Amid the World Cup revelry in Brazil, protesters are marching with signs demanding the behemoth competition be cancelled -- many wearing stickers or carrying banners that say: “FIFA Go Home.”
Brazilians appear to have conflicting feelings about hosting the World Cup –- a desire to support their beloved national team tempered by their disdain toward an organization that’s been accused of rampant corruption.
“I’m totally against the Cup,” protester Tameras Mota told The Associated Press. “We’re in a country where the money doesn’t go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums.”
Police and World Cup Protesters Clash in Brazil
Mota and others are furious billions of dollars were spent perfecting stadiums and preparing the country for an influx of tourism -– money they say should have been spent on public services -- such as schools and hospitals -- as well as help reduce poverty.
Clashes between protesters and police happened in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and at least three other Brazilian cities took place hours before the first game kicked off on Thursday. Police sprayed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters trying to block traffic in Sao Paulo, where the first match was held.
Some say their beef with FIFA isn’t specific to Brazil -- it’s bigger than that.
FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is soccer's international governing body. With headquarters in Switzerland, the organization is responsible for overseeing the World Cup but has come under increased scrutiny as allegations of corruption continue to loom.
Most recently, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was criticized for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a deal many assumed to be a bribe. An article in London’s Sunday Times called the agreement a “plot to buy the World Cup,” citing evidence that Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar bought influence for the country’s World Cup bid.
FIFA has denied the corruption allegations.
Opponents, including officials of the Union of European Football Associations, have been calling for Blatter to step down for years, and investigative journalist Andrew Jennings has written an entire book about FIFA’s alleged corruption.
Blatter chastised UEFA officials who urged him to resign in a meeting this week.
"That was the most disrespectful thing I have experienced in my entire life, on the football pitch and in my home," Blatter said in German at a later news conference.
Comedian John Oliver called FIFA a “comically grotesque organization,” citing the building of a $270 million stadium in Brazil that’s going to be used four times during the World Cup.
FIFA did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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