Brazil vs. Brazil: World Cup Pits Brazilians Against One Another


SÃO PAULO, Brazil — In February, during a protest here against the World Cup, demonstrators were running away from rubber bullets and tear gas when they bumped into a group celebrating Carnival. The Carnival people took shelter inside a bar, while cheering the police repression with shouts of: “Well done! Well done!” One man insulted a female demonstrator. He was laughing and clapping, his eyes filled with a mixture of rage and joy.

Similar scenes have been repeated across the nation in the last few weeks. It seems Brazil doesn’t have just one national team representing it during this World Cup; it has two: those who support the tournament, and those who do not.

The pro side includes all soccer fans who are passionate about the World Cup, as well as Brazilians who are aligned with the federal government. They claim that it’s a huge economic opportunity and a good way to promote Brazil abroad. They also believe our country has sufficient resources to host the tournament while still investing in public services like health care and education. For them, it makes no sense blaming the World Cup for our domestic problems. They often use the word “legacy.”

“The airports, subways and stadiums will not go back with the tourists in their suitcases. They will stay here, benefiting us all,” said President Dilma Rousseff.

The supporters say that protests should have happened seven years ago; now it’s too late to complain. Those who continue in their opposition are seen as enemies of the left-wing government — hence, protesters are considered fascists or terrorists.

The other team is represented by the activists on the streets. They are almost alone in their struggle. They face the media’s disapproval and police repression; during one February protest, there were reportedly 2,300 police officers for 1,500 protesters — more than one officer for each demonstrator. That day, 262 people were arrested.

The main reason for repressing or dismissing the protesters is that they are seen as vandals and criminals. Some of them — usually young people, many of them anarchists, who dress in black and cover their faces — do use what are called “Black Bloc” tactics. These originated in anticapitalist and antigovernment movements in Italy and Germany in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They consist of defensive tactics like forming a front line to protect demonstrators and building barricades, as well as offensive actions such as street fighting and vandalizing symbolic targets like government buildings or banks.

Of course, the Black Blocs represent a small part of the rallies — I’d say roughly 10 percent. Most of the demonstrators are peaceful and just want to openly disapprove of the excessive spending of public money on a private event. They point out that, seven years ago, the government promised that “not a single cent of public funds” would be spent building or refurbishing stadiums. But almost 97 percent of the investment in the arenas has come from taxpayers’ money. Of the World Cup’s total cost of $11.5 billion, 85.5 percent has come from public funds. The protesters also speak out against forced evictions, deaths of construction workers, tax exemptions and corruption.

On June 12, the first day of the World Cup, a protest in São Paulo was brutally repressed before it could even start. The police detained 33 citizens for “verification purposes,” even though this is illegal under our Constitution. Lawyers were denied access to their clients, while first- aid workers and legal observers were also attacked. Several police officers removed their identification tags.

Despite these problems, our news media is covering politics as if it were a sporting event. “Residents 3 vs. Activists 1,” read a recent headline in one major newspaper, after a protest in São Paulo — as though it was a soccer match between police officers and protesters, with people watching from the stands.

The newspaper said that residents harassed protesters and, in one city, threw eggs at them. “Shoot them!” a man yelled to the police from his window. “Crush them!” shouted a 70-year-old woman, claiming that Brazilians were embarrassing themselves in front of the world. A retired salesman told a New York Times reporter, “I just want Brazil to win the cup in order to silence these clowns who are protesting.”

So we’ve reached a Brazil vs. Brazil situation, a competitive scenario in which one side celebrates the harms done to the other. What I don’t understand is how the pro-World Cup people could possibly win when the protesters are repressed, since their own civil rights are also at stake. The more they celebrate the violation of basic rights like freedom of expression and the right to assemble, the more everybody loses.

This became clear to me during that February protest, when the Carnival group was cheering on the police from the shelter of a bar. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the police threw a percussion grenade inside the bar. The man who, moments before, had insulted a female demonstrator, was the first to be brutally pushed by a police officer.

But since we’re on the sports field, this is the score: From the beginning of the protests six months ago to the time Brazil’s team finished its first match, in São Paulo we’ve had a total of 10 banks vandalized (front glass shattered) and two car dealerships damaged. In the same period, 505 people were arrested here and 89 injured (according to GAPP, a group of first-aid volunteers), including one shot with real bullets.

