An alternative guide to the World Cup – starting with Group A

By Martin Smith | 12 June 2014

Group A free-vector-flagsThe wait is nearly over – the 2014 World Cup is upon us. For those of us who love football, hopefully it will be a feast of goals and skill.

>> Read all our alternative World Cup posts

But that isn’t the whole story. In Brazil tens of thousands of people have protested against hosting the World Cup, rightly believing the £7 billion it cost to put on could be better spent on schools and hospitals.

And behind every flag there lies stories of poverty, violence, oppression and inequality.

So before you cheer on your national team, take a look at our alternative guide to the World Cup.

In the first round there are eight qualifying groups. Each day we will publish a brief look at the teams group by group.

Group A


1. Brazil

FIFA world ranking: 3

Place in world economic league table: 7

Civil rights:

“Law enforcement practices continued to be characterized by discrimination, human rights abuses, corruption and military-style policing operations.”

“Police officers were believed to be involved in death squads and milícias (militias) engaged in social cleansing, extortion, as well as in trafficking in arms and drugs.”

“Indigenous communities continued to be subjected to murder, discrimination, threats and violence in the context of land disputes.”

Again according to a UN report in 2014, “There are numerous examples of urban poor settlements being bulldozed…extreme levels of violence and even murder have been used to intimidate dwellers.”

Death penalty: NO

According to a UN report:

“The prison population of Brazil reached around 500,000 in 2011, with 44% of all prisoners held in pre-trial detention. Severe overcrowding, degrading conditions, torture, and prisoner-on-prisoner violence were commonplace.”

Rich and poor:

Opposition to the World Cup in Brazil (pic credit Favio)

Opposition to the World Cup in Brazil (Pic credit: Favio)

The top 10% of Brazilian people control 47.75% of the total income. Meanwhile, the income received by the bottom 50% of the Brazilian people represented only 12.55% of the total income. The top 1% of Brazilian people received 13.31% of the total income more than the income for the bottom 50% combined.


In June 2013, huge protests erupted in Brazil. For days, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in several cities to protest originally against increases in public transport fares. As the protest movement grew so did the list of demands, which included improvements on public transport, opposition to corruption and anti World Cup/Olympic They faced brutal state repression and violence.

Player to watch: Neymar da Silva Santos Jr (winger)


2. Cameroon

FIFA world ranking: 56

Place in world economic league table: 136

Civil rights issues:

“Members of the security forces who committed or ordered serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings, during demonstrations and riots in February 2008 continued to enjoy impunity.”

“Political and human rights groups were frequently denied the right to organise peaceful activities or demonstrations. Trade unions are constantly suppressed.”

Men and women convicted of same-sex relations are sentenced to prison terms of up to five years.

Death penalty: YES

The Cameroon government informed Amnesty International that 17 people had been sentenced to death during 2010. The authorities said that all had appealed against their sentences but gave no further information about death sentences during 2011.

Rich and poor:

According to figures published by the World Bank, the average life expectancy of a Cameroonian citizen is 50.6 years. Around 5.3% of the population live with HIV. Just under 30% of the population live on less than a dollar a day, that rises to 55% of the rural population.


In 2008 transport workers in Cameroon struck demanding lower fuel prices. The strike forced the government to make a number of concessions to the strikers who then called off their action. However the strike detonated a series of nationwide protests and riots against poverty. These were subdued by wide scale state repression.

Player to watch: Samuel Eto’o (striker)


3. Croatia

FIFA world ranking: 18

Place in world economic league table: 87

Civil rights issues:

“Roma continued to face discrimination in access to economic and social rights, including education, employment and housing, while measures undertaken by the authorities remained insufficient.”

The LGBT community suffers widespread hostility: last year’s Pride was attacked by far right gangs. (European Parliamentary Commission Report 2013)

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

The highest 10% of Croats own 21.6% of the country’s wealth and the poorest 10% just 4%.

In 1999 4% of Croatians lived below the country’s poverty line. By 2009 it stood at 18%.

Player to watch: Stipe Pletikosa (goal keeper) or Luka Modric (midfield)


4. Mexico

FIFA world ranking: 20

Place in world economic league table: 14

Civil rights issues:

“Progress in reforming federal, state and municipal police forces was extremely slow. There was evidence that some police officers acted in collusion with criminal organizations, including in the killing of suspected members of other criminal organizations. There were widespread reports of excessive use of force, torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, most of which were not investigated effectively.”

“Violence against women remains widespread. Large numbers of killings of women were reported in many states and those responsible continued to evade justice in the vast majority of cases.”

“Tens of thousands of mainly Central American irregular migrants travelling to the USA were at risk of kidnapping, rape, forced recruitment or being killed by criminal gangs, often operating in collusion of public officials.”

In February 2011, the CNDH reported that 11,000 migrants had been kidnapped over a six-month period

More than 15,000 people were killed as a result of gang violence in 2010.

According to the CNDH, at least nine journalists were killed and scores of others attacked and intimidated.

Death Penalty: NO

Mexican prisons are massively overcrowded and controlled by gangs. According to the Mexican government there were 269 prison riots between 2010 and May 2013, which resulted in the deaths of 568 prisoners.

Rich and poor:

A recent OECD study, Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising, shows that in the last 25 years, the “real” income of the richest 10% of Mexican households has risen by 1.7%, compared to only 0.8% for the poorest 10% of households.

Mexico has the dubious distinction of being the OECD member with the second largest gap in household incomes, exceeded only by Chile. The average income of the richest 10% of households in Mexico is now a staggering 26 times higher than the average income for the poorest 10% of households.

In 2013, the World Bank estimated that 33% of Mexico’s population lives on moderate poverty and 9% lives in extreme poverty.


Mexico’s National Union of Educational Workers is Latin America’s largest union with some 1.3 million members. Last September it organised militant demonstrations and strikes against the government’s education reforms. Hundreds of thousands of teachers took to the streets, some armed with Molotov Cocktails. They also occupied the cities main square building a camp there.

Despite murderous repression Mexican textile unions are organising unions in the US boarder regions and at the same time they are trying to protect women workers who are murdered and kidnapped by drug and prostitution gangs.

Player to watch: Rafael Marquez (Defender)


• All civil rights statements come from Amnesty International 2012 annual country reports unless stated.
• Poverty figures come from the World Bank unless stated.\

>> Read all our alternative World Cup posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *