Can football and the Pantanal co-exist?
Next year’s World Cup in Brazil has raised some fairly extreme views on both the ‘for’ and ‘against’ sides of the debate. These have attracted a great deal of publicity as the media spotlight lights up everything that is great about the country – as well as its many defects.
Brazil is famous, for example, for its extreme poverty co-existing side by side with extreme wealth, which has called into question the wisdom of hosting not only the world’s greatest team event, but the Olympic Games in Rio just two years later.
But the other big media story that is often attached to Brazilian politics is, of course, the environment and the future of Brazil’s natural rainforest. And perhaps nowhere raises passions quite so highly as the Pantanal area – huge tropical wetland areas found mainly in Brazil, but extending into parts of Paraguay and Bolivia. The Pantanal covers somewhere between 140,000 and 200,000 square kilometres and is much beloved by nature conservationists – and quite rightly so.
And it was this issue which caused environmental protesters to disrupt an official visit to a new stadium being built for the World Cup in the region. Around 50 protestors stormed the Arena Pantanal, in the city of Cuiaba when it was being visited by Fifa’s Secretary General, Jerome Valcke recently.
The incident raised concerns about security during the World Cup itself and brought further media spotlight on the deterioration of Brazil’s most precious natural areas. This, in turn, calls into questions whether football and areas like the Pantanal can really co-exist happily. The new stadium is set to cost around $230m/ 500m reais and environmentalists are unhappy that a stadium for 40,000 spectators is being built in Mato Grosso state, home to most of the Pantanal, a state which doesn’t even have a team in Brazil’s top division, Série A.
The Government’s position is that building here will help show the world the natural beauty of the area.
In other countries, Government funding from state-led or state-run activities has been put to good use environmentally speaking. In the UK, for example, the most popular lottery draw in Britain helps fund many environmental initiatives aimed at maintaining and protecting natural habitats. So perhaps the key to success with football and, specifically, next year’s World Cup, lies in ensuring that profits are recycled into initiatives that help generate further income whilst simultaneously protecting the Pantanal and other rainforest areas?