The Riot in Rio -- Anti-FIFA Backlash Spotlights English As Brazil's Other Language

07/03/2013 01:06 pm ET | Updated Sep 02, 2013

The groundswell of demonstrators at the FIFA Confederations Cup questioning Brazil spending billions on futebol while education and health care suffer is a reminder of how much English language and culture have influenced Brazil's young and restless.

While Brazilian stars earn millions in the Premier League and can afford private tutors many Brazilian kids need to work two jobs to pay for expensive English language schools.

Tough questions annoyed Brazil manager "Big Phil" Scolari so much that he bullied a British journalist from Bloomberg News Service during a post-game press conference saying "before you talk bad about my country, look at yours." Scolari then turned his guns on Britain, amping up the riots that preceeded the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games.

Inside and outside stadiums throughout Brazil one saw banners and placards in English and in Portuguese. Online media and social utilities like Facebook and Twitter feature pages and live citizen journalist updates in both languages. Support groups maintain sites in the United States and Britain.

For young people who want a future beyond low wage jobs and watching futebol and telenovelas learning English is key. The quality of English courses offered by Brazil's public education system is spotty due to politics and budget battles within Brazil's bureaucracy. Part of the frustration acted out by protesters struggling to make ends meet can be linked to the high cost of obtaining a private school diploma in English, which employers and recruiters trust.

Carlos Wizard, owner of the huge pay-to-play Wizard language school operation, Brazil's largest, has become a billionaire helping Brazilians learn English.

Wizard, Fisk, Cambridge and other big name nationwide schools buy stadium billboard advertising and sponsorship on the jerseys and shorts of several teams in the top football league, the Serie A.

At the opening ceremony of the Confederations Cup in Brasilia FIFA president Sepp Blatter was jeered by protesters in Portuguese and English with cries of "FIFA go home" and "Say No To FIFA World Cup." He responded not in Portuguese, but in English, the first language of FIFA, telling the protesters that football was not a place to protest and that they should have a sense of fair play.

President Dilma's social communications department (SECOM) tried to develop a sense of fair play. They provided press information to journalists and bloggers, maintained a world class media center and did an excellent job of providing access to events and key personalities related to the FIFA tournament. This writer was invited to two "favela tours" several press conferences with senior government ministers, and one cruise around Guanabara Bay courtesy of the Brazilian Navy. Government efforts to promote peaceful demonstrations did resonate with some of the less radicalized protesters.

Speaking in English with the aid of translators, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said repeatedly that the protests have everything to do with Brazil and nothing to do with FIFA. One big reason president Dilma did not attend the Confederations Cup final. Standing next to Blatter on the reviewing stand instead was Dilma's old nemesis, Brazilian Football Confederation president Jose Marin. The 82-year-old Marin was governor of Sao Paulo state during the military regime that jailed and tortured Dilma.

Pope Francis arrives in Brazil later this month to celebrate World Catholic Youth Day and his friend Cardinal Hummes of Sao Paulo has optimistically told media the Vatican is not expecting any trouble from protesters. In Brazila the Dilma government has guaranteed the safety of the festival celebrants. The Argentine-born pontiff is a big fan of the San Lorenzo football club in Buenos Aires. Instead of playing with jerseys plastered with adverts for English language schools, the team kit sometimes features a photo of the Pontiff himself. What can Sepp Blatter say to that?