You are currently viewing In Brazil, the debacle of left-wing football

Brazilians are being called to the polls to determine who will lead them for the next four years. Many local footballers support outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro.

If, a few days before the second round, the Brazilian election is more uncertain than ever, the game of the instrumentalization of football has already been folded for a long time. Net advantage to the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has succeeded in mobilizing strong support in the world of football. Neymar, Lucas Moura, Rivaldo have thus declared their love for the far-right leader, not to mention Romario, who was outright triumphantly re-elected senator for Rio under his banner, on October 2. Even if other Brazilian football legends like Ronaldinho or Kaká, who had given him their support during the 2018 election, are now more discreet, Bolsonaro remains by far the most popular among professional players and club managers. A success that can be explained both by the strategy and the values ​​carried by the Donald Trump of the tropics.

The Jersey auriverdea symbol of support for Bolsonaro

“The heavy fine that the Brazilian tax authorities imposed on Neymar has been canceled thanks to Bolsonaro. For example, he did the same with the debts of evangelical churches. » Frédéric Louault, academic specialist in Brazil.

“Bolsonaro serves the interests of the elites and certain economic sectors, including footballexplains Frédéric Louault, director of the Center for the Study of Political Life (CEVIPOL) at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) and a specialist in Brazil. Neymar is at least partly that. The heavy fine imposed on him by the Brazilian tax authorities was canceled thanks to Bolsonaro. For example, he did the same with the debts of evangelical churches. » The broad support enjoyed by the man with the evocative slogan (“god, fatherland, family”) is not, however, only self-serving. “The players do not support him because he is from the extreme right, but rather because they share with him certain values, religious, family, the fight against insecurity, the relationship to arms or the fight displayed against Corruption ” confirms Frédéric Louault.

Jair Bolsonaro, in Palmeiras supporter mode.

The height of footballing populism, the gravedigger of the Amazon rainforest even managed to throw the grappling hook at the national team’s shirt. “Now I avoid going out with my Seleção jersey, explains Marcelin Chamoin, author specializing in Brazil and currently residing in Rio. Bolsonaro’s supporters have appropriated him so much on all the demonstrations they have been able to do, that he is now very marked politically. I prefer to go out with the second jersey to go unnoticed. » We can deplore the cynicism of the outgoing president, who never ceases to put on all the jerseys of professional or amateur clubs that come to hand, the better to flirt with the barge. One can also wonder about the manifest inability of the left and its candidate, Lula, to resist this shameless instrumentalization.

Lula’s speech no longer passes

“The current players are distant from the people, have sheltered their families, but continue to fear violence, to which the left does not appear to be a solution in their eyes. » Marcelin Chamoin, author specializing in Brazil.

The former president (2003-2011) is however not the last to play with national sport, he who went so far as to commentate for Brazilian television on the 2018 World Cup live from the cell where he was imprisoned for corruption – the charges against him have since been dropped. However, it is clear that his supporters pale in comparison to those of his rival. Among them are only a handful of active players, with Bayer Leverkusen youngster Paulinho as the only declared supporter on the European continent. “The current players are distant from the people, have sheltered their families, but continue to fear violence, to which the left does not appear to be a solution in their eyes, slice Marcelin Chamoin. They enter the training center very early, lack education and political awareness, and are therefore not receptive to Lula’s speech. » The program of the 76-year-old politician does not have enough to make young people dream, who were still children during his first mandates. “The ambition is quite limited, confirms Frédéric Louault. He proposes to rebuild what he had built at the beginning of the 21st century and which has since been dilapidated. He considers that Brazil was doing well from an economic, social and international point of view, with 30 million people lifted out of poverty thanks to redistribution and wants to do the same again. » Added to that the smell of corruption that clings to the skin of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), we understand better why young Brazilian footballers, little affected by Bolsonaro’s environmental, health or social policy, are reluctant to support Lula.

Lula with Pelé, in 2008.

Lula’s speech certainly affects the elders more, with the support of Juninho, Walter Casagrande and even Raí, who showed his support during the Ballon d’Or ceremony. “Raí was not close to Lula until then, however, notes the ULB researcher. He encourages people to vote for him much more to defend democracy than to commit themselves to the candidate. The same can, to some extent, be said of Casagrande, although his political commitment is clearer. It must be remembered that Lula disappointed left-wing footballers during his first two terms. While many urged him to take steps to democratize the Brazilian confederation (CBF) and fight corruption within it, this work never came to fruition, in part because Lula had to rely on existing actors to obtain the organization of the 2014 World Cup. The divorce between football and the left, global and profound, cannot however be attributed to Lula alone, and undoubtedly marks a “break with the imaginary of the left-wing politicization of Brazilian football” in the words of Frédéric Louault.

“Corinthian democracy”, an ephemeral parenthesis

Thoroughly exploited by the military dictatorship (1964–1985), the round ball had indeed suddenly turned into a vehicle for political awakening and a protest movement with the famous “Corinthian democracy” at the beginning of the eighties. The period of self-management of the Corinthians club and the politicization of minds carried by Socrates, Casagrande, Wladimir and Zé Maria, thus rose to the rank of popular football myth, internationally known. An experience, however, without a future, or almost. “We can speak of a happy accident in history, with a conjunction of talented and politicized players and a context of struggle against an authoritarian regime, explains Frédéric Louault. This had a real impact at the time, and there were links with the emergence of the PT during democratization, under the impetus of Socrates, but the phenomenon remained fairly limited. He also wanted to educate young footballers politically, as players and then as coaches, but the prospect did not find much support. »

Doctor Socrates.

After this brief mythologized jolt, Brazilian football returned to its state of national passion governed by private interests and devoid of political sense, despite the coming to power of a man nostalgic for the military dictatorship. Only supporters, or at least those of Corinthians, continued to embody a left-wing opposition in football, demonstrating against the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff in 2016 or against Bolsonaro’s health policy in 2021. Nothing to forget the failure of the left to seize the round ball, in Brazil as elsewhere.

By Mathieu Solal
All comments collected by MS.


Disclaimer: If you need to update/edit/remove this news or article then please contact our support team Learn more

Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

Leave a Reply