Mark my words: protests in the World Cup will be small. Maybe violent, though

A couple of months ago I said the era of gigantic protests in Brazil was over. Maybe that was too soon, but it still holds true.

I said that because violent groups were taking the lead and putting most people off. President Dilma Rousseff was more and more active. And new policies came to address the complaints. Taming was on its way. Still, some preferred to fetichize the protesters, as if millions of average Brazilians had suddenly agreed with an anarchic agenda. The rioters didn’t notice their legitimacy was at stake. Their supporters and sympathizers kept the “we will have millions more during the World Cup” yada-yada-yada.

That is why they promised a big show of their strength on Independence Day. They said millions would protest again, as if people weren’t paying attention to how things moved towards a different direction.  None of their nationwide protests brought more than 2,000 people to the streets of major cities. They became an easy target for the police. It was a massive fail for them. And it shows their future.

Of course there can be new ingredients to make Brazilians angry during the World Cup. But those of the first wave of rage probably won’t be there. There won’t be a transport fare hike during the competition — it would be too stupid politically. Police repression will be much more careful before international eyes — they will also have the help of the Armed Forces, which wasn’t the case in June. And, above all, the atmosphere created by football’s creme de la creme has little to do with the tiny Confederation’s Cup. To get attention they would have to struggle much more. That means they can cause trouble, but hardly will compromise the success of the tournament itself.

There will probably be small groups of angry leftists wandering around. They believe destroying banks is a good way of rejecting capitalism — just like some of those who protested during G8 summits all over the world. But they aren’t influential enough to repeat the gigantic demonstrations. They don’t even care about bringing more support. They are enough to disrupt a few roads in major cities before they are arrested. I believe that will happen in 2014. Which doesn’t mean most people are going to pay attention to them.

The fetichization of the protesters isn’t an inside job. Many foreign outlets kept the perceptions of June, as if nothing had changed since then. They need to update their perceptions. Protests are smaller and smaller, but the mentions of any protest “raising concerns for the World Cup and the Rio Olympics” have soared. That also includes stories that have absolutely nothing to do with the sporting events. That is also one of the reasons that made many analysts stick to the idea that demonstrations could be huge next year. Reality is already different.

This is what I said on Russia Today a few months ago

Fair to say many will wait for the World Cup to come and then believe protesters won’t be an issue. After all, Brazil is a new global player and those who have run the show so far aren’t used to our ways yet. I say what I say because I have a very big disbelief in Brazilians being really interested in protesting. Specially when they have something better to do. I was a student union leader a few years ago and every time I believed in the power of demonstrations, I was proved wrong. Eventually people just chose to do something else and carry on.

In 2014, Brazilians will have more than something else to do: they will try to profit, enjoy and live the excitement of a football tournament like no other. Sounds like shallow behavior? It could be. But in Brazil people need very clear reasons to leave their homes to speak out. That is what the protesters failed to give them after the initial wave of support in June. How could they expect any different one year from now?

About Mauricio Savarese

I am a Brazilian journalist who got tired of reporting only in Portuguese. Politics and football, these are my turfs. Twitter: @msavarese. Email:

Posted on 10/09/2013, in Football, Politics, Social and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I tend to agree with you that the big protests might be over. I think that there is a feeling of more power, however, in the people. As in, the political malfeasance that has been so common in the past is not as possible as it was before June. Will it still happen? Probably. But I do think the Congress is more cognizant that what they do will be watched. And commented on. And acted on. It will be interesting to see if Donadon gets his salary, and if other convicts get their retirement funds in spite of being in prison. I will not bet you the pão de queijo…I hate losing!

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