Inside the arenas in Brazil's twelve host cities for the FIFA World Cup, celebrations run rampant with each victory, the cheers exploding from the bleachers with every goal. The World Cup is often found to be about exactly two things - soccer and partying - and American fans have certainly reconciled the two over these past few days.
After a satisfying victory against Ghana on Monday in Sao Paulo, the United States is now tied with Germany in group D and gearing up to face Portugal on Sunday. As most of us can attest to, the US played a nailbiting game. Captain Clint Dempsey, 31, scored the fastest goal in World Cup history by an American just 32 seconds into the match, and then, following a goal by Ghana, 21 year-old rookie John Brooks secured the win with a header off a corner kick by Graham Zusi.
For those of us watching the game on television screens and laptops rather than jumbotrons, the streaming coverage was peppered with images of US fans celebrating the victory, red and blue bodies wreaking havoc on the stands as thousands of voices joined in song and outbursts of disbelief. The World Cup is about feeling pride for your country, screaming your head off as your team takes the lead and maybe sharing a drink or hug with a fan of a different nationality after the adrenaline settles and the players have left the field. Its power lies in the fandom.
But the World Cup is also about money. It's hard to imagine anything but a joyful atmosphere in what is currently one of the most televised countries in the world, but the Cup's effect on the citizens of Brazil outside of the stadium is not as easily celebrated as a surprising goal by an injury substitute.
The poverty rate in Brazil is about 15.9% out of a population of 200 million people, according to the latest World Bank estimates. In Sao Paulo where the US-Ghana match was played, the rate is about twice that, meaning that almost one third of its citizens live below the poverty line. In fact, most of the cities hosting the World Cup games are spread across the Northeastern part of Brazil, which, underneath the glamour of body paint and vuvuzuelas, is that nation'smost impoverished area.
In response to the billions of dollars that were spent on World Cup preparations by the Brazilian government, hoards of Brazilians have been gathering to protest its allocation to arena construction and infrastructure for tourists when the money could be used to aid the struggling citizens of Brazil.
Although Brazilian law protects peaceful protests as a citizen's right, the demonstraters have been met with violent opposition from the military police in the form of tear gas and stun grenades. The human rights organization Amnesty International recently issued Brazil with a "yellow card" for handling the situation so poorly.
So what about all the World Cup zealots for whom this money was spent, who just want to watch some soccer? Travelling to the World Cup is a pilgrimage that a little over a million people undergo out of tradition and enthusiasm for the sport, but FIFA has put its fans in the conflicting situation of loving a tournament that is also an economical wrecking ball to many of its host countries. In a situation where boycotting doesn't seem to be on, or even near the horizon, it's all almost comically hopeless (at least in the opinion of John Oliver).
What do these controversies mean to fans like you? The Cup will be watched regardless and the body paint painted on several or all body parts, so enjoy the games in that American flag tank top - keeping in mind their questionable circumstances - and decide for yourself.
Miriam Akervall is a student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the marketing intern for SISU Guard. Talanted writer, Miriam wanted to expand her scope to include business communications, which made her such a perfect fit for our internship program. Miriam will be blogging for SISU througout the summer, as well as assisting in social media outreach, newsletters and other communications with our customers. Please welcome Miriam to our group.