President Dilma recently expanded Brazil's anti-bullying campaign to quell aggressive behavor by delinquent kids that is rampant in public schools. Unfortunately, the program doesn't apply to Sepp Blatter, the 77 year old president of FIFA, football's world governing body. Blatter and his minions insist on telling telling the land of the samba how to dress up for the dance.
Brazil's plans for the 2014 World Cup to kick off at the new Corinthians Park in São Paulo. But Blatter, with support from Russia's favorite football fan, prime minister Vladimir Putin, theatened to move the tournament to an alternative country because FIFA did not trust Brazil to have stadiums ready in time for the world's most most heavily bet sports tournament. Blatter was reelected to a fourth term as FIFA president in June in an election English prime minister David Cameron called "a farce." He will continue to lead the organization until 2015.
Under pressure from key sponsors and the powerful Sao Paulo business lobby that is close to FIFA, the Dilma government responded to Blatter's bullying by agreeing to cover cost overruns on stadium construction and provided across-the-board assurances of stadium completion. According to a government press bulletin, nine of the stadiums to be used in World Cup 2014 will be ready by December 2012.
But that wasn't enough for Blatter. In a move that imposes the almost extraterritorial character of FIFA flying in the face of the democratic values of a sovereign state he is now demanding that Brazil abandon plans to kick off the World Cup at São Paulo Corinthians Park with its 67,000 seats and move the opener to Rio's legndary 140,000 seat Maracana Stadium, running up an even bigger tab for Brazilian taxpayers.
Since Corinthians is the favorite team of former president Lula, the move has political implications, playing into ongoing tensions in the coalition that enables Dilma and the Workers Party to effectively operate the federal government.
Rio de Janeiro is controlled by the Brazilian Movement for Democracy Party (PMDB), the party of vice president Michel Temer. Former president of Brazil's house of representatives, Temer is unhappy about the number of key cabinet positions Team Dilma has awarded his party in the ruling coalition and is entertaining the idea of backing a candidate to challenge her in the 2014 presidential vote. The World Cup finals take place during the height of Brazil's 2014 presidential election campaign.
Now, Blatter's flip-flop on the stadium issue provides him and other PMDB allies like Rio governor Sergio Cabral with fresh political capital that might help them get a bigger piece of the pie from Brasilia.
Cabral, who makes no secret of his ambitions for the presidency, is the political nexus of former PMDB Rio governor Anthony "Little Boy" Garotinho, a former radio announcer and evangelical Christian who proselytizes creationism and resigned due to allegations of corruption.
Blatter's Rio reset also portends a last hurrah for the kantenkerous Ricardo Teixeira, longtime president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) who has come under severe criticism by online and traditional media for his autocratic style and allegations of corruption. Dilma has made no secret of her desire to see a fresh face at the helm of the CBF and recently snubbed Teixeira at major media event, doing photo ops with Pele, who, in an effort to outflank Teixeira, she made her official ambassador to the World Cup. Beyond the sports world, Transparency International is now calling for major reforms in FIFA, which boasts more member countries than the United Nations.
In a nation where kids want to grow up to be Pele instead of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, Teixeira, as FIFA's man in Brazil, wields almost as much power as the president. The CBF czar assumed his job in 1989 thanks to backing by his then father-in-law, Joao Havelange, who led FIFA from 1974 to 1998.
Under Teixeira's leadership, FIFA and the CBF, in concert with their sports marketing allies, developed a feeder system that now exports enough top futebol talent annually to field 10 first division teams (110 players) to clubs in Europe (not including the English Premier Division). No big name european or english superstars play first division football in Brazil, or Argentina for that matter. The financial health of Brazil first division futebol, and paid attendance suffer because so many stars abandon their country for Europe.
While Maracana is legendary, it symbolizes Brazil's economic past, decades of astronomical inflation and dependence on loans syndicated by US banks. Rio sides who play in the cavernous stadium draw paltry crowds thanks to the feeder system that is a product of the Blatter-Texeira era. The new Sao Paulo stadium is the face of the new Brazil that is now the world's fifth largest economy,
All of the action at the intersection of politics and FIFA football turns on money. And the current unpleasantness, promulgated in large part by Blatter, is driving the value of Brazilian football down. Brazil has dropped to 6th place in the FIFA-Coca Cola world football rankings with a plus-minus rating of -46. Manu Manezes, the former Corinthians coach who currently coaches the selecion has been criticized by the sports press and bloggers for his team's lackluster style.
So far, flat affect play has yet to damage Brazil's reputation in World Cup betting action. William Hill still has Brazil as the 5-2 favorite to take it all, offering current FIFA-Coca Cola front runner Holland as a value bet at 12-1. But if FIFA continues to bully Brazil the samba boys, and Dilma's reelection, could face longer odds.