The Brazilian Truth

The World Cup is well and truly over. Brazil is once again shrouded in South American mystery, no more than a country of stereotypes that the World Cup has only enhanced. Despite countless protests brought about by high government spending on the tournament, it would seem that Brazil’s beaches, carnaval culture and football-crazy inhabitants still capture our imagination. Although, on second thoughts, that last one has taken a bit of a beating. Losing 7-1 is bad at the best of times, but in a World Cup semi final, at home, for a nation that unhesitatingly proclaims itself as the greatest of all time, it is an unimaginable embarrassment; the ultimate humiliation.

And yet, just like the rest of the world has turned a blind eye to the social problems engulfing the country, Brazilians have already managed to put that defeat to the back of their minds. Rather than smarting from a fresh and hefty wound, Brazil is moving on in a variety of ways. During and immediately after the game, the tears and anger were well-documented, but in the week following that result, amusement and indifference were the overriding emotions. The attempt to cope with such disappointment has to be respected, but on the other hand, for a country that practically worships football, the people were awfully quick to get over it. This irked me momentarily before I remembered that it is a classic Brazilian trait, one that you’re unlikely to find in the guidebooks.

I touched upon this a few months ago, claiming that Brazilian football fans are fair weather supporters, from the ‘sing when you’re winning’ crop. It turns out that I was wrong. The Brazilian football fan is a delusional nutcase, expecting too much of his team and arrogant to the point of madness. For example, Brazilians present at the group game match between Russia and Belgium were chanting “second division” because they were unimpressed with the standard of play. Now, in a country where Fred, Brazil’s centre forward, looks good in the first division, such claims are simply ridiculous. If you’re struggling to remember Fred, he was that bloke up front in the yellow shirt, doing absolutely nothing.

But what really riled me, particularly during the tender moments following England’s defeat to Uruguay, were the chants of “eliminado” (eliminated) to the losing team’s supporters. I consider myself a passionate fan; winning feels fantastic and losing really, really hurts. That cold afternoon in Sao Paulo was painful on a number of levels: shivering from the cold, smarting from bruised legs sustained during England’s equaliser and Uruguay’s winner, and feeling the lump in my throat that comes with knowing that there’s a four year wait before I can start to dream again. The taunts of unsympathetic Brazilians really did nothing to brighten my outlook on life. It’s something I would never do to opposing fans, especially if my own team wasn’t involved in the fixture! Alas, for Brazilians, just supporting your own team isn’t enough. They won’t be happy unless everyone else is suffering.

Of course, Brazilians’ attitude to football changes when they lose. The arrogance and ‘fanaticism’ disappears, replaced by nothing. It was as if such a monumental event as the World Cup had never happened. Their ability to deal with failure is alarmingly small. For a sporting event, sweeping your problems under the rug may be an adequate solution, but in October, Brazil has its general election. Current president, Dilma Rousseff has endured a relatively unsuccessful term in office, despite everything looking bright when she took over. The Workers’ Party has been in power for 12 years now. The previous man in change, Lula, had very high approval ratings, as the government spearheaded strong economic growth. But his disappearance from the public eye in recent months shows a cowardly lack of support for his party. Perhaps he feels that if he isn’t involved, it isn’t happening, much like a small child will think you have disappeared when it covers its eyes during a jovial game of hide-and-seek.

Economically speaking, I would go so far as to describe Brazil as a teenager. Following a rapid growth spurt, the country is dealing with new problems, but refuses to take responsibility for its actions. Rather than manage the situation in a grown-up way, Brazil is relying on the fact that it is still young and lovable enough to be forgiven. But this won’t last for much longer. Brazil needs some serious action to deal with its enormous disparity in wealth, as well as other basic infrastructure issues that plague the cities in which the vast majority of the population live. My worry is Dilma returning for another term and just not doing what needs to be done. Fortunately, the well-publicised overspending of the World Cup and the harrowing defeat to the Germans may swing the control of the country into a fresh pair of hands.

Whatever ends up happening, there is one thing that Brazil still feels strongly about: FIFA. This terrible organisation, fuelled by greed and corruption was never welcome in the country. The FIFA flag was booed at every game I attended and the graffiti around all cities will testify that Sepp Blatter and his crooked cronies were not wanted. One would hope that all manner of scandals, ranging from serious corruption allegations, to evidence that ticket touts were doing ‘business’ at FIFA’s hotel on Copacabana beach, might see an end to this tyranny, but it remains unlikely. Perhaps, a new president could publicly denounce FIFA for years to come as a reminder of what the Workers’ Party did. But, of course, all that will probably be forgotten too…

I realise that some of these views are perhaps a tad strong, but I found myself getting fed up of the disillusionment in the last month of my stay. That’s not a dig at Brazil or any of the friends I made there, just at some portions of society and certainly the powers that be. It’s a shame because I found myself having little sympathy for the nation as they succumbed to their semi final defeat, despite the many happy memories it has bestowed on me these past six months. The time has come for me to move on, as the final six weeks of my journey takes me to Canada, Colombia and Argentina before a return to England’s green and pleasant land. The information I have divulged above is fresh in my mind, but in Brazilian style, I may be able to let it slip my mind in the coming months. The memories that will stay are those of the people who made my stay so enjoyable, the strain of working hard in such a beautiful city, the most marvellous World Cup month I could have wished for, and of course, views like this one. I’m sure I’ll be back.