No one is going to win this game.

Vanessa Barbara, a novelist and columnist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.


World Cup: Does US really have the most fans in Brazil?


Nearly 200,000 match tickets were bought in the US, which comes as some surprise given that “soccer” is still way behind US sports in popularity. The next biggest market was Argentina, a long way behind, followed by Germany, England and Colombia, according to Fifa.

The number of US fans travelling overseas isn’t surprising to Christopher Harris, editor and publisher of “US Soccer has done a fantastic job marketing to the audience, who have disposable income, love sports and don’t mind spending thousands of dollars to support their country.”

Soccer is a perfect embodiment of American patriotism, he says, with very few US sports having a national sports team that can compete with the best in the world.

A major reason for the recent increase in travelling fans is the growing popularity of the American Outlaws supporters group, says Harris, which has 135 chapters nationwide and flew three charter planes to Brazil. There, they have outnumbered most other fans, inside and outside the stadiums. Not long ago, it was hard to find the USA football shirt in shops, now they’re ubiquitous in Brazil. One long-time USA fan, Jason Burak, told Slate the transformation has made him well up.

The US fans are here, they are visible and so loud that they draw puzzled looks from locals and other tourists alike.

On non-game days, you will hear the American accents in restaurants up and down Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, but when the US team plays, the streets are filled with stars-and-stripe Speedos, red and blue Mohicans and continuous chants of “U S A! U S A!”

In the viewing areas, when Spain or Netherlands play, the atmosphere is joyous and relaxed, but when Klinsmann’s team kicks off, thousands of US fans fill the beach-side viewing party and it’s more like a sold-out rock concert.

Hailing from all over the US, some boast “soccer” knowledge rivalling the post-game analysts, others are just here “to have fun”. Rio has noticed, the Americans are in town. Argentina and Chile fans are also highly visible but the number of US fans could surpass even them.

Whether they are the biggest group is hard to say as so many fans travel without tickets. In Germany in 2006, it was widely believed that England fans formed the largest horde, with police estimating that 70,000 made the trip. There’s also the likelihood that many of the tickets bought in the US were by fans of other countries, says ESPN football commentator Allen Hopkins. “We are a melting pot and although fans will identify as Americans, they may go to Brazil to support Mexico or Costa Rica and support the US on a secondary basis.”

But there’s little doubt that football has become “cool”, says Hopkins, and Brazil has a particular allure for Americans, as the “Mecca” of football and a great place to party.



The U.S. national team and its rowdy fans have taken over Brazil. The locals are not pleased.

MANAUS, Brazil—We were down by the port, where the air smelt of cigarette smoke and stale beer, when I realized how much things had changed.

Three men sat at a tiny table playing cards that were stained with splashes of wine and curled at the corners because of the humidity. One had a tattoo of a strand of rosary beads running down his forearm, the other sat shirtless, a thin layer of sweat beading up on his shoulders. His attention drifted between the card game and a World Cup match on his cellphone. Off in the distance, you could hear the sound of a boat motoring into a river’s muddy waters.

It was Saturday afternoon in Manaus, a sweltering, squalid city of close to 2 million in the Amazon rainforest. The next day the U.S. would play Portugal, and it seemed everyone had an opinion on the game. I asked the men at the table who they thought would win. “I think the U.S.,” one of them said, diverting his attention briefly from his cards. “But I’m rooting for Portugal.”

The oddsmakers disagreed with him: Even a Portugal hobbled by injuries would beat the U.S., they said. But I found it surprising how many Brazilians believed a different result likely. Having lived in Brazil years ago, I am used to the word fraca(weak) to describe our national team. But things were different now.

What surprised me even more, considering Manaus had once been a Portuguese colony, were how few fans I saw from Portugal. The city, it seemed, had been taken over by Americans. And that, more than anything else, is why the Brazilians quietly hoped we’d lose.

