Brazil’s World Cup Debacle Lays Bare its Soccer Myths


David Goldblatt in Al Jazeera America (Vanderlei Almeida / AFP / Getty Images):

After the 1998 World Cup final, when France swept aside Brazil and the catatonic Ronaldo, there was eventually sufficient political pressure to force the creation of congressional inquiries into the CBF (the Brazilian football federation) and its relationship with Nike, as well as the wider pathologies of the Brazilian game. Those reports, long moldering on the ministry of sports website revealed that Brazilian football is, despite very stiff global competition, amongst the most dysfunctional, badly organized and corrupt system around. More than that, both reports, published in 2001, recommended the criminal investigation and prosecution of a large swathe of Brazil’s football establishment. Brazil’s victory in the World Cup in 2002 ensured that not a single investigation or prosecution would be pursued.

I suspect that a victory in 2014 would have resulted in a similar absolution of the people and institutions that have run this World Cup. That the broken promises to the poor, the squandered opportunities for progressive urban redevelopment, the widespread and shameless stealing that has characterized the seven years since the tournament was awarded to Brazil, would all be, if not forgotten rendered utterly marginal. That is going to be a much harder act to pull off. But as Carlos Drummond de Andrade, the mid-century Brazilian poet and football chronicler, wrote in 1982 after the famous defeat to Italy – it’s time for Brazil to wipe its tears, roll up its sleeves and get back to the serious business of political reform.

But Germany’s victory has not only changed the long-term resonance of the tournament in Brazil but showed us something about football itself. We can be grateful that the world’s press has not chosen to describe the game in terms of blitzkrieg, but offered the lesser clichés of the clinical, efficient Teutonic machine. It is extraordinary how words can blind us to what is going in front of our eyes: Germany were not clinical or efficient, they were dazzling.

More here.