Arms and the Fan

Among the two things Brazil is most associated with (for better and for worse) are soccer and violence. The only country to have won the World Cup a whopping five times, Brazil is also a country plagued by violence; according to the Map of Violence 2012, recently published by the Instituto Sangari, (and available online), homicides in Brazil have increased by a whopping 124 percent between 1980 and 2010.

Both soccer and violence define Brazilian culture – and they definitely dominate the media, especially these days.

Both soccer and violence define Brazilian culture – and they definitely dominate the media, especially these days. As Brazil prepares itself to host the World Cup in 2014, public authorities in major urban centers (particularly the showcase city of Rio de Janeiro) are also cracking down on organized crime, drug traffickers, militias, and beefing up security like never before.

It’s thus very fitting that Brazil has decided to actually link the two by making the theme of the Brazilian World Cup “A World without Guns.” The Brazilian government recently pitched the idea to FIFA, which accepted the initiative with enthusiasm.

The idea originated with the Ministry of Justice which, over the last 10 years, has organized annual disarmament campaigns in which citizens with guns (both legal and illegal) are encouraged to trade them anonymously for money (in doing so they receive amnesty from justice). This year’s campaign, which began in May, has already yielded 20,000 guns.

During the World Cup, however, instead of receiving money for guns, owners would receive incentives with even greater value in a soccer-obsessed country: official World Cup soccer balls, t-shirts autographed by players, and even tickets to the games. There is also an idea being floated by which the surrendered arms would be melted down and made into the very goal posts used during future World Cup Games in stadiums around the world.

According to Desarma Brasil, a network of 70 NGOs that supports these initiatives, soccer is an incredible force for mobilizing social change and the “World without Guns” campaign could really have a major effect – not just in Brazil, but around the world.

Whether or not FIFA will approve some or all of these ideas is still under consideration. In a comment, supposedly meant as a joke, but which didn’t sit well with many Brazilians, the secretary-general of FIFA, Jérôme Valcke, confessed during a press conference in Brasília: “I’m not going say that we’ll exchange all the arms for tickets because unfortunately there are so many guns in Brazil that we wouldn’t have a sufficient number of tickets.”


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