa is more like a mob outfit than a soccer federation. Demand reform while you're hoping for your team to win

With public support of the sport falling flat, Fifa has insisted on spending $14bn – and counting – on the World Cup, even at the expense of crucial social programs. (Photograph: Joe Raedle / Getty)

The World Cup launches in Brazil on Thursday, but there's no need to wait for dramatic action – the festival of dissent has already begun.

In the past week alone, activists from the Homeless Workers Movement marched on the São Paulo stadium where host Brazil will square off against Croatia in the tournament's opening match. In Brasilia, indigenous dissidents clashed with tear-gas-happy riot police. The hacktivist group Anonymous vowed to level cyber-attacks against World Cup corporate sponsors. Public transport workers in São Paulo leveraged their Cup-induced advantage, carrying out a strike that gridlocked the city before suspending it on Monday night.

These telegenic interventions deserve our genuine attention, but long-distance solidarity only goes so far. For the millions of us watching the World Cup – and the attendant protests – from afar, it's time to focus our attention on the plutocratic puppet-master behind the entire process: Fifa.

The world's governing body for soccer inhabits the land of caviar and stretch limousines. Fifa is the 1% of the global 1%, the apple of Thomas Piketty's ire. And for a non-profit organization, it sure is a profitable one: the Zurich-based group stands to rake in $4.5bn from this World Cup alone, far above its initial expectations. Its modus operandi is to helicopter into a country, enjoy tax-exempt status, wrack up revenue from corporate sponsors and broadcasters, then take off to the next destination.

And with Brazil preparing to host the 2016 Olympic Games, we can't let Fifa set an example for sports extravaganzas turned into loathsome economic and social disasters. If we can force reform inside one powerful body this month, perhaps we'll stop rigging our international celebrations as lopsided parties for the rich at the expense of everyone else.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

Jules Boykoff

Jules Boykoff teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. He is the author of "The Suppression of Dissent: How the State and Mass Media Squelch US American Social Movements" (Routledge, 2006), and "Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States" (AK Press, 2007). Boykoff is a former professional soccer player who represented the US Olympic Team in international competition.

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