With the World Cup just days away, we publish these articles on the abuse of football’s most prestigious tournament again. They are particularly timely as Brasil has been polarised by hosting the tournament. Demonstrators will once again take to the streets in major cities throughout the country to demand social changes – ones that should have been delivered after last year’s Confederations Cup.
by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 18th 2008)
Isabel Martínez de Perón succeeded her husband Juan as President of Argentina on his death in 1974. She was far from a great leader and paid a high price for a catastrophic error of judgement – promoting the ambitious future despot General Jorge Videla Redondo. Perón presided over the successful bid that finally brought the World Cup to Argentina after many attempts and dashed hopes.
But Perón would not get to bask in popularity of the tournament, or the success of the team. Videlaʼs coup ousted her from power and ushered in a vicious military dictatorship, which murdered, disappeared and tortured its own citizens, leaving thousands of victims and a legacy of brutality that the country is only now beginning to come to terms with.
Videlaʼs dictatorship also kidnapped the children of its victims to be raised mainly by military people or other supporters. The consequences of the litany of crimes committed by Videla and his cronies are only now subject to limited redress, but some are impossible to resolve as young people have grown up with false identities denied their true origins. In some cases the clock cannot be turned back.
Videla had learned from history. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini knew the power of football and exploited it in 1934. Videla followed suit, overseeing the most contentious World Cup since 1934. Videla left nothing to chance. He spent extravagantly on the World Cup – resources the country could not afford. And in return he expected nothing less than the trophy. He got what he paid for by hook and by crook.
Argentinaʼs first World Cup triumph had the effect Videla wanted. It distracted the attention of the Argentinian nation from their economic woes and the terrors of the Dirty War briefly. The Argentinian people celebrated like there was no tomorrow, but sadly, thanks to Videla’s atrocious régime there were only a few tomorrows for too many people.
Despite the brutality of his dictatorship, Videla was allowed to use the tournament to try to present a positive image of himself to the world. To their eternal shame FIFA facilitated that abuse of their tournament and world leaders shamefully continued to allow a vicious tyrant to commit atrocities with impunity.
Football had a chance to stand up for ordinary people – the lifeblood of the sport. Sadly, FIFA and the sport failed to do so and the Dirty War continued – a war a bestial junta waged on its own people. Some things are far more important than the World Cup, even if it was Argentina’s turn to host it.