2014 World Cup: In Brazil, the beautiful game belongs to white middle class

As Brazil's stadiums are spruced up for next year's finals the traditional fans can no longer afford spiralling ticket prices

Belo Horizonte

Wearing top hat and tails before July's Botafogo v Flamengo classico in Rio, Guilherme Figueira didn't look like the typical football fan. But this was no show of sartorial exuberance. Guilherme and his pals were so attired as a protest against spiralling ticket prices in Brazil. "The Maracana has changed," he said. "It's now a stadium for the aristocracy. So we decided to dress the part."

Against a backdrop of nationwide demonstrations over the rising cost of living, corruption and expenditure on next year's World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, the marketing agency Pluri Consultants reported that tickets in Brazil are the most expensive of the world's major leagues, when local wage levels are taken into account.

Since the country's new World Cup stadiums have opened, the already steep prices have leapt into the stratosphere. While higher tariffs are to be expected in plush new venues, the cheapest full-price ticket for the recent Vasco da Gama v Corinthians mid-table fixture in Brasilia's Mane Garrincha stadium was an eye-watering R$160 (£44.50) – only R$10 less than it will cost to watch a World Cup quarter-final next year.

Given that the average Brazilian worker earns approximately a fifth of what his UK counterpart might make, such a price is roughly equivalent to an English fan paying over £200 for the cheapest ticket for a run- of-the-mill Premier League game.

Nor are expensive prices the result of demand. The average attendance at a Brazilian Serie A game last year was a paltry 13,000 – comparable to Australia's A-League. While the image most foreign fans have of football in Brazil is of heaving crowds and cacophonies of noise and colour, the reality is swathes of empty seats and a small, hardy band of fans.

There are many reasons for this, including an overcrowded calendar that crams in months of often meaningless state championship matches before the national league begins. This week a group of 75 leading players launched an official protest against the marathon of games planned for 2014, when the World Cup break will add to the fixture squeeze. Inconvenient kick-off times set at the behest of the broadcasting monolith Globo, which requires midweek games to start at 10pm – after the prime-time soap has finished – are another problem.

A fear of violence wrought by the notorious torcidas organizadas (fan clubs or hooligan gangs, depending on your perspective) and the mentality of Brazilian fans, who turn their backs when their team are struggling, do not help either.

The elitizaçao, or gentrification, of Brazilian football has another troubling aspect. In recent years affluent fans steered clear of the stadiums, preferring the comfort of the armchair or bar stool. At the same time, Brazil's working classes kept clubs afloat, paying little to cheer on their teams in antiquated venues.

With the arrival of new stadiums and the accompanying astronomical prices, poorer fans are being pushed out, their places taken by wealthier, iPad brandishing supporters. "If I took my family to the Maracana I'd have to spend R$400," said Antonio Nascimento Filho, secretary for football at the Ministry of Sport. "The less well-off are being excluded. It's ridiculous that a sport of the people, built by the people, is shutting out poorer Brazilians."

The clubs themselves are unlikely to be concerned. Recent figures showed that gate receipts are up 78 per cent on last year, and if better-off Brazilians return to the stadiums, many directors will undoubtedly be pleased to be rid of the poorer fans, and with them, in theory at least, the troublesome torcidas organizadas.

Just two years ago, a local politician in the city of Goiania, defending high ticket prices for a Brazil v Holland friendly, announced that the organisers were "hoping to attract a better class of fan".

At a meeting with club directors and stadium administrators on Friday the sports minister Aldo Rebelo said: "We're aware that the new stadiums add value to our football and provide more comfort and safety for supporters, but there's also the risk of excluding fans on lower incomes from stadiums."

The soaring prices may also be changing the look of Brazilian crowds. While the country's fluid mix of races and skin tones makes racial classification complex, Brazil's upper classes tend to be decidedly lighter-skinned than the majority of their less-well-off countrymen. As a result, the effects of Brazilian football's brave new world are often clearly visible in the stands.

The supporters who paid high prices to watch the Seleçao (the national team) lift the Confederations Cup in June, for example, were largely unrecognisable from those who congregate on the drafty corner terrace of Corinthians' ageing Pacaembu stadium.

"They made football white," wrote respected Brazilian journalist Juca Kfouri in the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper at the time. "The only black faces at the stadium now are of the people who work there." An exaggeration, to be sure, given Brazil's rich miscegenation of races. But, with the social exclusion that high ticket prices are threatening to bring, perhaps it will not be an exaggeration for much longer.

Hooligans still on the rampage

New stadiums and expensive tickets do not seem to have curbed the problem of violence in Brazilian football crowds.

Last month, at the Vasco da Gama versus Corinthians fixture at Brasilia's Mane Garrincha stadium, rival torcidas organizadas (who often receive free or subsidised tickets from the clubs) fought a pitched battle among the shiny new seats, sending ordinary supporters fleeing for safety.

Two of the Gavioes da Fiel (Corinthians' biggest organizada group) members involved in the mêlée spent five months in prison in Bolivia earlier this year, accused of launching a naval flare that killed a young San Jose fan.

Violence between organizadas resulted in 13 deaths in Brazil from January to July this year.

James Young

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea