Race and class in Group E: an alternative view of the World Cup

By Martin Smith | 15 June 2014
It's only a game

It’s only a game

Well England did not disappoint! However it was one of the best England performances I’ve seen for a long time and I’m pleased for Raheem Sterling, who had a great game.

But now, as Soul to Soul once said, it’s back to life, back to reality. While everyone’s eyes are on Brazil, Obama’s are clearly not.

Iraqi insurgents are on the road to Baghdad and the US military war machine is once again preparing to bomb Iraq and Syria…

Over the last three days we have taken an alternative look at the World Cup groups.

Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D

Well now it’s time to take an alternative look at Group E, who play today. Racism, violence and civil rights abuses are the key themes.




FIFA world ranking: 26

Place in world economic league table: 63

Civil rights issues:

The UN Special Report on extrajudicial executions expressed concern about impunity in cases of killings and abuses by police, hired gunmen and rural juntas, as well as illegal armed groups and the military in the area bordering Colombia.

“Indigenous leaders and community members continued to face spurious charges of sabotage, terrorism, murder and illegal obstruction of roads for alleged crimes committed in the context of demonstrations against extractive industries.”

“Human rights defender Marlon Lozano Yulán, a member of Land and Life Union which works with rural communities on land issues, died in Guayaquil after being shot by two unidentified assailants travelling on a motorbike. He had received threats prior to his murder. By the end of the year, no progress had been reported in the investigations into this attack.”

“Curbs on freedom of expression included the use of criminal defamation charges against journalists critical of the government or local officials.”

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

27% of Ecuadorians live below the World Bank poverty threshold.

The World Food Program estimates that one in four children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition.

An Ecuadorian court fined the oil company Chevron US$18 billion for widespread contamination of the Amazon basin.


Ecuador has now seen nearly 10 years of repeated protests against austerity and by indigenous people defending their land. They have removed presidents and governments but have not significantly changed the conditions of the protestors.

There are now talks to set up a mass workers’ and peasants’ party.

Player to watch: Antonio Valencia (midfield)


FIFA world ranking: 17

Place in world economic league table: 5

Civil rights issues:

Front National leader Marine Le Pen with her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. Pic credit: Ernest Morales

Front National leader Marine Le Pen with her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. Pic credit: Ernest Morales

In the country where the fascist Front National took top spot in the European elections last month:

“Around two thirds of the asylum-seekers in France did not have access to reception centres for asylum-seekers, contrary to their rights under national and EU Law. Consequently, many asylum-seekers were homeless and destitute.”

“Acts of discrimination against people belonging to ethnic and religious minorities continued to be documented by human rights organizations. Discrimination against Roma continued. Camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma continued to be dismantled in alleged forced evictions.

In June, the European Committee of Social Rights found that the evictions of Roma camps in mid-2010 “took place against a background of ethnic discrimination, involving the stigmatisation of Roma, and constraint, in the form of the threat of immediate expulsion from France”, and that the expulsions of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria in 2010 were discriminatory.”

“Parliament rejected a proposal to legalise same-sex marriage.”

“A law banning the wearing of any form of clothing concealing one’s face in public came into force. Its primary target is Muslim women.”

“There continued to be little progress in investigations into deaths in police custody, and concerns about the independence of those investigations remained.”

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

Some 8 million people still live below the poverty line, defined as a monthly budget of €949.

More than 3.3 million French workers have registered with the state as being unemployed.


Only last month thousands of civil servants in France held a one-day strike over pay and work conditions. Demonstrations were held in several cities. The strike came after the government last month announced a series of spending cuts, including a freeze on public sector pay, for the next three years.

With the onset of the economic crisis France has witnessed three general strikes and a revolt of the urban poor.

Player to watch: Olivier Giroud (forward)


FIFA world ranking: 33

Place in world economic league table: 109

Civil rights issues:

“Impunity for serious police abuses is a chronic problem. Police killed 149 civilians from January 2011 to November 2012, including 18 individuals under age 19. (Honduras’s National Autonomous University)

“Over 90 people have been killed in recent years in land disputes in the Bajo Aguán Valley, most of them since 2009. (report by CONADEH)

“Bias-motivated attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people are a serious problem in Honduras. According to local rights groups, more than 90 LGBTI people were killed between 2009 and 2012, and many more subjected to attacks and harassment.” (Human Rights Watch)

“Human rights defenders were threatened and harassed as they carried out their work.”

Death penalty: NO

Inhumane conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, and poor sanitation, are systemic in Honduran prisons. The country’s jails, which can hold a maximum of approximately 8,200 inmates, were holding more than 12,600 in May 2013, according to CONADEH.

Corruption among prison officials is widespread. An August 2013 report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that the government had failed to allocate sufficient resources to address these chronic problems, or to thoroughly investigate the 2012 fire at Comayagua prison that killed 362 people.

Rich and poor:

According to the World Bank, more than two thirds of Hondurans live in poverty and five out of ten suffer from extreme poverty, less than $1.25 a day (2012). In rural areas 6 out of 10 households live in extreme poverty.

Hondurous has the highest murder rate in the world (79 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Observatorio de la Violencia of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras).

The Economic Commission for Latin America and UNICEF, in Honduras found that two-thirds of children are malnourished and lack access to safe water, sanitation and education.

Over 65% of families do not have access to clean water.


Honduran trade unionists and the poor furiously resisted a military coup, organised with the complicity of the US government, which removed the country’s sitting president in 2009.

Teachers held a month-long strike against the coup. There were mass demonstrations of the Garifuna (Black) community. A one-day general strike, and peasant and Indigenous mobilisations followed this.

Player to watch: Jerry Bengtson (striker)

Anti-FIFA graffiti, Zurich. Pic credit: Michael Buholzer/AFP

Anti-FIFA graffiti, Zurich. Pic credit: Michael Buholzer/AFP


FIFA world ranking: 6

Place in world economic league table: 20

Civil rights issues:

In May 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee raised concerns about under-representation of ethnic minorities in the police force, inadequate measures to prevent racism and lack of legal protections for victims of discrimination.

The Federal Commission against Racism criticized a parliamentary proposal in Zug “to create an asylum-seeker-free zone”.

There is a country-wide ban on the building of minarets and laws are being put through the Swiss parliament banning the veil.

NGOs continued to raise concerns about the treatment of asylum-seekers, including the “use of force and restraints during forced deportations.”

Death penalty: NO

Rich and poor:

Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 2.9
Richest 10%: 25.9

Unemployment stands at just 3.9%, the lowest in Europe.


There has not been much protest against austerity in Switzerland – and unfortunately not much resistance to the series of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant measures either. At least someone’s had a pop at FIFA’s corruption as the photo of the football governing body’s Zurich headquarters shows.

Player to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri (winger)

>> Read all our alternative World Cup posts


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