The Shambolic State of Brazilian Football Today
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.