Sport and Surveillance: new Brazilian football fans ID

Sport and surveillance might not seem the most closely linked topics, but there are intersections and these are increasing in number. Sports ‘mega-events’ are often the trigger for surveillance surges, with the introduction of new technologies and practices. Because of the use of drugs and other medical techniques to illicitly aid performance the practice of sport is now a subject of constant suspicion and the body of sportspeople are the sites of intense scrutiny (drugs testing, biological passports etc.). And finally, sports fans are subject to all kinds of controls and monitoring.

In this last area, the Brazilian government has recently announced a national ID card scheme for football fans… this is of course in addition to the new national ID card that everyone in Brazil will have to carry anyway.

However, in common with many commentators here, Brazilian football researcher, Oliver Seitz, does not believe the plan will or should happen. He makes a penetrating comparison to the very similar proposals in the UK in the 1980s and also notes that, whatever the problems of violence in Brazilian stadiums, they are not the main problem, which is the crumbling and unsafe infrastructure of football stadia. The one recent tragedy in Brazilian football, when 7 fans died after falling through rotten seating at Fonte Nova, he says “only happened because the stadium was literally falling to pieces. In that situation, the identification wallet it would not have saved the victims”.

He is quite right. As usual this appears to be a case of a technological ID solution to a problem that has nothing to do with what identification. To paraphrase Seitz’s conclusion, Brazilian supporters are treated like animals, so they behave like animals, and under this plan, it will be no different, except that they will be officially identified animals!

(Thanks to a dedicated Corinthians fan, Rodrigo Firmino, for this story – which is one with which I am catching up after my holiday!)

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

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