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Virando o jogo: The Challenges and Possibilities for Social Mobilization in Brazilian Football

The progressive commercialization of football in Brazil has been accompanied by the emergence of social movements that seek increased visibility and power over decision-making processes in the sport industrial complex. These groups are responding to rapid changes in the political economy of Brazilian sport, particularly football. While many of these processes were well underway before FIFA selected Brazil to host the 2014 World Cup in 2007, the event preparations are accelerating the trends toward corporatization, privatization, and mercantilization of football culture. In the years leading up to the 2014 World Cup, social movements have formed to respond to these changes in the political economy of football. This article will analyze the emergence and decline of the National Fans’ Association (Associação Nacional dos Torcedores, ANT) as an attempt from Brazilian civil society to insert more progressive social agendas into the rapidly neoliberalizing framework of Brazilian sport. I contextualize this movement with the larger frames of fandom and fans’ rights, the role of activist academics within social movements more generally, and explore the successes and failures of the ANT. The conclusion suggests that even short-lived experiments in the formation of social movements are worthwhile as they can take future shapes and directions that can eventually bring about the desired change.