Being an American fan hadn’t always been this way, of course. A few days before, I had been sitting in a bar in a little surf village on the northeast coast of Brazil, talking with U.S. fans who had spent a decade following the national team from Turkey to Panama. It wasn’t that long ago, they reminded me, that you couldn’t buy a U.S. national team jersey because nobody bothered to carry them. “I remember going to a Gold Cup final in New Jersey, the U.S. against Mexico, and I couldn’t even hear the national anthem because there were so many Mexican fans booing,” a fan named Jason Burak said. “We were this tiny contingent of American fans, just this little cluster. So to go to [the World Cup opener] and see that many Americans, I’m not going to lie, I got a little choked up.”

I had been at that game too, between the U.S. and Ghana, and I’m not going to lie either: I, too, got a little choked up. But I had noticed something else. Midway through the first half, when yet another deafening “U-S-A!” chant drowned out any other sound in the stadium, a bald-pated man wearing the canary-colored jersey of the Brazilian national team rose from his seat and began a chant for Ghana. He did it with a smile, and we all understood: There were so few Ghanaian fans in the stadium, they needed all the help they could get (even though their team was thoroughly outclassing ours at the moment). When he was shouted down by the U.S. fans, with yet another thundering “U-S-A!” chant, his smile turned to a sneer. Soon, Brazilians in our section were chanting for their team, even though they weren’t on the field, with something that was morphing into outright hostility, as if to say: This is our game. In that moment, we were no longer the plucky underdogs we’ve been for so long, the lovable losers giving the world’s game a try with our clumsy passing and horrid first touch. Suddenly, we were a threat on the field, and in the stands at least, we were a bully.

I thought about this as I walked through the grimy streets of Manaus in the days leading up to Sunday night’s game, the heat heavy on my neck like a clammy hand. Everywhere I went, I saw Americans. I saw them in a stone cathedral, kneeling beneath soaring archways built in the 19th century, in our rocket-pop-inspired home jerseys, perhaps praying for a victory. Down in the market, where the air smelt of roasting fish, I saw them buying the fake weapons of Amazonian warriors to take home to their children. And I listened as two fans from Pittsburgh, out on the river, fishing for piranha with sticks of bamboo, talked about Michael Bradleyand Clint Dempsey the way they might Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu back home. But I rarely saw anyone wearing the jersey of Portugal.

Hardcore soccer fans in the U.S. (the sort that follow the Premier League) are constantly taking measure of where we stand compared with, say, Mexico, or especially England. Do we travel well? Are our fans sufficiently rowdy? How creative are our chants? (Answer: not very. “U-S-A! U-S-A!”) What’s unsaid is the hope that this is the year soccer finally arrives on our shores. And by arrive, I mean the U.S. at last becoming one of the best teams in the world.

But as I sat in the stadium, in what once again amounted to a home game, I realized what we’ve been waiting for is already here. No, we are not Argentina or Italy or Brazil, and we may never be. We are not one of the best teams in the world. But as the first two games of this World Cup showed, we have become a side thatmust be respected. No longer do we simply hunker down and hope for goals off counterattacks and set pieces. Now we can dictate the pace and render the world’s best player ineffective and invisible for most of the game.

We can also play beautifully, scoring rocketing goals to the back of the net like Jermaine Jones did, and we can score in slick, even sublime ways, like Clint Dempsey did in the 81st minute.

Going into the tournament, after our first friendly, one of my friends told me we’d be lucky to score a goal in the World Cup. We had no chance of advancing and would surely be eliminated by the end of the Portugal match. We booked our tickets home accordingly.

But with less than a minute to go, the script had been flipped. We were about to win the group and everyone around us was thinking about extending the trip beyond the group stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t do jack all game until he did, proving that with one perfectly placed pass, he could change the course of a match, and perhaps our fate (and Portugal’s) in this tournament. It left the American fans gutted, sitting in stunned silence long after the match was over. For everyone in Brazil who isn’t traveling on an American passport, this had to have been a nice turn of events: The American fans had to shut up, at least for a moment.

The fact that the U.S. has never been all that good at soccer has allowed us to cheer for our team in a full-throated, hyper-patriotic, guilt-free way. But as we gain respect on the field, our overbearing presence in the stadium stops being charming. The U.S. has everything else. Can’t the rest of the world just have this? Judging by the past few weeks in Brazil, the U.S. national team and its loudest, proudest fans have this to say in response:U-S-A! U-S-A!



