Dave Zirin

When the Palestinian national football (soccer) team secured entry into the 2015 Asia Cup to be played next January in Australia, it won the right to play in an international tournament for the first time in its 86-year history.

Crowds gathered by the hundreds on the beaches in Gaza to dance, play music and watch the triumph of their national team on large movie-sized television screens on the beaches.

When I was in Brazil for those first days of the World Cup, I was ― with many other journalists ― tear gassed by military police. I saw sleek, urban-outfitted tanks in the streets and I felt concussion grenades send subsonic shrapnel crashing into my eardrums.

I didn’t see the drones flying overhead, but then again, no one without a Hubble telescope is supposed to see the drones.

A 13-year-old boy from Brazil’s Guarani tribe makes a political stand in front of 70,000 football fans and what he thinks is an international audience. A movement led by indigenous women in the United States beats a billion-dollar brand of the big, bad NFL.

These two stories share more than the fact that they took place during the same week. They share the ways that people in power have sought to combat their courage by trying to render them invisible.

Before returning to the favela (local neighbourhood) Vila Autodromo for the first time since 2012, I had already been told that the community would not look the same. As a friend said to me, “It will resemble a perfect smile with several teeth knocked out.”

Vila Autodromo is just yards away from the site of the 2016 Rio Olympic village. Olympic planners, as well as building interests, have long targeted this close-knit community for demolition.

It is understandable that Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has come out swinging.

Given that strikes, land occupations and protests are ripping out across the country in advance of the World Cup; given that a Pew Research Poll found 67% of the country is dissatisfied with her handling of the tournament organising; and given that Rousseff faces an election later this year, she is fed up and ready to play the conspiracy card about the turmoil gripping the country.

There are plenty examples of sporting “droughts”, but there has never been a more harrowing athletic drought — rife with pain, pathos and perseverance — quite like that of the Palestinian national football team.

This is a national team without a recognised nation to call home; a national team that has never qualified for a major international tournament; a national team that, like its people, struggles to be seen. That drought, 86 years in the making, is now over.

By criticising the 2014 World Cup and the spending priorities of the Brazilian government, Brazilian football legend Pele has accomplished the rarest of feats in 21st century sports media: he has shown the capacity to shock and surprise.

“It’s clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been,” Pele said during a lecture at Anahuac University in Mexico City.

For people just tuning in, the idea that people in Brazil would be protesting the 2014 World Cup makes about as much sense as New Yorkers' rebelling against pizza.

And yet here we are, less than one month before the start of the Cup, and demonstrations bear the slogan #NãoVaiTerCopa, or "There will be no Cup".

For a man who spent nearly four decades of his 76 years under the restrictive eye of the United States correctional system, few have ever touched as many lives as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

The world-class boxer-turned-wrongfully accused prisoner-turned-advocate for the rights of the unjustly jailed succumbed to cancer on April 20. But his memory and work will endure as long as there are people outside and inside the prisons of the world fighting for justice.

The experts said that the efforts of the Northwestern University football (gridiron) team to form a union would crash and burn.

The experts scoffed that these naive jocks would lose their case before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The experts all believed that this is what they call “settled law”.

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