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The anti-FIFA shout as a reconnection of global struggles

Is a new global movement emerging around anti-FIFA protests?

Last updated: 02 Jul 2014 15:24
Bernardo Gutierrez

Bernardo Gutierrez is a Spanish journalist and writer who researches networked revolutions, hacker culture and peer-to-peer politics. He is the founder of the global innovation network FuturaMedia.net and lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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Anti-FIFA protests have taken place across the world [Getty Images]

The hate against FIFA is the new global shout. It was born occupying a side of a train in Rio de Janeiro and exploded in a street sign in Bangalore, India. It is written with a laser, in a projection on a wall in Belem do Para, in the Amazon. It walks, embraced by many hands, through the streets of Athens. It slides as a virus into the FIFA Fan Fest in Brazil, on giant banners. The shout gets mixed with the demands of civil rights in the squares of Turkey. It appears on the walls of Berlin. It becomes a festive choir during the burning of the World Cup trophy in Mexico City. And it sticks to the walls of the FIFA headquarters in the Swiss city of Zurich, which was attacked by activists with "fight FIFA", as a temporary slogan.

The message is clear: #fifagohome. A first reading, it seems unequivocal: hate against FIFA (a commercial institution with more affiliated countries than the UN); rage against the football governed by brands. On second view, the shout has more nuances. On one hand, FIFA: the sport-as-a-business, sponsors-that-devour-football. On the other hand, just football: the collective passion, football as an assembling social tool of neighbourhoods, an inclusive mechanism, a game, a ritual. Paris street graffiti completes this FIFA vs football binary logic: "We love football, we hate FIFA."

But in this atmosphere of hate against FIFA, in its emotional basement, there's something else. And something that exceeds even FIFA. A lateral, proactive shout, that is not exactly against the World Cup. Less still, is it against football. The details of a tweet of BRnasRuas, a Brazilian collective, give some clues: two hashtags #F---Fifa and #f---capitalism, accompanying a photo in which different Brazilian banknotes have been stamped with 'f--- FIFA'. The truth is, that the hashtag, a shout of resistance from Brazilian people to neoliberal FIFA's bulldozer, is generating empathy. And it is building surprising connections between popular movements and networks around the world.

A global connection

The sign that appeared on June 15 in the Indian city of Bangalore was quite symptomatic: "The World Cup of people, yes. Say NO to FIFA mafia." The manifesto of the New Socialist Alternative (CWI) of India strongly criticised the "FIFA Mafia", but mostly threw their support at the "working class of Brazil". In Istanbul, the Right to the City Alliance movement organised a protest at the gates of the Brazilian embassy. They also launched a text supporting Brazilians which had little to do with football: "From a barricade to another, from square to another, from the northern forests to the Amazon, we are with the resisters of Brazil." 

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In Italy, some people showed their solidarity with Sao Paulo subway workers, who were fired for holding a strike before the World Cup, with a sign: "We all are Metroviarios."

In Greece, a Coordinator of Solidarity with the Insurgents of Brazil has been created. Its statement is deeply political: "The plans of the State and the companies management do not differ whether Brazil, Greece and South Africa. As in Greece in 2004, Brazil's capital and the state hide behind commercialised athletics, smiling faces and festive atmosphere their control and repression."

Is the anti-FIFA fervour generating an unexpected alliance of groups, movements, networks and people? It would be too naive to defend this point. Connections and insurgencies have been cooking for years. After the World Cup in South Africa, the planet lives in tremendous political and social upheaval. Wikileaks and Anonymous launched the PayPal operation in the fall of 2010, after the South Africa World Cup hangover. 

The Arab Spring, the revolt of the May 15 by the Indignados or "the outraged" in Spain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement surprised the world in 2011. Mexican network movement #YoSoy132 continued the wave of revolts in 2012. And 2013 was the year of Turkish Diren Gezi and #VemPraRua Brazilian revolts, both strongly urban, minus the involvement of classical intermediaries such as political parties and trade unions.

The worldwide messages of support and solidarity for the Brazilian people, using the anti-FIFA movement, are taking on the inertia of recent struggles. A few days before the World Cup, many Anonymous nodes organised a Twitter storm with the hashtag #naoworldcup. Hundreds of FIFA ecosystem sites have been attacked by the hacktivist collective. Relevant Twitter accounts like @OccupyWallStreetNYC, @Takethesquare or @Global132 (Mexico) are using the hashtag #occupyworldcup.

The Twitter account @OccupyWorldCup that stimulates the binding of the planetary struggles, shows that the network system created with the wave of Occupy is alive. It mutates and reconnects itself with concrete actions, global screams, seeking the union of all the people who shake the "we are the 99%" since 2011.

A good test of glocal connections, a mix of the local and global, woven during the World Cup was the Passe Livre Movement in São Paulo on June 19. Simultaneously, support operations were conducted in Mexico, agitated by PosMeSalto network, and in Sweden which was convened by Planka.

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Will the antagonism against FIFA, in the midst of an emotional, nationalistic wave during the World Cup, be enough to revive the global revolts cycle that began with the Arab Spring? Can the struggle for a grassroots, popular and social football be extrapolated to the struggle against capitalism?

Hard to say. Football fans were important in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. They were also important in the explosion of Turkey's Gezi Park protests when they came to hold the Istanbul United march, with all the different football fans of Istanbul marching together for the first time in history, united against police repression.

McGuffins of the 99%

The struggles of Brazil have become a global metaphor. The resistance to gentrification and urban speculation in Brazil are given as examples in the book, Rebel cities, of which David Harvey speaks. The imposition of mega events, without prior citizen consultation, represents the failure of representative democracy that has gone across the planet since 2011. In a sense, #f---FIFA is the new face of an old shout. But will it be enough to reconnect planetary insurgencies or will it vanish after the World Cup final? In 2013, IT research company Gartner predicted that the end of 2014 will see the emergence of a global movement like Occupy Wall Street. Will there be a jump from # f---FIFA to f---capitalism? A new mutation?

Director Alfred Hitchcock used phrases or objects without any apparent meaning in his films. They reappeared, from time to time, creating suspense, keeping the plot alive. Hitchcock named these objects McGuffins. FIFA and its corrupt golden cup could be just a McGuffin of the 99%. A McGuffin with no apparent meaning for global struggles, transformed by the movements and networks in the straw man that receives all the hits. The World Cup, a useless object to the revolution, may be the McGuffin that holds the anti-capitalist struggle alive.

Bernardo Gutierrez is a Spanish journalist and writer who researches networked revolutions, hacker culture and peer-to-peer politics. He participates in Global Revolution Research Network of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). He is the founder of the global innovation network FuturaMedia.net and lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

Follow him on Twitter: @bernardosampa

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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