Note to readers: this story contains graphic and violent imagery.
Brazil is home to the most successful national soccer team in history. As the only team to play in every FIFA World Cup, the Brazilians have won five titles, one ahead of Gli Azzurri from Italy.
The country has fielded some of the greatest names in the sport’s storied history: from arguably the greatest player ever, Pelé, whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, to the likes of Roberto Carlos and Roberto Rivelino. Today, the squad features the phenomenon that is Barcelona forward Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, as well as stars like Chelsea midfielder Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior and Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva.
The history is there; the talent is there. Brazil is my favorite to win the 2014 World Cup on home soil, but in what world is it acceptable to host one of the largest international affairs in a city rampant with near-warfare between police forces and drug lords?
In recent years, numerous stories have come out of Brazil about gruesome murder and corruption. Some might say these issues have nothing to do with soccer, and will not affect the tournament itself.
The thing is, the sport has begun to play a central part in these crimes.
Back in July, 20-year-old referee Otávio Jordão da Silva stabbed Josenir dos Santos Abreu, a 30-year-old Brazilian soccer player, during a match. The player died on the way to the hospital, but the violence goes doesn’t end there. In retaliation, fans came onto the field and stoned Silva to death, before beheading him on the pitch.
Two dead because of a game — no good reasons.
Fast forward to Oct. 29 in Rio de Janeiro. The wife of former Brazilian soccer player João Rodrigo Silva Santos made the most horrifying discovery imaginable. Santos had not returned home from work the night before and his wife found his rucksack outside their front door. In the bag was Santos’ severed head.
The first crime, the double murder on a soccer pitch, was a direct result of the sport. The death of Santos might not have any direct ties to his time as a soccer player, but the point is that the violence in Rio de Janeiro is out of hand.
I never would have heard of these crimes had they not been related to a sport, but they are. In a country that is set to host the biggest event in soccer, violence runs rampant from fans, refs, players and even former players.
I would love an opportunity to attend a World Cup, especially in a place which such a rich history in the sport. That said, I would not even consider an all expenses paid trip to the 2014 tournament.
The risk is high, and the reward cannot compare.
FIFA has made some questionable decisions in recent years, like rewarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, but there is no decision more absurd than allowing this event to take place in Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro is also set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
While these stories are horrifying, I truly fear for the stories that will likely come out about crimes during the tournament. From locals in Rio, to those traveling in from around the world, how can one not fear for his or her life?