I woke up today, for one reason or another, rather depressed about the state of my footballing nation (well, there are many reasons for one to feel horribly depressed about Brazil these days, really, but that I became ferociously depressed upon the first thought of the words ‘soccer’ and ‘Brazil’ was a bit of a shock).
My dejected state of being took a turn for the worse as I went through my Twitter feed in bed, whilst gathering strength to fight another day.The social media engine was filled with gloomy posts about tomorrow’s anniversary of that apocalyptic 7-1 German blitz. The media in Brazil has been treating the first anniversary of the tragedy with a journalistic tone usually reserved for events such as September 11 or earthquakes in Nepal – it is all simultaneously endearing, disturbing and profoundly pathetic.
Surely, football is just a game, no!? Clearly, not in Brazil.
And not even today’s celebration of the 58th anniversary of Pele’s first match in the Brazilian yellow shirt served as consolation – folks are hungry for doom these days, and doom is what they have been fed, truthfully.
Furthermore, to add more fuel to the all consuming fire, Barcelona’s Dani Alves revealed today during an interview with ESPN Brasil that the world’s most stylish and beloved football manager, Spain’s Pep Guardiola, tried to get a gig as Brazil’s coach ahead of the 2014 World Cup, and was turned down simply because he wasn’t Brazilian-born.
And what’s even more pathetic than the fatalistic online “celebrations” of the 7-1 bombing are the attempts by the Brazilian FA (CBF) to restore the prestige of Brazil’s football. This week they announced the setting up of a truly ‘Jurassic’ committee including the likes of Zagallo and Parreira, whose purpose is to analyse the current state of Brazil’s national team, in order to come up with solutions to lift morale and restore its place at the top of the pyramid.
However, at the committee’s first press conference yesterday, the geriatric four-time World Champion Zagallo bluntly stated that “Brazil don’t owe anything to anybody, and we don’t even need to worry about qualifying for 2018, we will be there. We just need to worry about winning that World Cup”.
That grumpypants Dunga has been re-hired as the team’s manager, and that such a comical old men’s club has been set up, only proves how utterly devoid of ideas CBF really are – and how they are infected by pathological denial and self-deception.
And to think that CBF’s former president, Jose Maria Marin, is still under arrest in Europe following the FBI investigation on the rampaging corruption that’s become endemic at FIFA; to remind myself of how equally corrupt their current frontman, Marco Polo Del Nero, truly is; to look back on the embarrassingly poor performances at this last Copa America; to think of today’s utterly abysmal socio-economical state of Brazil as a nation (whose President is on the verge of being deposed)…all of that catastrophic pile of sheer darkness and broken dreams only makes me feel sick to my stomach, and completely hopeless about the future.
Indeed, Brazil’s football – in its inefficiencies and deep-rooted imperfections in management both on and off the field – is perfectly reflected in the current political climate of the country.
The whole thing is a thick shitcake.
How does one clean up the mess?
Who are the right people able to properly un-shitify this cake which once looked so deliciously promising?
How can a country so abundant in natural resources be so corrupt?
How can a country so abundant in talent be now so crap at a sport they once magically re-defined?
The true reason for my profound depression has to do with the complex notion of identity – in this case, more precisely, cultural identity; which Brazil is on the verge of completely losing.
It’s a concept I have personally struggled with myself, as a Brazilian-born child who’s grown into a Canadian adult.
Historically, as the brilliant scholar David Goldblatt points out in his engrossing book “Futebol Nation: a footballing history of Brazil”, the sport is the country’s defining cultural element – football has shaped Brazil’s idea of its cultural identity both to themselves as well as to the rest of the world. There are, after all, more Brazilian footballers living abroad than there are diplomats representing the country.
For all intents and purposes, the game has become Brazil’s true source of artistic and social expression, and it has inspired all aspects of cultural manifestations – be it dance, theatre, music or whatever.
But now it’s all over. It is, truly, done. The dream is done. That 7-1 smack on the face was a bitter wake up call. Brazil must reinvent itself. It must innovate. It must embrace new and fresh ideas, instead of displaying nostalgia and bravado through delusional old men.
