The Selecao just won the Confederations Cup for the third time with a splendid victory, beating Spain 3 x 0. Brazil played spectacularly and totally took apart the number 1 team in FIFA’s ranking and the reigning World Cup Champion. The Selecao’s aggressive midfield play, outstanding defense and the individual merits of Fred and Neymar made Spain look like the traditional underachiever that it had always been up to 2010. Maracana was full and the fans were chanting and shouting and standing throughout the game.
Outside the stadium, protesters attempted unsuccessfully to breech the police lines and there is talk of a general strike planned for Monday, July 1. With Brazil’s victory, the protests will lose steam and talk in the streets, at home and at work will go back to “futbol” and how Felipao has once again made his mark as Brazil’s best national coach.
President Dilma was originally scheduled to be at the final but she has been caught off guard by the extent and the duration of the movement against pretty much everything that exists in Brazil’s status quo. After being booed at the opening game in Brasilia, her advisers – fearful of a Brazil loss and the increasingly bad mood of the population – advised her to keep her distance. This turns out to have been a mistake. Over the past month, and, in particular, in the last two weeks, Dilma’s ratings with the population have sunk by half. A month ago, she was viewed as an easy winner in the 2014 elections and probably in the first round. All this is now in doubt and challengers such as Marina Silva (formerly a Green Party candidate and Joaquim Barbosa (the President of Brazil’s Supreme Court) have ratings that now threaten Dilma. Had she attended the game, it is likely she would have had a bounce in her popularity.
I predicted on Facebook that the game would be a tie in regulation and overtime thus forcing a decision by kicks from the mark. I and others blew that call. Virtually everyone in Brazil projected Spain as the favorite and expected Brazil to be manhandled. So I may also be wrong in predicting that the streets will be silent for a time. Certainly, all of the problems of overspending on the Cup, together with poor infrastructure, precarious healthcare, lousy education, discrimination, crime and security all remain major challenges. Still, I think that the protesters have made their mark for now and with the end of the trial run (the Confederations Cup) they have lost their international stage. I see people gradually drifting back to their normal activities at least until the Pope’s visit.
Opportunities for mass protests on the world stage will reappear and there will be new mobilizations. But the reality is that real change will take place slowly and in small doses as Brazil’s elites reluctantly cede power. Broadcast TV, consumerism, big corporations and the need to actually work will trump, for the time being, the desire for change that does not include clear means to a well-defined end.