Futebol no Brasil (Soccer in Brazil)

With 5 World Cup championships (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) under their belt, Brazil possesses the most successful futebol (soccer) team in the world. They are the only country to have participated in every single World Cup and the only team to have snagged the championship in four separate continents: Europe (Sweden in 1958), South America (Chile in 1962), North America (1970 Mexico and 1994 United States), and Asia (2002 Korea/Japan). The best player of all time, Pelé, is from Brazil. And Ronaldo, another Brazilian soccer player, made fifteen World Cup goals over his career, breaking a world record. You get the picture…

Pelé aka “The King” of soccer

The Brazilian flair 

With such a dominant history, you would think that the Brazilians were the ones to invent soccer.  Think again.  Soccer was brought to Brazil in 1894 by some British expats. A very popular phrase in Brazil is: “Os ingleses o inventaram, os brasileiros o aperfeiçoaram” (The English invited it and the Brazilians perfected it).

After the British introduced them to the game, Brazilians came to develop their own, unique way of playing that is a clear reflection of their culture; they became less rigid and more theatrical.   In 1959, Gilberto Freye stated that “The Brazilians play football as if it were a dance…for [they] tend to reduce everything to dance, work and play alike.” Brazilians continue to abide by this philosophy, as they approach the game in the same way that they approach life: with a relaxed attitude and an inherent playfulness. They bring a carefree zest and buoyancy to the game that is unrivaled anywhere else.

Brazilian soccer players know how to have a good time…

Even so, as Chris Mann from soccerlens points out,

The European defensive and tactical fastidiousness has not entirely vanished from Brazilian game, allowing the [players] to combine their samba-like speed and innovation with a robust and durable core, a fusion of sporting cultures which has made Brazil the greatest footballing nation on earth.

In turn, with nearly 600 Brazilians playing for teams throughout Europe, the Brazilians have also influenced the way that Europeans play the game. The past twenty years has seen a marked shift in European soccer, which, according to soccerlens, has become “more fluid, more expressive and has moved away from the great emphasis on defense and physicality which so dominated its early history.”

Over the years, the seleção (the nickname for Brazil’s team) has had to alter its style a bit in order to succeed; to the great dismay of its fans, the team members have become more pragmatic and less artful in their playing.  However, they still know how to play futebol-arte (a more sophisticated and attractive style of soccer made up of many dribbles and short passes).  As Andrew Das from The New York Times describes,

[Brazil] still [plays] some of the most attractive soccer in the world, full of fluid passing and quick movements and lethal finishing, with balls curved around players and inside posts or seemingly shot out of a cannon.

From the locker room to the fields, Brazilian soccer players infuse the game with a certain panache.  The video shown below demonstrates this pretty well:

A part of cultural identity 

Most Brazilians grow up loving soccer- both watching it and playing it.  In each neighborhood, you will be sure to find numerous soccer fields, where many groups of friends meet to play each week.

Soccer is a sport that is fully ingrained in Brazilian culture; more so than any other country, the sport is an integral part of Brazil’s social and political life.  Many Brazilians get tatuagens (tattoos) of their time (team).  There are also various torcidas organizadas (football fan clubs) for each soccer team in Brazil, which follow their respective teams to each game.  The members certainly know how to torcer (cheer); during sporadic intervals throughout the game, the fan club members hold up an enormous flag that represents both their fan club and the team.  There are even competiçaos (competitions) amongst the fan clubs to see which group sings the loudest.

One “torcida organizada”

During the World Cup, things get even wilder.  For one, people paint the streets green and yellow…

As one Brazilian informed me, “O Brasil para tudo na copa!” (Brazilian stops everything to see the World Cup!).  This is no exaggeration. When Brazil plays, some schools cancel classes and people even stop working. No joke.

This devout passion for soccer transcends both generations and socioeconomic backgrounds; the entire nation is united in their love for the sport. The minute babies come out of the womb, they are learning about soccer.

This unparalleled soccer fervor can certainly account for why Brazil continues to excel and produce such great talent. The problem is that with such a huge talent pool, rich European clubs are perpetually buying the players, leaving lower-budget Brazilian clubs with little.  On the other hand, the Seleção Brasileira (or Brazil national soccer team) profits immensely from this, as their players have diverse global experiences with talented club teams.

The video below should erase any doubts you might have about the seleção: 

The Copa do Mundo is coming up in just a few years. And this time, it will be on Brazil’s territory. I can only imagine how colorful the streets will be and how animated those torcedores (fans) will be…with that much support alone, I’d say the odds are in their favor for taking home the championship this time around.

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