The English writer George Orwell once expressed doubts about the wisdom of
sports contests as a way of bringing nations together. He was writing during
the Cold War when the sports arena became a substitute battlefield between
the West and East.
Communist countries lavished
huge amounts of money on sporting tests of strength and ideology sports to
show that the capitalists could be beaten, even though they often stooped
to unsporting methods to win.
Fifty years later, one
wonders what Orwell would have thought had he watched the football match between
Brazil and Haiti. No hate, no ideologyjust peace and love, a lousy football
game and a lot of political cynicism.
Not only did this game
pitch the world champions against the poorest state in the Americas, whose
football team is ranked 92 by FIFA, but its purpose was to bring peace to
that troubled nation.
President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva is said to have come up with the idea and since Lula's approach
to foreign affairs has been eccentric to say the least, this may well be true.
Lula does not like hard
challenges abroad so instead of trying to get Brazil's stars to play in Baghdad
he chose a nice soft alternative like Port-Au-Prince. Even then the Brazilian
team did not stay in Haiti but in the neighboring Dominican Republic and only
spent a few hours in Haiti.
If Lula really thought
football would bring peace he should have arranged for the match to be staged
closer to home. The favelas in some of Brazil's bigger cities are easily
as violent and wretched as the shantytowns in Haiti.
Furthermore, while almost
1,000 Brazilian soldiers are available to help maintain order in Haiti, none
are around to do likewise in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
Whether the game, which
Brazil won 6-0, will bring peace to Haiti is doubtful, but at least it brought
some cheer to the unfortunate people of Haiti. No doubt Lula will imagine
he has achieved something as he claims to have done during his pointless visits
to places like Gabon, São Tomé e Principe and Libya.
As to the game, it had
some odd features such as a Brazilian referee, the first time I have ever
seen an international game in which one of the teams provided a referee. The
security was in the hands of blue-helmeted United Nations troops drawn from
The fact that a large
part of the Haitian supporters were waving Brazilian flags and cheering on
Brazil was also rather bizarre. Some of the Haitian defenders, including the
goalkeeper, gave the ball away so often that, for all we know, they might
also have been Brazil supporters.
At times Haiti was almost
as bad as Portugal in the recent European championships when the Portuguese
team lost the final to lowly Greece in front of their home supporters.
(Incidentally, hope Portuguese
readers and correspondents will accept my condolences at their team's recent
flop in the Olympic football against Iraq. I recommend a few hours of therapy
listening to a fado singer.)
About 15 minutes from
the end, Brazil looked as though it was trying to let Haiti score but the
home team was so bad that Brazil ended up netting another two goals instead.
So Brazil won a nice,
easy victory, but by agreeing to this meaningless game the team and the Brazilian
football authorities played into Lula's hands. Sic transit gloria.
John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987
and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and
finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicaçõeswww.celt.com.brwhich
specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign
clients. You can reach him at email@example.com.