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I heard you sold the Amazon: Woes of the World Cup

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FEBRUARY 11, 2023

The vibrating, electric guitar plucks usher in a seemingly playful melody. A light drum beat and effervescent humming quickly take a backseat to a crooning Declan McKenna. Close your eyes — it’s almost as if you open them up to a freshly mixed piña colada under palm trees.

McKenna’s “Brazil” is best described as a stoner staple; a melodic world that indulges the mind in hallucinating our greatest relaxing vices.

While “Brazil” seems to open us up to fantasizing about mental vacations, its undertones unpack a darker form of introspection.

“I heard you sold the Amazon / to show the country that you’re from.” 

In 2007, Brazil was awarded the right to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The future was teeming with a possibility that represented hope for each of the 32 teams that would compete for the golden coated cup in 2014.

At this point, the country was experiencing an economic boom. Brazilian officials viewed the World Cup as an opportunity to finally represent their nation on the world stage, not only as a hub of culture but as a country finally able to harness its potential. Foreign investors had pulled in the capital that expanded the economy by 4.5% and the gaping wealth disparity gap had begun to close.

However, like the trophy itself, a glittery shell created a facade that failed to feature a realistic Brazil when it came time for the games to begin. In the years after Brazil was selected to host, the stock market crash of 2008 plunged the country into economic despair, and consumer confidence never recovered when the time to host the global festivities rolled around.

However, like the trophy itself, a glittery shell created a facade that failed to feature a realistic Brazil when it came time for the games to begin.

In part, Brazilian President Lula de Silva is to blame for setting Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup. With newfound abundance, de Silva saw fit to budget a spending fund of more than $11.7 billion. To cap off these lofty expenditures, Brazil would be meant to allocate these funds through FIFA — an organization with a history of alleged corruption cases.

“I heard he lives down a river somewhere/ With six cars and a grizzly bear.” 

In 2011, FIFA re-elected Sepp Blatter to serve as its next president. Blatter, a former Swiss football manager, ran uncontested in a mysteriously lackluster election. With Brazil’s impending World Cup on the horizon, all eyes were on Blatter to steer the organization out of former alleged corruptive practices.

Instead, Blatter’s leadership propelled further corruption throughout the organization. Under his leadership, FIFA’s marketing partner ISL lost more than $100 million. In April of 2012, the Council of Europe published a report concluding that Blatter had lined the pockets of close FIFA confidants with this money, determining that there was no way a large-scale misuse of funding had flown under this radar.

After the FIFA ethics committee convened in 2013, Blatter was cleared of all alleged misconduct and was allowed to remain at the helm of the upcoming World Cup’s ship.

As a completely unrelated side note, Blatter’s lavish lifestyle increased dramatically; a lifestyle that allegedly boasted collections of luxury vehicles and exotic pets.

“I wanna play the beautiful game while I’m in Brazil / ‘Cause everybody plays the beautiful game out in Brazil.”

The luxury afforded to World Cup facilities, and the corrupt FIFA leadership that set construction into play, is a stark contrast to the reality of the lives many Brazilians were living in 2014.

Federal funding for the World Cup, which was already being mishandled by FIFA, was being taken away from providing improved healthcare facilities and educational programs for Brazilian citizens. While the event was supposed to uplift the spirit of the host nation, it ended up exacerbating poverty and crime within the South American country.

While the event was supposed to uplift the spirit of the host nation, it ended up exacerbating poverty and crime within the South American country.

Soccer lies at the heart of Brazilian culture, and the juxtaposition between so many Brazilian people being hurt by the very sport that defines their national identity left a visible stain on soccer’s ability to provide hope and happiness.

Many Brazilians grew resentful of the World Cup, and by extension, the sport of soccer itself. What once was a point of pride for Brazilians soon became a symbol of betrayal at the hands of their government. So much so, that some citizens hoped for the national team’s early exit, as a humiliating front to their own leaders.

“It’s all you’ve ever wanted, and it’s all that you want still / Don’t you wanna play the beautiful game out in Brazil?

The tragic tale of Brazil’s coming out on the global stage should serve as a message to the world. Corrupt organizations such as FIFA have been taking advantage of newly up-and-coming nations for decades, and they have recently left a trail of human rights violations in their wake.

The collective suffering of the Brazilian people at the hands of the 2014 World Cup was not mourned but rather a stepping stone to forthcoming greater exploitation.

Fast forward to Russia’s 2018 World Cup, in which the United Kingdom was promised bid votes and then was subsequently turned on by FIFA executives at the last moment in favor of Russia, even as Russia’s invasion of Crimea and involvement in the shooting of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 loomed large. Most recently, Qatar’s 2022 World Cup estimated that more than 6,500 migrant workers died whilst erecting facilities for the event. In addition, Qatar’s firm stance on the illegality of homosexuality further alienated players and fans who saw the World Cup as a beacon of acceptance and togetherness for the global community.

These stark tales paint a realistic picture of the World Cup: one that contains a polished shell with a rotten core hidden from the public eye. It is almost laughable to think that Brazil’s emphatic cries for change would serve to change a sick organization that promotes abuse for monetary fodder.

Well, he talks like an angel, but he looks like me.”

It is time to end the idolization of national and corporate leaders who continue to sell out their citizens in exchange for global clout. It is clear that corruptive practices have historically plagued the world cup. This certainly did not begin with Brazil, nor will it end with Qatar.

Contact Emma Solomon at 


FEBRUARY 12, 2023