Given today’s lecture regarding perceived World Cup host nation issues and media hype, I felt as though a post regarding the likelihood of fan violence during the 2014 World Cup was merited. Brian Phillips at Grantland already did much of the work for me on this topic in his article A Yellow Card, but I will give my take on the matter as well.
Significant impetus for the alarmist mentality many–media outlets and people alike–maintain about violence in Brazil stems from two cases of beheading that have occurred within the past six months. One was likely related to gang violence, while a contentious call, weapons, alcohol and a hoard of loving, if not overly aggressive, family members characterized the other. Without getting too much in the gritty details (Phillips is not so coy), these events are surely tragic and disturbing. Of course these two events also point to a greater trend in Brazil: that beheadings will now take the nation and, since the circumstances are so similar, the World Cup by storm, right? Yes, because that is definitely how statistics/probability works. Instead of relying on an objective, rational judgment, people as a whole will form their opinions based on what they read in the New York Times, CNN, USA Today, etc., who have each done their part in perpetuating these concerns. Can you really blame them for doing so? These are some of the most reputable newspapers in the United States, so it does not seem unfair to place credence in their opinion. Well, it is unfair. Violent crime in Brazil is definitely an issue, like it is in the USA, but I just cannot believe that beheadings, or any heinous crimes for that matter, will come to forefront of the World Cup once it actually starts. Political protests, police ineptitude, corruption, income disparity, and forced evictions of the poor from the favelas are much more important Brazilian contemporary issues of which few are aware relative to the beheadings.
Once the World Cup begins, barring extensive, irresponsible police riot control that could spur more violent protests, I think the motif that has been present since 1930 will reign supreme. Like in South Africa in 2010, when many feared murders and rapes, the better part of the world will momentarily forget about differences, strife, bigotry, fear, violence, anger, and so on for the love of a worldwide game. As we have learned through lectures and other blogs, soccer can be a unifying factor, and there is no event more unifying in the game than the World Cup.
In closing, some statistics: 49,900 people were murdered in Brazil, but almost none of those violent crimes involved foreigners, since those murders are virtually all motivated by intra-Brazilian issues. Robberies and thefts are somewhat of a concern for tourists. For example in 2008, 184 incidents like this were reported in Rio de Janeiro. Since many of these events go unreported, for the sake of argument, let us assume an upper bound of 1000 incidents. 2.82 million people visit Rio every year, therefore, according to this estimate, there was 1 incident for every 2,820 people. The probability of being robbed is strikingly low. Furthermore, these events have occurred in the absence of increased security that will accompany the World Cup. Another way to look at this issue is to consider the number of people in Brazil that play, follow, and bleed soccer–maybe slightly less that their overall population of 198.7 million people. That number alone should inform us that the Brazilians will prioritize soccer above violent beheadings, among other crimes, come summer 2014.
Ultimately, in spite of the media hype and alarm, millions will attend the World Cup in Brazil, and they will have the time of their life doing so.