“World Cup Fever” is an interesting term. It is usually meant to connotate getting swept up in the excitement of the games, the quadrennial celebration of soccer. And there has been no doubt that this year has been particularly thrilling, filled with stoppage goals, upstarts rising, champs falling, biting- everything you could ask for. But this year there has been a different kind of fever.

In Brazil, where, as the cliche goes, soccer is a religion, the thrill of the games and the very good chance that the home nation will take the cup has been dulled a bit by protests and anger at the government. These protests have been about many things- the astronomical costs of hosting the World Cup (and the 2016 Olympics) at a time when the Brazilian economy is struggling, allowing the flagrantly corrupt and unpopular FIFA to literally dictate national laws, and corruption and stagnation in general.  As an international recruiter, it is important to know what these protests mean, not just for Brazilians, but also how it will affect your recruiting in this rising, but still fragile nation. You might be surprised to hear that it is actually a good omen.

World Cup Protest

A valid question raised in Rio.
Image source: Flickr Creative Commons user coolloud

The Significance of Protests

Protests, especially massive violent ones, come in many forms. We just saw protests in the Ukraine about an essentially lawless leader who was stealing from both the nation’s coffers and its future. That is a protest which fills an immediate political need. The Brazilian protests were of a different variety. They were not attempting to overthrow the government, but to shake it, to roil it with some of their rage, to make their voices heard and to let the people in charge know that things were no longer acceptable. These can turn into real revolutions, but at this point they were more an expression of frustrated rage.

Brazilians, particularly young people, have much to be frustrated about. While the economy has boomed, and then contracted (mostly due to global economic conditions), Brazilians have seen themselves move by the millions into the middle class. Indeed, overall, as a Forbes article argues, Brazilians are actually very well off and their protests misguided. This is literally true, in a sense, but is also slightly missing the point.

The poor in Brazil have seen their misery slightly alleviated (though by no means eradicated) and others have moved into an essential middle class. It is important to note that middle class in Brazil would be considered, at the very most, upper lower class in America, while at the same time the cost of living has gone up. This is in conjunction with a shrinking job market (the result of a booming population) and access to the lives of others, so to speak, around the world. While Brazilian parents may be better off than they were before, and their children more comfortable, the future doesn’t look nearly as promising as it once did. And then they see the government fritter away needed money on games, even the beautiful game. It is enough to send millions into the street.

How this affects your recruiting

What this shows me is a need. It shows a total lack of complacency among Brazilian youth. In some places, people are beaten down by cruel, indifferent systems, where, through no fault of their own, the only way to get through life is to keep your head down and hope you don’t draw attention to yourself. Brazil is not like that. It’s caught in the essential paradox of rising nations- the gap between expectation and reality. This can generally be managed, but not when a government is widely seen as corrupt and mismanaged.

So that need exists to remake the country, and one way to do that is to expand your educational horizons. Many Brazilians will be looking to the north (note: this is not el norte. That’s Spanish. It’s close, but in Portuguese it is o norte. It’s important to keep that in mind). You have to position your school as a place in which Brazilian students can gear themselves toward the future, where they can learn to be leaders, to get the scientific education they need, the political skills they require, the economic training to drag their nation away from a violent, poor, and uncertain past.

Secondary education abroad is the first step toward a new Brazil. You can convince them that this isn’t brain drain, this isn’t abandonment. This is about what is doing best for them, and ultimately, their nation. If your international recruiting can reflect that desire, you can be prepared to open your doors to the vibrant, excited, passionate, and driven next generation of Brazilian leaders, ready to channel their energy, frustrations, and ultimately hope into a brighter tomorrow.


The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.