Brazil is not for beginners

Brazilian football supporters playing music and waving flags - action images

There is a wonderful Brazilian expression which holds that “a lie has short legs.” It won’t get you far.

 

Honesty is usually the best policy, especially at the start of a relationship. So while I’m delighted to start a series of weekly articles for sambafoot.com, there is one protest I have to register - the name.

 

Let me explain. There is a TV programme on which I often appear in Brazil, a round table debate on Globo’s cable channel, SporTV. I presume they invite me to provide a foreign perspective. The other journalists are Brazilian.

 

On one programme a few weeks back the local journalists were moaning about the coverage given by the international press to the Brazil national team, and in particular to the fact that hardly three words go by without the use of the word ‘samba.’ I was asked if I was part of this process, and could happily reply that no, these days I make a conscious not to go down this road. Because I can understand their frustration. I groan in the same way reading the headlines in the Brazilian press after a defeat for England - ‘The Queen will not be amused,’ and other such nonsense.

 

Of course, the movement and rhythm of music have an influence on the approach to football of different cultures and nationalities. “Show me the way a man dances,” said one prominent South American coach, “and I will tell you how he plays football.” The pounding of the drums and the sway of the hips are vital to the tradition of Brazilian football, where not all the steps are to be believed - some are feints designed to fool the opponent.

 

But all the samba stuff can be exaggerated. First, Brazil is huge, and samba is not the rhythm of preference in much of the country. The last man to lead Brazil to World Cup glory was Luiz Felipe Scolari, who like many of today’s top Brazilian coaches comes from the south, a region much more influenced by mass European immigration. It is not easy to imagine Scolari dancing the samba.

 

Secondly, even in its heartland of Rio, samba is not particularly successful with the current generation - though they do love a rather dull derivative called pagode.
And third and most importantly, simple sloganeering about samba can lead to profound misunderstandings about the nature of Brazilian football.

 

A country of immigrants, Brazil has been mytholigized out of all recognition, a process in which Rio’s Carnaval has played a fundamental role. The annual celebration was used to create and divulge the concept of a national identity, of a fun-loving, happy people in a permanent state of dancing celebration. Back in the 1930s, promoting this image was of great interest to Getulio Vargas, a relatively benign and paternalistic tropical version of Mussolini. He sponsored the show, giving subsidies to the samba schools who put on the parade - in return, the theme had to be Brazil, which had to be addressed in positive terms. It was a propaganda coup.
The reality, of course, was that life was not Carnaval. Indeed, the very essence of the Carnaval was that for a few days reality was turned on hits head. The poor dressed up as the rich, in an attempt to cast off the limitations of their daily lot in the country that the eminent historian Eric Hobsbawm once described as “the world champion of economic inequality.”

 

Similar myths have stuck to the national sport. Brazilian football has often been portrayed as a Carnaval in boots, the players taking the field more interested in self expression and enjoyment than in winning the game, happy to concede five goals as long as they can score six, and happy even if they don’t.

 

It is over 14 years ago now, but I still wince when I think of the first article I ever wrote for ‘World Soccer’ magazine. It was a player profile of Carlos Germano, the Vasco da Gama goalkeeper who ended up going to France 98 as reserve to Taffarel.
As his name suggests, Carlos Germano is of German descent, and grew up in a small town predominantly made up of immigrants from the old country. His inclusion I the national team, I argued in lamentable ignorance, was the perfect blend - some German defensive steel to underpin the Brazilian flair.

 

The facts, however, point in the opposite direction. Brazil’s World Cup defensive record is far superior to Germany’s and always has been.

 

Brazil. after all, invented the back four, with its key concept of extra defensive cover. They won the World Cup with it in 1958, with the most stereotypically ‘Brazilian’ of all their sides, containing both Pele and Garrincha. For all their attacking brilliance, a mean spirited defence was vital to the cause - Brazil did not concede a single goal until the semi final against the free -scoring French. Twelve years later, the legendary 1970 team were also ahead of the game in terms of their defensive awareness. When they lost possession the key idea was to bring everyone bar centre forward Tostao behind the line of the ball. Coach of that side Mario Zagallo told me that he was happy to see his team as a prototype of the 4-5-1 formation.
The idea that Brazilians would rather have fun than win is totally false - tell it to a local TV executive and he will laugh in your face. Victory is everything. Formula One has great viewing figures - when a Brazilian is in with a chance of winning. Minority sports such as tennis and even gymnastics become high profile when Brazilians are successful. A couple of local journalists have recently told me exactly the same phrase - in their view their compatriots don’t really like sport - they like victory.
Perhaps this is one explanation for the disappointing crowd figures in Brazilian football, since only one club can be champion. How can we explain that in supposedly football crazy Brazil, the average crowd in the first division is lower than that in the United States’ Major League Soccer? Indeed, the first FIFA inspection report mentioned that one of the objectives of the 2014 World Cup was to increase the number of people watching domestic games.

