Like me, you may have pinched yourself to see if you were dreaming after watching Brazil's humiliating 7-1 defeat by Germany in the World Cup semifinals. But it happened. Bloggers from the Middle East and North Africa expressed their sympathy, with one Bahraini Twitter user wryly noting that the “tear gas” team was leaving in a “scandalous manner.” He was referring to the government of Bahrain's use of Brazilian tear gas to violently stop protests (warning, link contains graphic content).
Brazil will receive a minimum of $20 million for its semifinal run in the World Cup, but the team still has an opportunity to win an extra $2 million if it defeats the Netherlands, who lost to Argentina, in the third-place game. This money may be sorely needed to make changes to its soccer association.
Protests continued in the country, but not at the same scale as the lead-up to the tournament. Some 300 protesters in the city of Sao Paulo turned out to demand the release of previous demonstrators, yet the police responded by arresting six more. Most fans traveling to Brazil will not have heard any baile funk (dance funk) because it has been banned for its popularity in favelas and for its racy sounds, which feature police sirens and gunshots.
Argentina fans, meanwhile, can rejoice because they will have an opportunity to watch their team play against Germany in the final as Lionel Messi, one of the all time greats, plays with heartthrob Ezekiel Lavezzi beside him in attack. Lavezzi has attracted a few more fans after stripping off his shirt in a victory celebration.
With racism, it seems more is less. The global soccer body FIFA has revealed internal divisions about cracking down on racism at the tournament. FIFA's task force against racism disagreed with the ruling of its disciplinary panel to decline to punish national federations for racist and homophobic chants by fans because the fans were not targeting one player in particular, but entire teams.
Preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have already been marred by reports of as many as 400 Nepalese and 700 Indian construction workers dying in conditions that can approach 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
However, one journalism professor in the country argues that the tournament should still be staged because it will allow for sustained pressure on Qatar to improve its human rights record. He is also the co-author of one of the most comprehensive studies on social attitudes towards media in the Middle East, which you can read here in this fascinating interactive website. His study was funded by the Qatar Foundation, the same organization that sponsors FC Barcelona, home of Lionel Messi. The foundation is itself funded in part by the government of Qatar. Still following? You be the referee.
Sports pundits often talk about how they love to watch free-flowing soccer. We're going to cheer for the free flow of ideas in the final. May the best team win.