Racism controversy mires World Cup draw

December 4, 2013 9:40 PM

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Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert will host Friday's World Cup draw in Bahia (Getty Images)

Already struggling with stadium deaths, mass social uprisings and accusations of widespread corruption, Brazil's battered image took another hit just in time for the World Cup draw after two Afro-Brazilian hosts for Friday's ceremony were passed over in favor of whiter, blonder replacements.

Husband-and-wife soap opera stars Lazaro Ramos and Camila Pitanga, who are of African and mixed heritage, were originally chosen to emcee the draw in the multicultural city of Bahia until being replaced by a more caucasian Brazilian TV couple, Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert.

Neither event organizers nor FIFA are claiming responsability for the controversial casting change, but the local reaction has been decidedly negative, with critics calling it racist and motivated by bigotry. The move has also caused outrage outside of Brazil, including from outspoken U.S. filmmaker Spike Lee.

The decision also smacks of hypocrisy given FIFA's public stance against discrimination, although many skeptics accuse Sepp Blatter and company of doing little more than promoting "Say No To Racism" banners before selected games than actually tackling the problem head-on.

Brazilian soap opera star Camila Pitanga also works as a runway model. (Getty Images)

Brazilian official Christiano Jorge Santos, on the other hand, is taking a more proactive approach and has opened an investigation against soccer's world governing body "due to the suspicion of a crime of racism on the part of FIFA, or by the company they selected to organise the show, GEO Eventos."

The Sao Paulo-based prosecutor added, in an interview with the UK Sun, that "racism is a serious matter in Brazil. We need to find out if a crime was committed. We do not want the image of our people to be whitened or distorted."

Source: nydailynews.com

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