Policing FIFA-Space

What’s happening in the stands, where the fans meet the field?

Scalpers, ticket touts, and cambistas operate freely around the Maracanã, exploiting fans desperate to get into matches. Outside the Spain vs. Chile match, an Englishman was selling three tickets for a total of $2,500—a sum that is maddeningly expensive and theoretically illegal. And this was one of dozens of such transactions happening on a newly constructed overpass that leads to the stadium before the game.

Continuing north from the Maracanã and into the Manguinhos favela, the Military Police murdered Jonathan, a 19 year old, by shooting him in the back, at roughly the same time that tiki-taka was on its final breaths. As geographer Carolyn Prouse has pointed out on her blog, the protests that occur far from the eyes of the national and international media are not necessarily against the World Cup but for basic human rights: “There is less circling of the cops with cameras when people are running for their lives. And because favelas are typically depicted as being run by drug traffickers, it is very easy for the state and the media to accuse protestors of being paid by the traffickers, as ridiculous a claim as it may be. This is a form of criminalization of protest activity that rarely sees any media coverage in World Cup reports. And it’s done to silence activists.”

In short, the military model of dealing with insurgent populations has been amplified with the World Cup. While the extensive policing of areas around the stadiums may be a normal aspect of football culture in Brazil, that does not mean that it should be accepted. The cordons sanitaires that are part of the fan experience have their inverse in the cordons du terroire of a repressive police apparatus.

If we think of the stadium as a city in miniature, then by looking at what is going on there we can better understand the dynamics of the city. Fans rent their spaces in the stadium. When those prices are too high for them to pay, they either look for a cheaper seat (in a bar), spend their savings to get in, or try to invade. Think of ticket prices as housing costs; we see the same thing happening in the mega-event city. The locals can no longer afford to live near places of work and leisure. They get pushed to the periphery and are forced to cede space to the international tourist class (however defined). Those who try to invade—squat—are treated as criminals, and expelled from their occupations.

In this sense, the deportation of the Chileans who tried to enter the Maracanã by force is the equivalent of the violent repression that Cariocas have faced when they try to occupy vacant buildings.

The invasions of the Maracanã undertaken by the Argentines and Chileans during the first two games are getting all of the media attention, and security will be reinforced in all stadia. However, this does not go beyond a mere re-entrenchment of the hyper-territorialization of FIFA-space. The continuation of this process by more repressive means is happening throughout the World Cup host cities.