 

None of this meets the prevailing stereotype of football in Brazil. But then again, as the bossa nova star Tom Jobim liked to say, ‘Brazil is not for beginners.’ After nearly 17 years in the country, my view is that reality is nowhere near as enticing as the myth - and it contains much less samba. But the real story is much more interesting.

 



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October 30, 2014
12:22Fernandinho has night to forget as Manchester City are dumped out of League Cup
12:11Marcelo on scoresheet as Real Madrid cruise past Cornella
11:54We won't play to defend first-leg lead vows Luxemburgo
11:14Chicao warns Flamengo against complacency after first-leg semi-final win
10:38Report: Arsenal line up January move for Romulo
October 29, 2014
23:15Brazilian Cup Preview: Cruzeiro face Santos
22:52Bolívar stresses importance of coach Mancini to Botafogo
21:17Portuguesa relegated after another defeat
20:24Costa and Ramires set to return for Chelsea
18:58Internazionale midfielder Hernanes wary of Sampdoria threat and refuses to be compared to Siniša Mihajlović
18:49Elano praises Chennaiyin FC fans and hails teams togetherness
18:43Elano pleased to assist team-mates Jeje Lalpekhlua and Stiven Mendoza in Chennaiyin FC's 5-1 win over Mumbai City FC.
16:57FIFA President Sepp Blatter claims Russia's 2018 World Cup preparations are "considerably ahead of schedule" compared to Brazil
14:52Neymar and Messi set to miss game Espanyol
13:18"We don't talk about the 7-1 anymore in the dressing room"
12:52Santos sign deal with Huawei from China
12:24Neymar gains 5lbs of muscle to help him succeed at Barcelona
11:51Assist King Michel Bastos just happy to contribute to Sao Paulo
11:15Lyon legend Juninho backs Doria for Marseille success
10:42Khaznadar's Santos bid compromised by Neymar friendship - Leite
10:07Chelsea reportedly line up move for Cruzeiro's Lucas Silva
00:05Bielsa explains Doria absence
October 28, 2014
22:39Le Havre rule out Adriano deal
22:18Sporting eye Grêmio defender Geromel
19:36Cavalieri set to leave Fluminense after contract leak
18:54Assistant Manager Vivek Nagul insists Chennayin FC are not solely reliant on Brazilian midfielder Elano
18:36Milan defender Alex: “PSG wanted to sign a younger player than me"
18:23Defender Alex admits he misses Paris but has no regrets over Milan move
18:15Hernanes confident Internazionale will be develop their own style
18:10Hernanes hails Internazionale owner Erick Thohir and criticises Italian press
14:58Barcelona coach Luis Enrique defends Douglas from critics
14:16Rafinha gets award at FC Barcelona
14:04Harry Redknapp praises Sandro after Aston Villa game
12:01Everton Ribeiro urges focus as Cruzeiro close in on league and cup double
11:30Brasilerao: Sao Paulo close gap on Cruzeiro to five points
11:29Danilo voted best player of the year at FC Porto
11:23Alexandre Gallo emphasizes good relationship with Dunga
10:56Barcelona's Neymar the only Brazil star on 23-man Ballon d'Or shortlist
10:27Rogerio Ceni breaks Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs victory record
October 27, 2014
23:59FC Goa manager Zico refuses to blame defeat on the absence of Pires
23:31Dante voted best defender in Germany for the third time
22:25Bernard shines as Shakhtar cruise through
21:04Fabio Capello: Neymar attitude 'very annoying'
18:40FC Goa manager Zico disappointed with lack of end product following 2-0 defeat to FC Pune City
18:14Report: Genoa ahead of Lazio, Napoli and Sassuolo in race to sign Corinthians defender Gil
15:48Report: Milan set to target Fluminense defender Marlon
15:37Marcelo pleased with his improved fitness and hopes Real Madrid can keep up their good form
15:29Marcelo wants Real Madrid to enjoy El Clásico victory over Barcelona
12:36Diego Tardelli explains how maturity propelled him to the Brazil national side
12:17David Luiz and Thiago Silva partnership can lead PSG to Champions League says Alex
October 29, 2014
16:57FIFA President Sepp Blatter claims Russia's 2018 World Cup preparations are "considerably ahead of schedule" compared to Brazil
October 24, 2014
14:13Kaká confident he can help Brazil over the short-term
October 23, 2014
23:14Head Coach Dunga refuses to confirm whether Neymar or Thiago Silva will captain Brazil
