Is Brazil being taken over by football? Not entirely

World Cup protests may have made the headlines over the past months, football is dominating the agenda more and more in Brazil. The resentment is still there, but the numbers of protesters seems to be dropping. An impression from the land of "futebol" and samba by our VRT online Brazil correspondent, Rik Arnoudt.

"Não vai ter Copa": there will be no World Cup. This slogan was often heard in the build-up to the World Cup. A big protest movement against the expensive World Cup has been taking to the streets since the Confederations Cup last year. The police responded quite violently and managed to gain control over the situation, at least more or less.

Today the World Cup has actually begun. In Salvador the streets fill up with football fans and yellow and green are to be seen everywhere. The Brazilians seem to be mad again about their national team. Also the Dutch organized their small orange party in Salvador, after their team's victory against defending champions Spain.

Not everyone in Salvador is pleased with this football frenzy. In a small bar I met Thame Gomes Ferreira (photo), a young actress and a student at the Federal University of Bahia, the state of which Salvador is the capital. "This Cup is not ours, it's for the rich and FIFA."

Thame has been participating in the protest movement against the World Cup and against the government. "Last time we were 50 to 70 of us, and there was more police than protesters. At first the protest was peaceful, but when we tried to march to the FIFA Fan Zone the police dispersed us with tear gas. 17 people were arrested, not necessarily all protesters, because police consider everyone as the enemy."

Hit by the economic crisis

"Brazil has been hit hard by the economic crisis", says Fernando Conceição, a professor in Communication Science at the Federal University of Bahia. "The government has not fulfilled its promises. Violence and unemployment are on the rise again."

Indeed, if you talk to people in the street you often hear the same thing. "We disapprove of the huge cost of this World Cup in our country, while there are no decent public schools and hospitals."

"200.000 people have been forced out of their houses to build new football stadiums", says Thame. "If you want to see a game you need to pay 500 reais (about 165 euros)." Opium for the people is expensive in a city where the minimum wage is 720 reais (about 239 euros).

"Two movements"

"I see two movements", says Stéphane Pérée, a Belgian entrepreneur in Salvador. "The first movement I would call opportunist. They organise strikes with demands for a salary increase of up to 30 percent. Strange, in the past they never demanded such pay rises. According to me this is emotional blackmail, while Brazil is in the international spotlight."

Pérée is more positive about the second movement, which claims better hospitals, better education, affordable public transport and better living conditions overall. "I hope this movement continues after this tournament", he says.

A lot will depend on how the Seleção performs, the Brazilian national team. If they lose in an early stage it might have repercussions for the upcoming elections. Already today the government of president Dilma Rousseff has lost a lot of support.

If the Brazilian squad wins Pérée is pessimistic about the future. "I fear Brazilians will be sedated by football, again."