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Joana Havelange and the unfortunate quote that may define the 2014 World Cup

Joana Havelange, granddaughter to the former FIFA president João Havelange, daughter to Ricardo Teixeira, former head of the Brazilian Football Association, and herself head of the local organising committee for this year’s FIFA World Cup COL is in hot water right now for something she posted on her Instagram account.

Quoting Brazilian communications expert and journalist Thiago Falcão Guimarães, she posted a critique he wrote on his Instagram account about the “Não Vai Ter Copa” (There will be no Cup) protests on May 19th, albeit without accrediting him for the text. Below is her instagram post where she reposts Falcão’s text, adding “Yes there will be a  World Cup and it will be beautiful! Brazil knows how and can do this, will read, is already doing it.”

Of course, as the leader of the local organising committee she should be exalted about the upcoming event and spread confidence in her team in delivering a great sporting event. So far, little surprise, so what’s the problem? Let’s start with a translation of the original quote:

Thiago Falcão writes (emphasis mine):

“No support from me [for the Não Vai Ter Copa protests], I will not wear black and not partake of any of the World Cup games. I want for the World Cup to happen in the best possible way. You won’t find me root against the tournament, because the money that was there to spend and steal, already has been. For protests to be effective, they should have been done sooner. Mostly,  I want those arriving from outside to see a Brazil that knows how to be welcoming, and to be kind. I want that those who come choose to return. I want to see a beautiful Brazil. My protest against the World Cup will be in the next elections. Otherwise, we’re destroying what we have today, and not change what can be changed tomorrow.”

Most Brazilians I have meet since arriving in Rio and those I’ve spoken to beforehand are very much upset about the waste of public money on a private enterprise such as the FIFA World Cup, rather than upgrading the country’s seriously decaying infrastructure. Still, Falcão’s sentiment as a whole seems reasonable enough for someone who is looking for constructive ways to channel his anger. His post would have never caused such a ruckus were it not for that little interjection that implies that there’s no use in complaining now, since all the money that can be stolen already has. So, on the one hand he advocates to trust into Brazil’s political system and to address the corruption issues that besatt the organisation of this world cup at the ballot box. At the same time he says there’s no point in complaining because corruption is so rampant that there is nothing left to save.

Joana Havelange, given her own position and familial heritage, then stepped on a social media land mine by reposting this text without attribution onto her own Instagram account and reinforcing its message with a cheerleading note for her organising committee in response to persistent protests against the event she is in charge of organising. The post went viral, enraging many Brazilians. Thanks in part to the Coletivo Projetação, a protest group that projects messages onto house walls and then photographs the projections for distribution on social media, similar to the Illuminator group during the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, the words “what could be stolen already has” are now seen as hers. The quote, with her face posted next to it, is making the rounds as a Facebook meme, standing as a monument to the indifference of Brazil’s upper classes to the needs of their middle and lower class compatriots. The public’s indignation further increased when other public figures shared Havelange’s original post to show their frustration with the ongoing complaints from the protesters.



In an interview with AdNews Falcão shows himself to be surprised about how his words went viral and maintains he just wanted to express his frustration about the current situation and the government policies in handling the run up to the World Cup: “I believe all of us are unhappy with the current situation of the country. Know that much has been invested in stadiums and we could have investments in many other sectors. However, to attack the Cup is not the way. We should not further tarnish the country’s image abroad. We need to show that, above all, we are not ignorant, quite the contrary, and we’re mature enough to understand that now is the time to do well.”

Falcão also says that no other media outlet has sought him out to verify the origin of his quote. “What could be, already has been stolen, including my text”, he said. “And I think it’s absurd to see the media’s interest in this story without checking who was in fact the author of these words.”

Falcão told O Globo more about why he wrote the original post: “I lived in the U.S. a few months last year, and there the Americans saw those demonstrations [during the Confederations Cup], with horror, as well as some friends from Turkey, Spain and Italy, who told me not to come Brazil during the World Cup. Moreover, many protesters were there like lunatics, with beer in hand.”

Joana Havelange meanwhile has deleted her Instagram post, partly because sharing it was a gross violation of her own committee’s social media ban for all its members, who are not allowed to comment on the World Cup. Havelange’s post reached 671 shares before she deleted it in response to the social media outcry. Still, her problems are not over as Rio State’s Deputy Governor Marcelo announced that tomorrow he will enter an investigation request into the matter with the Public Ministry.

The protests meanwhile are set to continue, despite, or probably just because of the exasperation expressed by Brazil’s social and economic elite. A major event in Rio is planned for Friday, the teachers have been on strike all week, and in some states police has been on strike to protest for higher pay. Whether Havelange and her committee might like it or not, Brazil and the world will hear of its people during the prime event of the country’s favourite national pastime.

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