By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the lead up to the World Cup an alternative football (soccer) competition has begun: the Copa Popular (Popular Cup). The effort is being organized to draw attention to the issue of home demolitions and other groups affected by preparations for June and July’s FIFA mega-event, planned for twelve cities across Brazil.
The first stage of the event, run by the Comitê Popular da Copa e das Olimpíadas (Popular Committee for the Cup and Olympics), took place at the peak of Santa Marta favela, Botafogo, on Sunday, where 150 homes are under threat of removal, with three further events planned around the city.
As well as male and female teams coming from communities threatened with removal, such as Santa Marta, other groups were represented, namely camelôs (street vendors), who are being prevented from selling near stadiums on game-days, and supporters’ groups protesting against rises in ticket prices.
“The poorest layer of society is the one having their rights most violated. They are losing their homes, can’t go to the stadiums anymore, and are having their right to work impeded, because they are informal workers,” explained Renato Cosentino, member of the Popular Committee to Agência Brasil. “The argument with the World Cup was that the poorest would be benefited, but this is not what we have seen.”
The issue of home demolitions to make way for projects and construction for the World Cup and Olympics has been very contentious in Rio. Since 2009, when the Olympic decision was announced, more than 20,000 families have been removed from their homes.
On the threat of demolitions in Santa Marta, Cosentino explained: “The peak of Dona Marta [Santa Marta] went from being one of the most undervalued areas of the favela to one of the most valued areas, because the view is beautiful and there is an ecological trail [leading up the hill]. There is strong market interest, primarily for tourism… They say it is a risk area, but this has been disputed since 1980.”
Vila Autódromo, which borders the Olympic Park in the Zona Oeste (West Zone), is currently in the process of removal, though several families continue resisting. According to Cosentino, the territory “will be given to contractors.” Forced evictions have also recently taken place in Metrô-Mangueira, Zona Norte (North Zone). Over 1,000 homes were removed in Manguinhos, Zona Norte, in 2013, but the territory still remains unoccupied.
The United Movement of the Camelô is protesting against regulations made by the Brazilian government and FIFA banning unauthorized vendors from coming within two kilometers of events. “This is the period in which we are able to earn more money and we are not going to be able to. We are fighting in order to not have this restriction,” explained Maria dos Camelôs, member of the organization.
Stefano Novaes, of the National Front of Supporters, explained the fans’ participation: “The prices of tickets rise and the supporters are cleansed. You take out the supporters who always used to go in order to put in richer people, changing the profile of the supporters… [this is] against the philosophy of the sport, the passion of the people.”