By: Asher Levine
Millions of Brazilians will be cheering like crazy during the World Cup, but not all of them for Brazil. With kickoff two weeks away and tensions simmering over the costs of hosting the month-long soccer event, some are showing their anger by saying they will root against the national team, perhaps Brazil’s most prominent symbol on the global stage.
“Never before has the World Cup incited these feelings of hatred among Brazilians,” said Ugo Giorgetti, a prominent filmmaker and soccer commentator. “There are people who love soccer, who love Brazil, but are cheering against the team like they have never cheered before.”
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The “Brazil haters” stand in sharp contrast to the typical caricature of Brazilian fans decked out in green and yellow face paint, chanting and screaming for their team to the rhythm of pounding samba drums.
“I’m cheering for Holland,” said Marco Silva, a 33-year old consultant from the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. “If Brazil is champion, all the corruption around the tournament will be forgotten. The country won’t wake up.”
Most Brazilians will indeed rally behind the team as it seeks a record sixth World Cup victory, but the government is worried critics will take to the streets in the tens of thousands and hurt the country’s image. This week, angry protesters banged on the bus as players left Rio de Janeiro for training camp.
Detractors say the World Cup — with its overpriced stadiums, delayed or undelivered infrastructure projects and potentially embarrassing organisational problems — has done more harm than good by taking funds away from social programs and more important investment projects.
For them, a swift end to Brazil’s run in the tournament would help the country refocus on more pressing needs and maybe even stoke political change.
“I and many people I know are rooting for Brazil to lose early, though not everyone is open about it,” said Edson Alves, a 52-year old chemist and lifelong soccer fan. “It’s sad, but right now I’m thinking more about Brazil the country and not Brazil the soccer team.”
Alves, like many others rooting against the team on social media, is a harsh critic of President Dilma Rousseff, who has cast the World Cup as a golden opportunity to showcase a modern Brazil. He hopes a defeat in the Cup will weaken support for Rousseff ahead of her re-election bid in October.
SOCCER AND POLITICS
While recent history shows little correlation between a World Cup title and an election victory, few Brazilians are convinced of that. In 1970, during the bloodiest period of a 1964-1985 military dictatorship, General Emilio Medici rode a wave of popularity as Brazil’s team, helmed by Pele and widely considered the greatest ever, brought home a third World Cup title.
Pro-democracy activists at the time urged Brazilians to turn against the national team but most were too enthralled by the “jogo bonito,” or “beautiful game” of their homegrown heroes.
Brazil is perhaps the world’s most popular soccer team, associated with a roster of legends such as Pele, Ronaldo, Zico, Socrates, Romario and now Neymar. Many Brazilians, however, tend to harbor a cooler attitude toward the yellow and green jersey.
Part of that is due to a weaker connection nowadays between fans and players, most of whom play club soccer in Europe or even further afield. While every player on the 1970 team played in Brazil, only four do on the current squad.
Still, the World Cup comes only once every four years, and if last year’s Confederations Cup is any indication, attitudes could change if the Brazilian side puts on a dazzling display.
The tournament, hosted in Brazil as a dry run to the World Cup, was marked by the largest street protests the country had seen in decades. Despite the tumult, most Brazilians got behind the team as it fought its way to the title.
More distant history also suggests that “Brazil hatred” may only go so far once the ball starts rolling.
“My friends were among those who urged others to root against Brazil in 1970,” Giorgetti recalled. “No one made it past the first 15.
Nothing is impossible, say Chilean miners to team
The Chilean miners who survived trapped underground longer than anyone else before have a message for their country’s World Cup team: Don’t fear the “group of death”. Chile has a strong squad, but in the first round it faces defending champion Spain and 2010 finalist Netherlands. Just advancing out of Group B will be seen as a major success. But for the miners who were trapped deep underground for 69 days in 2010: “Nothing is impossible for a Chilean”. That’s the title of their stirring television ad released Wednesday. In the Bank of Chile ad, the men return to the mouth of the mine that nearly became their rocky grave.
There, miner Mario Sepulveda gives a moving speech telling Chile’s team to courageously fight against all odds, remembering how the miners overcame death itself. Then, the miners collect sand from the Atacama desert in jars that they hope to send to the team to be poured wherever they play. In the end, the group breaks into a chant of “Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!” — for the country’s name. “My message to our Chile team is that we’re going to win. They have the talent and the whole country is behind them,” Sepulveda, the public face of the miners, said. AP
Spain to play Netherlands in white for WC opener
Spain has been ordered to make a new kit for the World Cup after FIFA decided the team’s normal red shirts didn’t offer enough contrast to the Netherlands’ jerseys for their opening game in Brazil. Spain’s clothing supplier Adidas said Thursday that “FIFA has expressly mandated” it to supply Spain with a third white kit that it must use in its first match in Brazil. FIFA requires teams to have two different kits for the tournament — one light in colour and the other in dark.Spain’s strip is red for home and black for away, while the Dutch — who normally wear orange — have a blue away kit they plan to wear against Spain on June 13. PTI