23:10Brazil Head Coach Dunga hopes Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano can help "create an alternative approach"
October 21, 2014
21:161994 World Cup winning Head Coach Carlos Alberto Perreira believes Brazil must regain their identity
October 20, 2014
23:09 José Mourinho praises Dunga despite frustration over lack of communication with international managers
October 18, 2014
21:55Carlos Alberto Parreira: Dunga's "been doing a good job"
October 16, 2014
17:18Dunga’s Most Important Players
October 15, 2014
16:24Santos forward Robinho: Brazil want to "win the World Cup in Russia"
12:26Brazil forward Neymar reveals Head Coach Dunga's advice after 4-0 friendly win over Japan
October 14, 2014
22:43CSKA Moscow defender Mário Fernandes hopes he "pleased Dunga" with Brazil debut
22:38Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson pleased late save against Japan kept clean sheet run intact
22:32Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson: "It is good to see Dunga’s philosophy is working for us"
18:09Neymar admits four goal haul against Japan "gives me goosebumps"
18:03Neymar not concerned about Brazil goal tally
13:59Brazil destroy Japan thanks to a fantastic Neymar
08:46Brazil-Japan (National Stadium, Singapore): Preview
October 13, 2014
15:57Internazionale defender Yuto Nagatomo insists Japan must play as a team against Brazil
15:52Japan Head Coach Javier Aguirre "relaxed" ahead of Brazil friendly
15:45Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirms David Luiz is a doubt for Japan friendly
15:41Mainz 05 forward Shinji Okazaki insists Japan must be clinical if they are to get a result from Brazil friendly
October 12, 2014
22:38Neymar unconcerned with physical approach during Brazil's 2-0 win over Argentian
22:34Brazil Head Coach Dunga insists Argentina win "gives huge confidence to the players"
13:14Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson: “I have studied the way Lionel Messi takes penalties"
13:09Atlético Mineiro Diego Tardelli admits its "a unique feeling" to score for Brazil after Argentina brace
11:10Brazil Head Coach Dunga questions appointment of referee Fan Qi for Argentina friendly
October 11, 2014
17:29Argentina 0-2 Brazil [Superclásico de las Américas, National Stadium]: Player ratings
16:13Argentina 0-2 Brazil [Superclásico de las Américas, National Stadium]: Diego Tardelli brace earns Seleção prestigious friendly victory
12:08Argentina 0-2 Brazil [Superclásico de las Américas, National Stadium]: Minute by minute
11:59Brazil Head Coach Dunga concerned about effects of Beijing smog on Superclásico de las Américas against Argentina
October 10, 2014
22:38Neymar hails Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi ahead of 2014 Superclásico de las Américas
16:182014 Superclásico de las Américas: Argentina vs. Brazil preview
October 09, 2014
22:50Danilo and Elias expected to start for Brazil in Saturday's 2014 Superclásico de las Américas against Argentina
22:45Brazil Olympic squad line up announced for Bolivia friendly
22:35Corinthians defender Gil believes Seleção team-mate Neymar is better than Lionel Messi
22:13Sambafoot is recruiting!
20:55Japan recall Kagawa for Brazil clash
October 08, 2014
12:11Sebastian Coe doubts a men's Great British football team will compete at 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
October 07, 2014
23:28CBF announce Brazil friendlies against Austria and Turkey in November
23:09Report: Brazil Head Coach Dunga monitoring Guangzhou Evergrande forward Elkeson
22:45Paris Saint-Germain defender Maxwell hints this could be his last season
October 06, 2014
16:34Kaká: “I see A Seleção Brasileira as a reward"
12:16Kaká wants Brazil to follow Germany model
October 03, 2014
22:03Internazionale defender Juan Jesus pleased with Brazil recall
21:58Internazionale defender Juan Jesus latest player to be brought into Brazil squad following injury to Marquinhos
17:26São Paulo executive Ataide Gil disappointed to lose Kaká to Brazil
17:12Grêmio goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe brought into Brazil squad for Argentina and Japan friendlies
October 01, 2014
15:54Japan squad named for friendlies against Brazil and Jamaica
September 30, 2014
08:34Brazil drawn in Group B alongside holders Colombia for 2015 U-20 South American Championship