Why Brazil may rule the Internet


Cruising the World Wide Web has been an American adventure from the start, with the United States and its tech community in the driver’s seat, dominating in terms of users, technology and policymaking. Now it’s time to start sharing the wheel.

It’s not Internet behemoths China or India, with their billion-plus populations of potential Web surfers, grabbing for it. It’s Brazil, which is positioning itself as an increasingly powerful voice in the international debate over the future of the Web, post Edward Snowden’s U.S. spying revelations (incidentally, Snowden’s chief ally in the media, Glenn Greenwald, makes his home in Rio). It’s backed there by a fast growing and active population of Internet users, seasoned tech entrepreneurs and policy wonks, and a populist vision somewhere between America’s corporate approach and China’s state-controlled take on the Web.

What Brazil wants: Privacy, free speech and other protections for its booming population of Internet users, guarantees that the Internet will remain open and unchecked by governments (like China or America’s NSA) or companies (largely based in the United States) and more resources to expand access to a more diverse and low-income crop of users.

Those are the issues at the heart of “Internet governance” that have provoked heated debates over personal liberties, national security and billion-dollar bottom lines.

As Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff boiled it down at NETmundial, the international conference her government convened in São Paulo in April: “An open and decent network architecture … helps make communications more democratic and also fosters constant innovation.” Nothing less than the future of the World Wide Web is at stake, argued Rousseff.

Ad-hockery has ruled the multinational bodies tasked with setting the basic rules of the road for how servers connect and how information flows. And global rulemaking has taken on a distinctly American accent, a “multistakeholder” model that includes lots of private sector influence.

The Internet has changed a lot since the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia tried to reduce American dominance, and Internet policy experts say the world now faces another inflection point on the way forward.

In Brazil, Internet use since the Tunisia Summit has roughly tripled, now closing in on 100 million people. More than half of Brazilians over the age of 13 have Internet access, well ahead of fellow emerging markets India and China, according to the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. And they’re active — particularly on social media, ranking among the top nationalities of users on Facebook and Twitter.

Brazilians have civil society activists to thank for the advanced state of their Internet. This group of tech geeks rallied as early as 1992 to help bring order to the nascent online universe, says Raquel Gatto, a Web expert at the nonprofit Internet Society in São Paulo. In 1995, they joined with the national government to form the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, with a board made up of government ministers, tech experts, business executives and rights activists. The committee manages the .br domain registry, promotes infrastructure and access projects and helps Brazil speak as one powerful voice internationally.

But it was Snowden’s exposé of America’s online snooping, including taps on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, that has galvanized Brazil’s Internet community to push for more developing-world say.

It started with Rousseff’s scorching speech to the United Nations General Assembly last September. But Brazil’s proven more than a scold. In coordination with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a non-governmental body that helps maintain the technical architecture of the Web, Rousseff launched plans for NETmundial last fall, with the aim of establishing “universal Internet principles and an institutional framework for multistakeholder Internet governance.”

Western governments and much of the U.S. tech industry feared the event would devolve into another round of America and rich-world bashing, but the outcome was roundly hailed as a positive, if nebulous, contribution to the discussion — even by the U.S. policymakers and corporations that took part.

The Marco Civil institutes strict regulations for storing user data for any companies with Brazilian users, even if they’re in the United States.

“Brazil has traditionally had a different take” than the United States on who the lead Internet policy decision makers should be, says Adam Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. But what came out of the conference, beyond expressions of universally espoused principles, says Segal, was “a pretty strong embrace of the [U.S.-backed] multistakeholder model.”

Of course, Brazil’s not just lining up behind the United States on how to oversee the Internet of the future.

The same day Rousseff welcomed delegates to NETmundial, she signed a new domestic law, the Marco Civil or “Internet Bill of Rights,” which guarantees, among other things, a right to privacy online and “net neutrality” regarding the speed at which information travels over the Web. It also, controversially, institutes strict regulations for storing user data for any companies with Brazilian users, even if, say, they’re in the United States.

Already, says Gatto, the Brazilian government is consulting with others around the world about implementing their own versions of the law.

