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Aaron Falk: Soccer triumph puts spotlight on Brazil's problems

Published July 6, 2013 6:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Confederations Cup wasn't supposed to mean much.Right?The tournament, which wrapped up only a few days ago in Brazil, was supposed to be little more than a dress rehearsal for when the curtains are pulled back on opening night, World Cup 2014.But as the action played out over the last few weeks, I found even casual soccer fans were watching with rapt attention.Japan looked to be in control of a traditional world soccer power, only to see the Italians come back for a thrilling 4-3 victory. Italy treated fans to even more suspense later in the tournament, taking Spain to penalty kicks.There was the courage of a Tahitian team that featured only one professional.And then, of course, there was the host nation.From the very beginning, the Brazilians, inspired by the magical play of Neymar, were brilliant en route to a championship victory over Spain - a 3-0 stomping that ended the Spaniards' three-year unbeaten run and had the home fans chanting, "The Giant is back!"But while we were witness to Brazil's best on the field, it is impossible to ignore its shortcomings away from the stadium lights.What started as a protest over a 10 percent hike in the public transit fare would eventually lead to more than a million people taking to the streets in cities all over the South American country. Banks and buses were burned, according to news reports.President Dilma Rousseff, who was booed to start the tournament, opted to skip the finale. In doing so, she missed out on a clash that saw demonstrators throw objects at riot police and riot police firing tear gas at demonstrators.The Brazilian people are angry. There is too much corruption in the government, and too much crime elsewhere (in an extreme and recent instance, a referee fatally stabbed a soccer player, according to an Associated Press report, leading spectators to stone the referee to death and quarter his body).And in a country with low wages and a shortage of clean water in places, billions of dollars have been spent to build and renovate soccer stadiums for the Confederations and World cups.The protests forced FIFA to respond to questions about whether Brazil could host the world next year.Brazil's people are still asking if it is able to host them.afalk@sltrib.comTwitter: @aaronfalk