And, more importantly, they must let go of this mentality that they must win, at all costs.
The truth of the matter is that the country is no longer a global economic competitor as it was reported to have become during Lula’s reign as President; and its current ruling party must accept that development is now incredibly sluggish, and that nothing will move forward unless true leadership and collaboration between opposing groups – AND the obliteration of systematic political corruption – take place effectively.
Equally, the management of football in Brazil needs re-visioning. Forget Pele. Forget the 5 World Cup titles. Forget Neymar and his abysmal haircuts. Forget anything Brazil has ever done that has “worked” or was seen as awesome or fantastic…it’s all irrelevant – shallow superlatives.
There is only the now.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.
Brazil is not the greatest football country anymore.
I take back every bad thing I have ever said about Dunga…well, maybe not everything.
But, you know what I mean.
His second spell in charge of the Selecao has been tremendously successful. Brazil have displayed ease and efficacy, winning all 7 matches since Dunga took over, following that limp 3-0 defeat against the Dutch at the World Cup.
And my new favourite player is Willian (above). Such speed, such slick passing. He was deadly against France!
And, beautifully, China-based Diego Tardelli wasn’t featured as Brazil’s sole striker. Instead, Dunga used Firmino as a false number 9 – a bold, relatively new tactical move. Gladly, it paid off.
Brazil still lack proper attacking power, but the mid-field issues have been addressed, and the team now looks like an actual team: cohesive, and muscularly together.
And boy, does it ever feel good to beat arch-rivals France. Brazil have now scored 6 goals in the last two meetings against the French, winning both matches, naturally.
Viva Dunga! Screw it: Brazil’s best manager since Tele Santana! Woo-hoo!
I can’t even write about it. I can’t even.
I can’t even bring myself to properly lament the loss of Diego Costa, who’s currently killing it (as the kids say) at Chelsea, having turned down his right to wear the amarelinha shirt, choosing Spanish citizenship instead.
Dunga has, historically, called up players whom he feels comfortable taming, who are agreeable and willing to work hard. Dunga has no time for individual talent. Never has, and never will.
And that’s why Brazil’s starter striker is Diego Tardelli. Of China. A nice chap.
Brazil Vs France on Thursday 26th. Followed by Brazil Vs Chile on Sunday 29th.
Well well, Dunga’s 5th consecutive win, and 5th straight clean-sheet in charge of Brazil.
Impressive, one might say.
And with a squad that plays like a well-oiled machine, smoothly and attractively – and full of confidence. A total reversal of the anxiety-driven football we saw at the World Cup.
It seems that, indeed, Dunga did learn a few things during his 4 years of exile from football – the necessary break between his two spells in charge of the Selecao. The cranky commander went from being the symbol of pragmatism to becoming the emblematic figure of a more solid, cohesive team. And the key word here truly is team.
Brazil hadn’t played like a team in ages. They had forgotten how. It’s quite surprising that Dunga, a famous contrarian and proponent of “futebol de resultados”, is the sargent in charge of this effectively attractive revolution that is bringing back the vintage Brazilian way of playing. And I don’t mean that purely in a nostalgic way: Dunga is bringing back the vintage effectively – not just for show. He is winning matches by playing properly slick football…who would have thought?!
Let’s hope it sticks.
But, for now: not bad.
Not bad at all, Mr Dunga.
Ok, Dunga. You are back, you are dressed in a proper suit, you are smiling, and you crowned Neymar as your Captain after having refused to take him to South Africa in 2010.
Ok, I get it. You have changed.
And so has Brazil, it seems. Well done on the convincing victory over Colombia.
But it was still classic, vintage you, no? A defensively compact team, strong on the counter-attacks, tight in the mid-field, lacking true creative power up front, and scoring the winner from a set-piece…
Ok. Well, at least Brazil are winning again.
You have my attention. For now.
Let’s see what you can build on this.
Oh, I saw that you called up Robinho. Please don’t do that again.
And don’t even think of calling up Felipe Melo…
Dunga, Brazil’s 1994 grumpy Captain turned 2010 grumpy manager, is set to return to coach the Selecao and lead the 5-time World Champions to Russia 2018.
