HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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24 June 2014

Gol de barriga

Clint Dempsey´s gol de barriga against Portugal sent me into fits of belly slapping. It may be the most famous goal of its kind since Renato Gaucho´s 1995 tally that won the Campeonato Carioca for Fluminense. As I was pounding out a batucada on my stomach it came to me that the bacchanal of the Copa is all about the gol de barriga.

Mysterious circumstances landed me in one of the hospitality suites for the Belgium x Russia match. In order to get there I had to pass through four levels of Military Police, two levels of ticket checkers, one turnstile, and then a credentialing center where I was given a multi-colored wristband that identified my place in the consumption circus.

Once the three business-attired, very thin, very attractive multi-lingual Brazilian women had kitted me out and opened the door to the consumption zone, I was met by the leveled gaze of three very dark, very plump, very unhealthy looking women who were standing in the foyer to the handicapped bathroom. Their dark crimson uniforms said more than they ever would about their position in the hierarchy. Between them and me was a table heaped with salads and deserts. The open bar offered champers, wine, gin and tonic, beer, whisky, vodka, capirinhas. Russians, Belgians, Brazilians were going back and forth to the buffet as the noise of the crowd built outside.

The hospitality sector of the Xaracanã was not close to full when the game started, nor would it be for the match as a whole. Yet the official attendance figures tell a different story. The emptiness of the stands is a reflection of the corporatization of the event as a whole. Mutli-nationals buy up these packages through MATCH and then give tickets as gifts to clients or friends. The major purchasers of these packages in Brazil are the civil construction firms that have made billions through over-priced stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup.

Here´s the flow: Civil construction firms finance election campaigns. The World Cup projects are hastily proposed in back room agreements between government officials and the civil construction firms. Brazilian taxpayers finance multi-billion real projects that are contracted to the civil construction firms. These firms then spend millions on MATCH hospitality packages. Employees go to the hospitality suites to fill their bellies in the same way that their companies have filled their coffers with public money. Cheap labor increases MATCH´s profits in the same way that slave labor enriches Odebrecht in Angola. Belly size increases while the poor stare hungrily at the banquet table.

This is why it is so easy to score a gol de barriga in Brazil.

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