This story was originally written for the Daily Express, found here.
THERE is a long-standing link between Brazil and football culture and that’s never been more true than at this year’s World Cup.
As the seventh day of the tournament takes hold, today’s Google Doodle depicts the colourful slums of Brazil, known as favelas.
The Google logo forms part of a brightly-coloured and off-kilter wall of favela houses, with the L represented as someone kicking a football against a building.
Rapidly growing around the edges of Brazilian cities since the 19th Century, favelas sprung up from people moving en masse from rural areas to cities, with little affordable housing.
Brazil is presently one of the most economically unequal countries in the world, with the top 10 per cent of the population earning 50 per cent of the national income.
Throughout the growth of Brazil’s cities, citizens of lower-economic class have been pushed outwards past the suburbs to live in Favelas.
In 2010, figures showed that 11.4 million of Brazil’s 190 million-strong population lived in Favelas, or similar shanty town areas (To compare, London presently has a population of around 8.3 million).
However, despite the dire economic situation, Brazil’s favelas have grown a unique and vibrant culture.
Music is a large part of Brazilian favela culture, with funk, hip-hop and samba being incredibly popular.
Their own genre of funk carioca (also known as baile funk) is starting to take hold internationally, with the iconic style being used everywhere — from film and television to advertisements.
As a part of hip-hop culture, graffiti is also popular among Brazil’s youth, along with its inherent political commentary.
Street art was decriminalised by Brazil’s government in 2009, allowing artists to paint any property with the owner’s permission.
As such, many artists flock to Rio de Janeiro so see the street art that stretches from the favella to even upper-class neighbourhoods.
Football by far is the most popular sport in Brazil, referred to as “o País do Futebol”, or “the country of football”.
The World Cup has been claimed by the Brazilian football team five times and they are consistently favoured highly for winning the tournament.
Brazilian footballers have spanned the globe, with over 10,000 playing professionally worldwide.
The mounting interest in the music and art in favela culture, coupled with football fans swarming to Brazil to see their home countries play has made Brazil’s cities busier than ever.
Poverty tourism (where tourists from first world countries take guided visits of disadvantaged areas across the world) is common in Brazil’s favelas, and is viewed in high regard by Brazil’s tourism board.
Such tourism can be an economic boom — especially now that the World Cup is on — but there’s often criticism that it makes an example out of the working class, and that it prompts the government to spend more money on visitors than on the welfare of the residents.
Indeed, there have been multiple protests and demonstrations on World Cup grounds this year, as residents are appalled at the huge amount of money spent by the government on FIFA.
In retaliation, Brazilian police have used tear gas and stun grenades to break up the demonstrations.