September 24, 2014
22:13Brazilian Football Confederation President José Maria Marin wants Germany rematch
June 26, 2014
14:33Report: Flamengo one of eight clubs who have enquired about loaning Internazionale midfielder Rubén Botta
June 16, 2014
11:35Brazil Head Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari backs Portugal to recovery from heavy Germany defeat
June 09, 2014
23:18Italy forward Lorenzo Insigne insists Italy’s poor defending in victory against Fluminense is “not important”
23:12Italy forward Ciro Immobile “excited” with hat-trick against Fluminense
22:56Italy Head Coach Cesare Prandelli pleased with Fluminense victory
22:52Italy Head Coach Cesare Prandelli delighted with Brazilian support
June 07, 2014
23:32Italy line up confirmed for Fluminense friendly
May 19, 2014
22:13Portugal Manager Paulo Bento names his 23-man 2014 FIFA World Cup squad
May 18, 2014
19:09Sambafoot Sunday: Botafogo's Shaky Start to 2014
April 13, 2014
08:34Sambafoot Sunday: Brazilian Clubs' Libertadores Numbers Game
April 06, 2014
09:20Sambafoot Sunday: Atlético Mineiro's Anelka Interest Should be the Norm
February 14, 2014
12:23Shakhtar Donetsk: President decided to support Maicon’s family
February 09, 2014
09:25Sambafoot Sunday: Where’s Wallyson? Botafogo find their new hero post-Seedorf
January 26, 2014
10:09Sambafoot Sunday: Cruciate curse affects Seleção hopes of three midfielders
December 01, 2013
13:36Sambafoot Sunday: Could Éverton Ribeiro Crack Europe?
November 25, 2013
11:39Brasileirão Week 36 round up: Vasco shock champions to stay in contention while defeat leaves Ponte Preta on the brink
November 24, 2013
10:17Sambafoot Sunday: Palmeiras Promoted with Chapecoense in Tow
November 17, 2013
12:00Palmeiras secure Brasileirão Série B title with 3-0 win against Boa Esporte
November 12, 2013
08:42Relegation threatened Fluminense sack head coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo
November 10, 2013
12:59Sambafoot Sunday: Atlético Paranaense's hurricane season
November 09, 2013
10:05Drummer angers Flamengo fans
November 04, 2013
13:04Brasileirão week 32 round-up: Big win for Vasco as in-form Goiás maintain top four push
November 03, 2013
17:31Sambafoot Sunday: Surprise Packages in the 2013 Brasileirão
October 28, 2013
11:31Brasileirão Week 31 round up: Vital win for Ponte Preta while Goiás maintain top four push
October 21, 2013
13:21Olympique Marseille without defender Lucas Mendes for Napoli fixture
12:12Injury rules Bayern Munich defender Dante out of Viktoria Plzeň tie
October 20, 2013
23:50São Paulo president Juvenal Juvêncio admits interest in Lucas Moura loan return
October 18, 2013
11:47Diego Maradona dispute’s Pelé’s FIFA recognition
09:04Del Bosque: Costa approach no insult to current strikers
October 17, 2013
21:43Hard work is paying off insists Bayern Munich defender Rafinha
13:17Rodrigo Lasmar: Ronaldinho on track to be fit for the Club World Cup
October 16, 2013
19:53Report: Tottenham Hotspur set to offer Paulinho extended deal
09:12Report: São Paulo could terminate Lúcio’s contract if injury concerns prevail
October 13, 2013
18:32Brasileirão: Grêmio slip up as Vitoria and Santos grab victories
14:49Vanderlei Luxemburgo: ‘Simulation part of football’
October 09, 2013
20:37Mineiro learn Club World Cup fate
October 06, 2013
22:39Oswaldo de Oliveira in hospital after Botafogo defeat
11:55Sambafoot Sunday: Cruzeiro cruising at the top of the Brasileirão
October 04, 2013
23:52Internacional manager Dunga sacked
September 14, 2013
14:29Guerrero: Corinthians can still be champions
September 11, 2013
20:49Roberto Carlos: Anzhi could collapse
14:57Exeter City play down Brazil fears
September 07, 2013
14:12Atlético Madrid's Filipe Luis: Barca-Madrid dominance an injustice
September 06, 2013
19:04Santos announce tour of South East Asia
18:42São Paulo slump to defeat as Rogerio Ceni misses penalty
September 05, 2013
19:17Cruzeiro go four points clear after defeating Bahia
18:43Romário and Maradona fight against CONMEBOL corruption
September 03, 2013
21:29Marcelo Mattos says Botafogo will overcome difficulties
20:54Réver believes Atlético Mineiro can challenge for Brazilian title
September 02, 2013
23:21São Paulo to honour Brazil legend Leonidas da Silva
October 29, 2014
23:15Brazilian Cup Preview: Cruzeiro face Santos
