World Cup: root for the players, stand with the protesters

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is well underway.  Studies document that playing a sport helps both one’s body and mind.  Research further shows how participating in sports, especially ones requiring complex movements like soccer, can also improve your brain function at work or school, through the release of BDNF – brain-derived neurotrophic factor.  Further, there is a positive relationship between identification with a local sport team and social psychological health.   Yet, as we watch the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, rooting for our teams, playing amateur soccer in our back yards and parks for fun with our friends, families and loved ones, we urge you to also learn more about protests currently underway and continuing on the streets of Brazil.


Many Brazilians have expressed fury over Brazil spending an estimated $11 billion to host the cup while the country’s hospitals and schools remain woefully underfunded.  Police have reportedly used tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs to disperse demonstrators.

The protests aimed at the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world’s governing body for soccer, and an organization fighting many corruption charges.  With 209 member associations around the world, FIFA is responsible for promoting the game globally and for organizing international competitions.  However, behind the scenes, FIFA faces fresh allegations of bribery and corruption in relation to the bidding process that resulted in the selection of Russia and Qatar as World Cup host countries in 2018 and 2022.  The protesters in Brazil claim that the cost of refurbishing the Maracanã stadium could have paid for 200 schools, and other social services much needed in the country.

Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Newton, Mass., reports, after careful research, that in the end, the economic benefit for hosting the World Cup ends up to being a modest gain at best, zero to none at worse. As one research paper published in the Journal of African Economies calculated, South Africa attracted about 220,000 extra tourists from countries outside southern Africa during the 2010 World Cup and 300,000 over the entire year.  The country spent about $13,000 per visitor and has not seen comparable economic return.

Mental health issues are closely tied with issues of race, class, gender and religion (to name but a few), meaning mental health is connected with and interacts with social issues.  As we watch the World Cup this week, entertaining ourselves while also possibly improving our mental health status because of it, we also need to be mindful that poverty, and lack of social services is hurting the mental health of many Brazilians. In short, as we continue to root for our teams, we hope, you will also find ways to stand in solidarity with the Brazilian people.

We’ve complied a few videos and articles you might want to analyze on the subject:


Beyond Sex and Soccer: Why Brazilians Are Pissed About the World Cup – TruthDig

Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy

South Africa’s World Cup warning to Brazil – CNN News

Brazil’s Dance With the Devil on the Eve of the World Cup – The Nation

How Brazil’s World Cup has sold its people short in the Amazon – The Guardian


And ways to stand in solidarity…

Brazilian Landless Workers Movement

Rio On Watch

Catalytic Communities


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