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.

Copa Popular, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News, Brazil
Teams playing at the peak of Santa Marta, photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

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.”

Copa Popular, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News, Brazil
Players enjoy the view from Santa Marta, photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

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.”


  1. We may well rejoice that the camelôs will not be able to descend on the areas around Maracanã like a plague of locusts; however, we should not rejoice that FIFA wants to prohibit the “Alzirão” unless the organizers pay FIFA R$28.000. The Rua Alzira in Tijuca has, for decades, organized what FIFA likes to call a “Fan Fest” with two very large screens, which show World Cup matches. Why? Because at the Alzirão people can buy any food or drink they want rather than that of the official WC sponsors–Budweiser and McDonalds. FIFA claims it doesn’t want to prohibit the Alzirão, but it’s legally bound to protect its sponsors. Those who wish to believe this may do so, but the Curmudgeon knows better.


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