The True Legacy of the FIFA 2014 World Cup

03/12/2014 03:54 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2014
  • Natalia Viana Co-director of Publica, nonprofit investigative journalism agency in Brazil

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup getting closer, it is more and more clear that Brazilians will receive the biggest football event in the world with big protests. Since January, monthly protests are happening in Sao Paulo under the slogan "If there are no rights, there will be no World Cup". The protest sparked heated debates in the social media. Since the presidential election is also happening this year (Dilma Roussef's re-election is at stake), the success or failure of the mega-event can be a game changer in Brazilian politics.

Popular protests against the vile side effects of the World Cup are not new. In Brazil, social movements have risen since 2011 in order to resist dozens of draconian determinations by Fifa, or the local governments, or both, in the name of the one-month event.

Some of their victories came before the massive protests of June 2013, and inspired them.

This was the case of the victory of the "Baianas do Acaraje", women from the state of Bahia who sell a traditional black-eyed pea fritter stuffed with shrimp and veggies and who were banned by Fifa from selling food within the stadium in Salvador, the state's capital; they were finally admitted after gathering 17,700 signatures in an online petition.

In Natal, capital of the Northern state of Rio Grande do Norte, 250 families who'd be removed by the enlargement of an avenue between the airport and the stadium proposed an alternative project that was, after one year of negotiations, embraced by the recently-elected Mayor in 2013. In Rio de Janeiro, the two-year resistance by indians, students and athletes avoided the demolition of the Celio de Barros Athletics Stadium, the Aldeia Maracana and the Julio Delamare Aquatic Center, all around the national pride Maracanã stadium. The plan was to build a shopping mall and a parking lot in their place to bring bigger profits for the administration of the recently privatized stadium.

Other less known victories add to the list: in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, a traditional clothes fair at the stadium Mineirinho was shut down due to refurbishments for the World Cup. But the vendors organized themselves to prevent being expelled from the place where they had worked for 10 years, and slowly gained support from the public holding weekly peaceful protests in front of the Stadium. In Fortaleza, 22 communities affected by a light rail project got organized, reached out to human rights organizations, and finally reached a deal with the city council which reduced drastically the number of forced evictions.

It's sad but true: none of these projects were properly discussed with the affected population until they started protesting. That's why their stories may represent the biggest legacy that the World Cup will leave to Brazil: the notion that people can win if they stand up for their rights.