The Woes Cup

Eleven Fouls in Brazil
That Deserve a Red Card

Among many overinflated sobriquets Brazilians attach to their passion for soccer, ‘the country of futebol,’ which is how the game’s know there, has some truth to it. The only team to have won five times and never missed the World Cup has something to do with it.
But another cliche about football makes sense too: the saying that it’s evolved only within the pitch. For all the exuberance and sophistication of Brazil’s game and culture, beyond the green rectangle, everything else may be as rot as a political dynasty of a banana republic.
Yes, Brazilians are crazy about the filigranes and the curve kicks, the euphoric pass and the gravity-defying goal. But about what it takes to make a street play into a tool for social change, not so much. It’s not their fault, but then again, to some extent, it most surely is.
As many sleepless aficionados agonize about the chances for the national team, the Seleção Brasileira, of winning it all, for a growing segment of the population, the cup won’t change anything, or bring an iota of relief to the daily grind of a still underachieving nation.
Thus we prepared another seleção, of mainly old foes that always stand in the way of Brazil reaching its potential future of land of opportunity to its citizens. To make it instructive and have some fun with it, we associated each of these ‘players’ to real positions in a soccer team.
Defenders, middle-fielders and attackers will be surely engaged during the cup and beyond, doing what they’ve done for ages: preventing fair play, a level field, a clean slate and a win for all. They’re the formidable enemies of Brazil, whether or not it wins the trophy.
One last thing about that: no one knows why Brazilians care so much about the World Cup. The fact that it was chosen to host it for the second time goes way beyond settling old scores; by the looks of it, it’ll be another sad miss, regardless of any magic that Neymar & Co. may bring to the fore.
THE 11 PLAYS TO LOSE
Let’s start with the goalkeeper, Maracanazo. That’s how Brazil’s first national soccer tragedy became known, when it lost the final of the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay, at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, then the world’s biggest, a disappointment five world titles haven’t erased.
Playing defense, familiar foes: Crime Play has always been there, committed by underpaid cops and gang members; Pollution Kick was raised by untreated sewage, carbon emissions, and lack of infrastructure investments. It’s also related to Traffic Jam, a big player in Brazil’s cities, always ready to clog arteries.
Sex Tourism has for too long been Brazil’s dark side of its supposedly upbeat culture. The fear is not about the socially aware sex workers, but pedophiles and child predators, expected to descend in mass and incognito to Brazil. A dirty and despicable player.
Middle fielder Lethal Accidents has been responsible for a dozen deaths of workers at World Cup construction sites, and it’s wreaking havoc in Brazil’s rising, and invisible, illegal immigrant demographic. Unfortunately, safety and decent labor conditions are still aliens for the current building boom.

FROM MIDDLE TO THE END
Attacking midfielders Blackwater Pass and White Elephant are an odd pair. The infamous U.S.-based war contractor group has been hired by the already truculent Brazilian police and one may expect widespread tragic clashes with civilians. By the way, have you seen the new Robocops to be deployed during the cup?
White Elephant will dot the land as totems to excess and absurd expenditures. Brazil’s building, or reforming, 13 venues, or at least five too many, according to those who saw what happened in Greece, after the Olympic Games: built in cities without even soccer teams, they’re destined to turn into skeletons.

The attack of this team is unlikely to play the jogo bonito associated with the Seleção. Take Cost Overrun, for instance. The most expensive World Cup in history will set Brazil back over $13.7 billion, an amount enough to have put together the Continue reading

Women’s Day

Some Progress on Paper, But Old
Battles Still Need to Be Won Again

Past the first century by four years, the International Women’s Day continues to serve as lamppost to reassess and reaffirm its principles of equality, freedom, and all that. But unless we’re mistaken, we seem to be fighting one too many battles we thought had already be fought.
While the U.S. has renewed the long overdue Violence Against Women Act, both inside it and abroad there’s been no shortage of examples of ingrained prejudice and despicable acts against mothers, wives and daughters. But rejoice: there’s also Malala Yousufzai’s life to celebrate.
It’s been that kind of year. For a few achievements and heroic acts of note, it also brought back a whole struggle,needed to prevent a turning back the clock on women, their reproductive rights, access to education, safety to raise their families, and dignity as human beings. And somehow we wish such reality was not only conditioned to the U.S.
For perhaps not surprisingly, the past 12 months marked a reinforced charge by the Catholic church, through its minions in congress and elsewhere, to restrict even more the inalienable right of a woman to make choices concerning her own body, through a well-heeled campaign of terror and intimidation.
One’d think the church would have been busy coming clean out of the horrific accounts of child abuse in its midst, while restating its self-appointed spiritual mandate, opening its doors to the sex minorities it’s been rejecting for centuries, to the poor, and to those still seeking some kind of emotional rescue. But it’s been far from it.
Through much of the year, religion-affiliated colleges, and health institutions have formed an united front against women, in an attempt to undermine a few decades of improvement in public health that the women’s movement managed to bring to the whole of society. It’s been Continue reading