Brazil protests: How Ronaldo, Pele betrayed their people

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: In a press conference about the Confederation Cup two years ago, Ronaldo renounced his Brazilian heritage in two short sentences. He said, amidst protests against the international events being hosted by Brazil that “A World Cup isn’t made with hospitals, my friend. It’s made with stadiums". He even shook his head in disbelief, as if Brazil’s population seemed too dumb to understand that simple fact.

Following suit, Pelé asked the people to forget protesting and focus instead on the Brazilian team. He also said in a YouTube video, that people were confusing things and that the World Cup was a different subject from the misuse of public money. And patronizingly he tried to explain that the Confederation Cup is a trial for the real thing.

It is a sad affair when national heroes forget where they are from. But this often happens to those most adored for their talents. They are eventually made into puppets of world authorities. It is even sadder for a population like Brazil’s who have been taught footballers are their only role models.

Getty Images

Pelé asked the people to forget protesting and focus on the Brazilian team. Getty Images

Pelé and Ronaldo might be advocating something they believe will be good for the country’s image but instead they have become a symbol of how public money is being used to further enrich the already wealthy. The response to their out-of-touch statements is: then let’s not have a World Cup.

FIFA and international events of this kind only serve to bankrupt a country – 97 percent of the cost of World Cup facilities were paid for with public money, money taken from Brazilian tax payers. This means that all this money was not used to invest in facilities that would actually benefit the people; this money was used to receive tourists and host an event completely unnecessary to a third world country.

These supposed ‘national heroes’ are saying these things because it is not their mothers who have to wait hours, days for medical treatment in public health hospitals.

One of the huge problems faced in Brazil's public hospitals is the lack of beds, and it is not uncommon to see patients lying on the floor, like a proper war zone. From 2005 to 2012 there was a reduction of 10 percent of beds in the public system – which means the loss of 41,713 spots for people who need treatment.

A doctor has been shown on national TV yelling about the lack of funding and the lack of spots for intensive care unit patients – he said people are dying waiting for treatment.

Doctors are fed up and they don’t know what to do. In one case, a doctor told a woman about to give birth to take a bus to another hospital; they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide her with an ambulance, and she was put in a life and death situation. And it is impossible to know how many people suffer with this every day.

As for education, The Economist has rated Brazilian education as the fourth worst in the world. The miserable monthly salary of public school teachers (around R$800 or £240) in comparison to that of congressmen (around R$17,000 or £5,050, plus benefits and reimbursements) is absurd. So it’s really no surprise the level of education is so poor.

There are 3-6 million children who don’t attend school because of lack of inspection. And when children do go to school and graduate, 90 percent of them come out of the public school system without knowing all the mathematics required to graduate. This lack of education is a gateway for crime and drugs.

Getty Images

It is even sadder for a population like Brazil’s who have been taught footballers are their only role models. Getty Images

And as for the subject of the 20 cent rise in bus fares that was the catalyst for all of these protests; it is a slap in the face for the Brazilian worker. A round trip commute would cost a worker around R$120 (around £35) a month, an extortionist amount for someone whose monthly salary is R$680 (around £193) – and this is assuming said worker would only need to catch one bus each way, which is often not the case.

Most commuters who work in Rio de Janeiro live a few towns over and have to catch two or three buses just to get to and from work. It is almost certain that only a small fraction of the lower classes will be able to attend any World Cup games, and they still get an 18 percent rise in bus fares in the last two years.

Pelé and Ronaldo, I could list about a million reasons why the World Cup is not a good idea.

Like the fact that government ministers get their hotels paid for if they want to watch World Cup games in other cities or that in the last 17 months, the government accumulated R$ 2,2 trillion and health, education and our streets are still dilapidated, underfunded and even life-threatening.

But, supposed national heroes, if you want us to believe all we are good for is football, you haven’t understood what these protests are about at all. I recommend you spend a few days getting to know your people.

Nicole Froio is a Brazilian writer. She blogs at

Updated Date: Jun 24, 2013 16:08 PM

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