With a flurry of international conferences on the subject slated for coming months, they’ll have a chance to test their leadership further. In September, the issues will come up at the United Nations General Assembly and the U.N.-sponsored Internet Governance Forum annual conference in Istanbul, and again in October at a gathering of the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union in South Korea. Next year Brazil will host the IGF on home turf.

With NETmundial and Marco Civil in the rearview mirror, Brazilians feel more confident than ever that they have a special role to play in the future of the Internet.

Domestic experience, says Gatto, has given the country “solid grounds to leverage at the international level.” It just took a catalyst by the name of Edward Snowden, she says, to galvanize action. is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.



How the American Outlaws Are Getting the US into Soccer


And they say Americans don’t care about soccer or the World Cup.

Hundreds of soccer super-fans packed into two charter jets on Friday in Houston and flew down to Brazil to cheer on the USA. They’re all part of the American Outlaws, a diehard fan club headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska with more than 125 chapters across the nation — cities such as in Miami, San Francisco, Seattle and more.

You might recognize them as the raucous bunch that starts the chant: “I believe that we will win” and were chanting for the entire game Monday in Natal during the U.S.’s 2-1 win over Ghana.

“It’s all kind of exploded,” co-founder Justin Brunken told ESPN of the group’s growth. “It’s kind of crazy how big it’s gotten. When we started we realized a lot of people were looking for something like this. They were trying to organize with friends and find a bar to watch at, but one time the local bar would have the sound on and the next time they’d say, ‘Well, the football game takes priority.’”

Now they’re hard to ignore. Brunken and the more than 18,000 American Outlaws members are recognizable by their face paint, banners, signature red-white-and-blue bandannas and the relentless cheering in the stands when the U.S. takes the field. They organize tailgates and watch parties across the country, and every chapter has a designated bar that plays the games.

The American Outlaws’ $29 yearly membership includes an official T-shirt and bandanna, and discounts on soccer tickets and merchandise.

The name comes from feeling like soccer fans were “outlaws” of the sports world, “supporting a sport that most people didn’t know much about or cared little about,” according to the group’s website.

But their fervor for the game is catching on. Americans bought more tickets to the 2014 World Cup than any other nation except Brazil, FIFA said.

Brunken and his co-founder Korey Donahoo set the plan for the World Cup trip to Brazil three years ago. More than 540 members signed up for the package, which included hotels, tickets and flights between games, but “many, many more are here on their own,” Brunken said in an email.

Part of the American Outlaws’ mission is to help Team USA win -– and Brunken says it works. Former U.S. international defender Frankie Hejduk once told the outlaws “please be as loud as you can, you don’t know how much of a difference it makes to the players,” before the Ghana game in the 2006 World Cup.

Next stop for the group: Manaus on Sunday to cheer on the U.S. against Portugal.


Biden ‘Confident’ US Can Repair Relationship With Brazil


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday morning, trying to repair a relationship shattered by allegations of U.S. spying.

Biden arrived Tuesday at the Palacio Planalto, Brazil’s version of the White House, telling reporters that he was “confident” that the U.S. could re-establish ties with Latin America’s largest country. Biden will also hold meetings with Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer. The U.S. was Brazil’s largest trade partner until being passed recently by China.

Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. has been chilly since last year, when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed thousands of pages of documents showing the agency collected data on Brazil’s president and local companies such as state-run oil company Petrobras.

Rousseff canceled a visit and state dinner with U.S. President Barack Obama in the wake of the spying allegations. Brazil has pushed the U.S. for assurances that the spying has ended.

There has also been speculation that Snowden could eventually seek asylum in Brazil, although Brazilian government officials have said that he has not yet made such a request. Snowden’s temporary visa to stay in Russia expires later this year.

Biden was in Brazil to see Monday’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Ghana. The U.S. team won, 2-1, leaving the vice president in a good mood ahead of his visit with Rousseff, according to local press reports. U.S. soccer fans were the biggest foreign buyers of tickets for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, which is being hosted at 12 cities throughout Brazil.

The month-long tournament ends July 13, when the final match will be played in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.

After the meetings in Brazil, Biden will head to Colombia and Guatemala as part of a trip to meet with other South American and Central American leaders.