This absolutely conservative, borderline suicidal move by the Brazilian FA (CBF) only reflects how Brazilian football, and Brazilian society, are managed: development and improvements are marked by spectacular regression.
The path towards 2018 will look a lot like the frustratingly pragmatic path towards 2010.
So much for the “footballing revolution” that was promised following Brazil’s apocalyptic 1-7 defeat against the Germans at the 2014 World Cup semi-final.
Ironically, Dunga was appointed manager in 2006 because the Brazilian FA were looking for an inspirational Klinsmann-like figure. The whole of Brazil had been seduced by the many images of the superbly slick duo of managers Klinsmann and Low, dressed in well-fitted, white shirts, enthusiastically celebrating every German goal at the 2006 World Cup.
Carlos Parreira, Brazil’s manager at the time, was seen as a bit of a dry figure, a tad sad-faced and bureaucratic by nature. The cry was desperate, and the cry was for joy and passion to be infused back into the Brazilian squad after they were eliminated by France in the 2006 quarter-final.
So Dunga was brought in, without any coaching experience whatsoever.
To be fair, he did display passion and enthusiasm – and plenty of it – screaming his head off by the sidelines as though he had been scoring goals himself. And he was, in fact, rather successful in charge of Brazil: qualifying the team for 2010 at the top of the South American table, taking Brazil back to the no. 1 position in the FIFA rankings, and winning both the 2007 Copa America and the 2009 Confederations Cup.
But Dunga was never a good casting director. His favourite players were controversial names – Melo, Grafite, Josue and Elano were far from world class – and his temper and relationship with the public and the media were absolutely atrocious. Cranky, downright rude and just plain unpleasant, Dunga designed a Brazilian squad that was effective, defensively organized and highly physical, but also joyless, cold and distant from the warmth of the fans.
I have nothing but respect for Dunga’s ability to manage a team; he understands how football works and has highly competent organizational skills. However, he is not what the Selecao need, which is respect, hope and sincere fan support – and, above all: change.
But change is not really what the Brazilian FA is all about. Change means letting go of power; it means surrendering control.
Notoriously corrupt and Jurassic in mentality, the Brazilian FA will always choose to keep it in the family.
Dunga’s second spell in charge will create divisions, controversies and general doubt. He’ll select footballers that he needs, or thinks he needs, but not the ones that deserve to be there by virtue of their talent. He will create a team based on muscularity and strength, not beauty or the ability to surprise. In short, Brazil will continue to explore the extremes, lacking the balance they so desperately need.
If 2014 saw Luiz and Neymar hugging fans and generously taking photos with boys who would invade the pitch during Brazil’s open practices, the path towards 2018 will be a throwback to the 2007-2010 season of secret shenanigans and sheer stubbornness – with the media viewed as the enemy, and public opinion rendered pointless.
Indeed, as Parreira said in 1994, magic is dead.
The Brazilian FA have now officially embraced the idea of Brazil as a tough, bully-like, power-thirsty, humourless and overly athletic squad – as we saw during that quarter-final match against Colombia at the World Cup.
In happier days, back in 1982, Brazil’s Captain Socrates famously said that “beauty comes first, victory is secondary, what matters is joy”.
And let us not forget that Dunga deeply detests it when the media reminds us that everyone loves Brazil’s 1982 squad of “losers”, while no one cares about his exceptionally boring 1994 winning team.
So my advice to Brazil is this: stop trying to win.
Somehow, since 2002, that has been the sole goal: to win.
And the cost has been massive: Brazil’s football identity is in the gutter.
Winning is not worth it.
Winning for the sake of winning, whatever the cost, does not produce joy.
It creates powerful enemies. It creates an unhealthy, egocentric, self-righteous attitude that cares only about, well, winning.
That is a painfully childish, empty and ultimately disappointingly unrealistic way to lead any sort of project.
But, most of all, it’s just a stupid waste of time.
The Brazilian FA is just a stupid waste of time.
This Brazil is just a stupid waste of time.
Dunga is just a stupid, stupid waste of time.
It’s all so stupid.