Eleven Fouls in Brazil
That Deserve a Red Card
Among many overinflated sobriquets Brazilians attach to their passion for soccer, ‘the country of futebol,’ which is how the game’s know there, has some truth to it. The only team to have won five times and never missed the World Cup has something to do with it.
But another cliche about football makes sense too: the saying that it’s evolved only within the pitch. For all the exuberance and sophistication of Brazil’s game and culture, beyond the green rectangle, everything else may be as rot as a political dynasty of a banana republic.
Yes, Brazilians are crazy about the filigranes and the curve kicks, the euphoric pass and the gravity-defying goal. But about what it takes to make a street play into a tool for social change, not so much. It’s not their fault, but then again, to some extent, it most surely is.
As many sleepless aficionados agonize about the chances for the national team, the Seleção Brasileira, of winning it all, for a growing segment of the population, the cup won’t change anything, or bring an iota of relief to the daily grind of a still underachieving nation.
Thus we prepared another seleção, of mainly old foes that always stand in the way of Brazil reaching its potential future of land of opportunity to its citizens. To make it instructive and have some fun with it, we associated each of these ‘players’ to real positions in a soccer team.
Defenders, middle-fielders and attackers will be surely engaged during the cup and beyond, doing what they’ve done for ages: preventing fair play, a level field, a clean slate and a win for all. They’re the formidable enemies of Brazil, whether or not it wins the trophy.
One last thing about that: no one knows why Brazilians care so much about the World Cup. The fact that it was chosen to host it for the second time goes way beyond settling old scores; by the looks of it, it’ll be another sad miss, regardless of any magic that Neymar & Co. may bring to the fore.
THE 11 PLAYS TO LOSE
Let’s start with the goalkeeper, Maracanazo. That’s how Brazil’s first national soccer tragedy became known, when it lost the final of the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay, at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium, then the world’s biggest, a disappointment five world titles haven’t erased.
Playing defense, familiar foes: Crime Play has always been there, committed by underpaid cops and gang members; Pollution Kick was raised by untreated sewage, carbon emissions, and lack of infrastructure investments. It’s also related to Traffic Jam, a big player in Brazil’s cities, always ready to clog arteries.
Sex Tourism has for too long been Brazil’s dark side of its supposedly upbeat culture. The fear is not about the socially aware sex workers, but pedophiles and child predators, expected to descend in mass and incognito to Brazil. A dirty and despicable player.
Middle fielder Lethal Accidents has been responsible for a dozen deaths of workers at World Cup construction sites, and it’s wreaking havoc in Brazil’s rising, and invisible, illegal immigrant demographic. Unfortunately, safety and decent labor conditions are still aliens for the current building boom.
FROM MIDDLE TO THE END
Attacking midfielders Blackwater Pass and White Elephant are an odd pair. The infamous U.S.-based war contractor group has been hired by the already truculent Brazilian police and one may expect widespread tragic clashes with civilians. By the way, have you seen the new Robocops to be deployed during the cup?
White Elephant will dot the land as totems to excess and absurd expenditures. Brazil’s building, or reforming, 13 venues, or at least five too many, according to those who saw what happened in Greece, after the Olympic Games: built in cities without even soccer teams, they’re destined to turn into skeletons.
The attack of this team is unlikely to play the jogo bonito associated with the Seleção. Take Cost Overrun, for instance. The most expensive World Cup in history will set Brazil back over $13.7 billion, an amount enough to have put together the two previous editions of the tournament. Almost none of this cash has been spent in permanent infrastructure works, as the population expected before, and now is angrily, and rightly so, complaining about.
In fact, the massive street protests that marred last year’s Confederations Cup, may return twice fold, just as the teams land in the country. Blackwater Pass, thus, is expected to be extremely active in this part of the field too, foolishly assigned to curb people’s revolt. Be on the lookout for further fouls here.
MISSING THE PENALTY KICK
Not isolated at the front and carrying the task of capping the games with the flair of a furious rhino, Pricy Tix, virtually unaffordable by most Brazilians, and Enough Snuff, may prove an infernal duo, bringing to a boil discontent with the failing economy and an already under-attack political elite.
Other dire players may warm the benches, as the ugly racism and worrisome infectious diseases, such as Dengue, and a general feeling that the pot may come to a head and spill over a fragile social contract, a tenuous tacit agreement that the ruling Workers’ Party, PT, had assured with the population.
Much due to its own failings, allowing corruption poison its ranks, for instance, PT is under bombardment of a fiery opposition, and if the World Cup doesn’t bring it the relief and boost as it’d hoped and seemed so sure of not long ago, the October presidential election may be the straw that its political enemies were praying for.
But belief is in fact a realm Brazilians trade their valuables ever since Pelé commanded an unlike victory in Sweden, in the late 1950s, and ignited the country’s self awareness. It pretty much marked the moment the world woke up to the country’s youth and unbounded enthusiasm for life, its tropical beauty and the sensuality of its music.
It all came to a crash with the military dictatorship of mid 1960s, which dragged its terrifying spectrum for 20-odd years. So in a way, even though these 11 players of doom have been present all along, perhaps this is turnaround moment for Brazil. It’s up to its citizens where to go from here.
Many, specially the young, dangerously toy with the idea of a return to a right-wing rule, disappointed with the messiness of such a vulnerable democracy. But others, now in the minority, can’t forget the fear about such a prospect, and how easy it’d be for the country to lose its already worn out sense of purpose.
When June 12 comes, we’re hoping against reason that it’s the other national team the one to rule the day, not the old foes and the familiar ghosts. After all, even if they never really left the field, they haven’t scored a major victory either. That’d be our loss, of course. But all foul players may be finally ejected by the referees of decency and freedom: the people.
That’s what the land of football may be cracked up to be: even tiresome metaphors can be turn into fresh material for at least another half time of pure splendor and goodwill. Brazil can score big and lift an even bigger trophy. Fingers crossed for it to last longer than the scream of Goooooooaaaaaalllll!!!
* Kicking the Cup
* World Cup 2010