Rethinking the World Cup

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Articles

By | Benjamin Bartenstein '16

Jasper Peet-Martel ’14 (Seattle) got interested in soccer at a young age. A defender on the men’s soccer team during his first two years at Macalester, Peet-Martel has a professed love for the game. But after completing his senior capstone, his support for the World Cup, anyway, has been put into doubt.

While studying abroad in Cordoba, Argentina, last spring, political science major Peet-Martel observed some of his Brazilian classmates reacting to riots against the World Cup in Brazil. In fact, a few even led their own protests in Argentina. This opened Peet-Martel’s eyes to the negative consequences of development surrounding soccer’s premier international tournament.

In his thesis, “Deceptive Development and Democratization: Stadium Construction and Securitization in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup Host Countries of South Africa and Brazil,” Peet-Martel explored issues such as population displacement and unsafe labor conditions, both of which have resulted from FIFA’s monopoly on the World Cup. “I looked at the favelas (slums), which are very close to wealthy areas and stadiums,” Peet-Martel said. “What they do is pacify the residents. So they’ve gone with thousands of troops into these favelas and occupied them and really changed the environment . . . it’s not all good, and there’s a lot of bad that hinders the people’s access to better lives.”

The human rights abuses that Peet-Martel uncovered are having consequences for both this year’s World Cup as well as for future tournaments. FIFA is even considering moving the Qatar games (scheduled for 2022) because of a Reuters report that claimed roughly 4,000 people would die during stadium construction, Peet-Martel says.

Since writing his capstone last semester, Peet-Martel has presented his findings at the University of Notre Dame’s Human Development Conference and had his paper accepted for publication in the Spring 2014 issue of Columbia University’s Journal of Politics and Society. Peet-Martel credited his adviser, political science professor Paul Dosh, for pushing him to seek out these additional opportunities.

After Mac, Peet-Martel is looking forward to attending graduate school and pursuing a career in human rights or international development. He is currently interning with Minneapolis-based Advocates for Human Rights as an Immigrant Rights Monitor.

Peet-Martel’s research provides a dose of skepticism to the promises that mega-sports event organizers make to communities, says Dosh. “We see proponents of the new Vikings or Twins stadiums making wild claims that state economic support of these projects will be repaid through tax revenue and boosts to economic development, but there’s no research showing that those claims are verified,” Dosh says. “Jasper has shown that these promises prove similarly hollow in South Africa and Brazil.”

“I always used to want to go to the World Cup,” Peet-Martel says. “Now, I see it a bit differently. It’s more complicated.”

PUBLISHED: 06/02/2014

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