Brazil trying to balance poverty Cup

A Brazilian boy watches the 2014 World Cup Group A soccer match between Brazil and Cameroon being...

A Brazilian boy watches the 2014 World Cup Group A soccer match between Brazil and Cameroon being played in Brasilia, at the Corrilhos favela, near the World Cup stadium in Sao Paulo, June 23, 2014. (REUTERS/Nacho Doce)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:33 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- It would be disingenuous to come to a country for little more than a month and believe you have been granted expertise to determine what ails a country and how it can be fixed.

It would be absurd to attempting to sell that notion in a country as complicated as Brazil, or with an issue as complicated as the love-hate relationship the nation has with the World Cup.

But despite the short time here, it is almost impossible to miss the titanic struggle going on inside the country.

It is like watching 200 million people ensconced in a case of dissociative identity disorder.

As the World Cup continues, and their team remains active, the two personalities struggle to see which will win.

It would take a lot more than 800 words to dissect the almost visceral trauma Brazil has gone through since being awarded the tournament six years ago.

For a country where soccer is second only to religion -- some would suggest it is like a religion -- being able to bring the World Cup to what many believe is the cathedral of soccer was a day of celebration. It was last in Brazil in 1950, a much different time when social vectoring did not exist.

It’s also not the game for the masses anymore.

Maracana Stadium used to hold 200,000 people. There was opportunity for the most common person to celebrate the game.

Now Maracana only has room for 75,000 and very few common people can afford tickets. A very diverse community is not represented as such in the stadiums.

The cost of staging the tournament skyrocketed to well over $10 billion and was accompanied by an effluvium of issues -- from corruption to incompetence to poor decision-making to building soccer cathedrals, some of which may never be used again.

There was the reality of gentrification where, for the sake of appearance, the Brazilian government began to clean up the streets. Gone were the homeless children, off to areas where they won’t be seen.

Favela residents were displaced. If the solutions were positive and permanent, something good might come of this. But it’s only makeup, and makeup doesn’t cure true ugliness. It only masks it.

So, it was more than just social activists that took to the streets.

They were supported by individuals of different social classes who recognized the folly of spending money that didn’t exist on something that in reality did nothing for the country.

Yet, a walk down any street -- be it major city, small city or village in Brazil -- reveals where the money could be better spent.

The list runs from soap to nuts, education, health care, homelessness, transportation and infrastructure.

The protests prior to the World Cup were enormous.

Then the games began, and so began the dance between what people love and what they need.

What the people love is the game of soccer.

Brazil has moved into the quarterfinals. There is no debate that the team has captured the attention of the country.

Protests are fewer and smaller.

When the team plays, the country comes to a stop and no other problems exist.

Brazilians want desperately to accept that this is what it is all about. There is the “1%,” as they are called here, who don’t have to worry about money, or nasty issues like food and shelter, and are able to convince themselves that it’s all good.

But, it’s difficult to sell the validity of what is going on here when under most bridges, in many parks and even on sidewalks, there are the homeless trying to take cover under whatever shelter they are able to construct.

As the buses take you to the multi-million dollar stadiums, you look down at abandoned plywood cities, tent cities with sewage running through them and dozens of street people walking as if they carry the weight of the world on their back.

In truth, they carry everything they own on their backs. And it isn’t much.

The displaced and poor make a stunning backdrop to the thousands and thousands of Civil, Military, Federal Police and Municipal Guards in the major cities, who make sure none of those people cause any trouble.

Brazilians know what the issues are and what is going on. They know what the country needs.

But now that the tournament is here, for 90 minutes, for a few hours, for a day when Brazil plays, the people know what they want.

Is it wrong for them to feel such rapture on that day?

Probably not!

They’ve already paid a terribly expensive price they can’t afford for that pleasure.

It won’t be the same in 2016, when the Olympics come here. There is no love affair with the Olympics.

Not like their love affair with soccer.

The idea there’s been so much damage done because of it has eviscerated Brazil.


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