The unsung heroes of Brazil’s World Cup


As the one-month countdown to the 2014 World Cup starts, FIFA’s General Secretary, Jérôme Valcke, lost his temper again over supposed delays in the completion of venues.

FIFA has ‘been through hell’ in Brazil complained Valcke, who also spoke last week of “certain politicians who are against the World Cup”.

Valcke is clearly not a fan of elections and even less of the culture of changing people in power from time to time. In his mind, it seems like a nuisance that foments opposition and scrutiny.

This explains why he regularly vents his frustration over the political system adopted by Brazil.

“Less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup,” Valcke has said.

“When you have a very strong head of state who can decide – as maybe Putin can do in 2018 – that is easier for us organisers.”

Truth being told, Brazil has been holding free elections for the past three decades, since the fall of the military regime in the 1980s.

But there is an even uglier side to this open display of bigotry.

Every time Valcke opens his mouth to speak against democracy, he increases the risk of accidents and deaths for those who, unlike him, are directly responsible to make the event happen: the workers.

Brazilian trade unions warned that pressure from FIFA to speed up the completion of stadiums resulted in companies “cutting corners” and extending workdays to up to 18 hours.

The result is that, so far, ten construction workers have died during the preparations for the World Cup. At least eight of these incidents were entirely preventable.

The latest death occurred on 8 May, when Muhammad Ali Maciel Afonso was electrocuted while installing a communications network at Arena Pantanal.

Before him, José Afonso de Oliveira Rodrigues was killed after falling from a height of 30 metres at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.

Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira fell from a height of 35 meters in December 2013 in the Manaus Arena. Same place where, nine months before, Raimundo Nonato Lima da Costa plummeted to his death.

In Manaus, José Antonio Pita Martins was struck on the head by a piece of falling iron and died in hospital of multiple injuries.

Both Fabio Luiz Pereira and Ronaldo Oliveira dos Santos were killed when a crane at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo came crashing down in November 2013.

In the same stadium, Fabio Hamilton da Cruz plunged from an 8-metre-high stand while installing temporary seats. He died in hospital.

Two other workers suffered heart failures while working at World Cup venues: Abel de Oliveira and Jose Antonio da Silva Nascimento.

Their deaths couldn’t be clearly linked to the negligence of employers.

Sadly, FIFA’s death toll won’t stop there. At least, five workers have already died in preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In Qatar at least 4,000 workers could die before the tournament kicks off in 2022.

But Valcke shouldn’t have any issues with democracy there.