22:52Bolívar stresses importance of coach Mancini to Botafogo
21:17Portuguesa relegated after another defeat
20:24Costa and Ramires set to return for Chelsea
18:58Internazionale midfielder Hernanes wary of Sampdoria threat and refuses to be compared to Siniša Mihajlović
18:49Elano praises Chennaiyin FC fans and hails teams togetherness
18:43Elano pleased to assist team-mates Jeje Lalpekhlua and Stiven Mendoza in Chennaiyin FC's 5-1 win over Mumbai City FC.
00:05Bielsa explains Doria absence
October 28, 2014
22:39Le Havre rule out Adriano deal
22:18Sporting eye Grêmio defender Geromel
19:36Cavalieri set to leave Fluminense after contract leak
18:54Assistant Manager Vivek Nagul insists Chennayin FC are not solely reliant on Brazilian midfielder Elano
18:36Milan defender Alex: “PSG wanted to sign a younger player than me"
18:23Defender Alex admits he misses Paris but has no regrets over Milan move
18:15Hernanes confident Internazionale will be develop their own style
18:10Hernanes hails Internazionale owner Erick Thohir and criticises Italian press
October 27, 2014
23:59FC Goa manager Zico refuses to blame defeat on the absence of Pires
23:31Dante voted best defender in Germany for the third time
22:25Bernard shines as Shakhtar cruise through
21:04Fabio Capello: Neymar attitude 'very annoying'
18:40FC Goa manager Zico disappointed with lack of end product following 2-0 defeat to FC Pune City
18:14Report: Genoa ahead of Lazio, Napoli and Sassuolo in race to sign Corinthians defender Gil
15:48Report: Milan set to target Fluminense defender Marlon
15:37Marcelo pleased with his improved fitness and hopes Real Madrid can keep up their good form
15:29Marcelo wants Real Madrid to enjoy El Clásico victory over Barcelona
October 25, 2014
23:01Filipe Luís does not believe his Chelsea team-mates need "special advice" to cope with Manchester United forward Radamel Falcao
22:53Chelsea defender Filipe Luís hails former team-mate Radamel Falcao ahead of Manchester United clash
15:50FC Goa manager Zico claims midfielder Robert Pirès was punched in the face by Atlético de Kolkata Head Coach Antonio López
15:34Mumbai City manager Peter Reid pleased midfielder André Moritz managed 45 minutes in 2-0 defeat to NorthEast United
15:21Lucas Leiva admits he is open to Liverpool exit and confirms there was contact with Napoli over the summer
October 24, 2014
15:17FC Goa manager Zico unhappy with Atlético de Kolkata defeat
13:06Assistant Toni Grande admits "it was a relief" when Diego Costa finally scored for Spain
12:54Report: Juventus set to target Cruzeiro midfielder Everton Ribeiro in January
October 23, 2014
23:25Report: Milan join race for Cruzeiro midfielder Lucas Silva
17:22Atlético de Madrid defender Guilherme Siqueira hails team-mate Koke after role in Malmö FF victory
15:44Head Coach Dunga names three debutants in Brazil squad to face Turkey and Austria next month
October 22, 2014
22:51Mário Fernandes believes CSKA Moscow's comeback against Manchester City has kept them in the Champions League
17:54David Luiz: “In every game we need to improve"
17:51Lionel Messi: “It is good that Neymar and I are in form together"
11:36Ajax manager Frank de Boer compares Lionel Messi and Neymar to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale
11:27David Luiz admits Paris Saint-Germain had a "tough match" against APOEL
11:22David Luiz pleased to be back alongside Thiago Silva in Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 over APEOL
10:03Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano: "It was very special for me to score five times"
09:57Luiz Adriano thanks team-mates after five goal haul in Shakhtar Donetsk's 7-0 win over BATE Borisov
October 21, 2014
22:56Shakhtar Donetsk forward Luiz Adriano enjoys record breaking night in the Champions League
22:33Report: Real Madrid target to Bayern Munich's David Alaba if Marcelo leaves next summer
20:36Neymar admits he now feels more settled at Barcelona
20:30Former Santos President Luis Alvaro de Oliveira claims Neymar's father received €3 million from Barcelona
19:04Referee Gianluca Rocchi admits he could have handled Maicon penalty incident better
16:35Fernandinho hopes Manchester City can emulate Bayern Munich in "must win" tie against CSKA Moscow
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