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Brazzil - Sports - July 2004

Brazil's Shameful National Team

None of Brazil's star players took part at the recent Copa America.
These part-time patriots decided they were too "tired" after
their lengthy commitments in Europe to turn out for their country.
The fans, who actually pay to see the game, were presented
with inferior goods. These stars should be ashamed of themselves.

John Fitzpatrick


Picture The Brazilian victory against Argentina in the Copa America football championship was a hollow one. The team was outplayed by its Argentinean rivals and the game itself was pretty dreadful, enlivened only by an exciting goal in the last 15 seconds of extra time which allowed Brazil to win on penalties.

No wonder the streets of São Paulo were quiet afterwards and everyone went back to the normal Sunday evening routine of ordering a pizza and getting ready to go back to work on Monday morning. Brazil also won the semi final match against Uruguay on penalties so, despite the eulogies in the press, we cannot regard this as a triumph.

At the same time, it has to be acknowledged that this was a B side. None of the star players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Roberto Carlos or Kaká took part. These part-time patriots decided they were too "tired" after their lengthy commitments in Europe to turn out for their country, especially in a mere regional championship like this one.

The national manager, Carlos Alberto Parreira, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the ruling international body FIFA agreed that these overpaid, pampered players did not need to turn out.

This meant that the fans, who actually pay to see the game, were presented with inferior goods. Can you imagine going into a restaurant and being told that the "fresh salmon" on the menu is actually frozen fish fingers but it's still called wild salmon?

These stars should be ashamed of themselves, especially Ronaldo, who once tried to have the number of goals credited to Pelé in international matches reduced, and Kaká, who has only been in Italy for about a year.

It is only a pity that the B side did not produce any outstanding player who could replace them. Although Adriano scored seven goals and was hailed as the best player, he is still no threat to Ronaldo or Ronaldo Gaúcho while up and coming stars like Alex and Diego were a bit disappointing.

The game was also marred by the team switching from its famous green and yellow shirts to a boring white shirt bearing the symbol of the CBF to receive the trophy.

The shirts did not have the players' names on the back and the move was nothing but a marketing gimmick by one of the multinational sports clothing and equipment companies which I won't name since it gets enough free publicity elsewhere.

One final complaint, which is more serious than the others, concerns the cavalier way in which Parreira allowed the defender Luisão to remain on the field after he had clashed his head against an Argentinean player. Luisão fainted and was clearly disoriented.

However, he was allowed to return to the field where he stayed for another 20 minutes before fainting again and being rushed to the hospital. How a football manager can treat one of his players like this without being reprimanded is scandalous and shows the lack of concern the CBF has for some players as well as fans.

For Portuguese Eyes Only

Guess where President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is at the time of writing? At his desk in Brasília trying to meet his election pledge to double the real value of the minimum wage by 2006? Visiting poor rural areas to see how the Zero Hunger campaign is operating?

Meeting business leaders to try and find ways to create new jobs? Creating new policies which will lead to a fall in Brazil's sky-high interest rates? No. Our President is visiting the African island state of São Tomé e Príncipe for a summit meeting of an organization called the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.

This outfit, created in 1996, groups Brazil, Portugal and a handful of the world's poorest countries which Portugal abandoned virtually overnight in the 1970s after exploiting them for centuries.

What this meeting of Portuguese-speaking presidents will achieve is a mystery, but Lula obviously thinks it merits his attendance. (I contacted the CPLP, as it is known, about two years ago and asked for some information about its aims, membership and finances but so far have not had a reply.)

From São Tomé e Príncipe Lula will visit a more economically successful African state, the former French colony of Gabon which is rich in oil. From there it is back to normal with a visit to another poverty-stricken remnant of the Portuguese empire, Cape Verde, before returning to Brazil.

Maybe this summit will be some kind of compensation for the Portuguese who need to feel they are big players on the international stage after being defeated at home in the final of the European championship by rank outsiders Greece.

Land of Peace and Love

Many foreign visitors to Brazil are surprised by the large number of Japanese we have here, particularly in the São Paulo region. In fact, these people are generally not Japanese but Brazilians of Japanese descent.

They form only around 0.7 percent of the national population—about 1.3 million people—but in São Paulo state they are reckoned to make up about 8 percent.

The Japanese first started emigrating here almost a century ago and events are being planned to mark the centenary. They have thrived here and are totally integrated, with none of the xenophobia and coldness which is often associated with real Japanese.1

This ability to make people from different races assimilate and feel at home is one of Brazil's greatest attributes. A newspaper recently featured cases of Brazilians of Arab and Jewish background who had married in a way which would be almost unthinkable in the Middle East.

This is not the case in other Latin America countries such as Argentina, where Jewish institutions have been bombed and dozens killed, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico where Indians still resent the imposition of Spanish culture and Guyana where the descendants of African slaves and East Indian indentured workers distrust each other.

We foreigners are lucky to live in such a country.

1 For more on Japanese and other Asian groups in Brazil see my article "Feijoada with Soy Sauce" published last year in Brazzil - http://www.brazzil.com/pages/p146feb03.htm

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 Comunicações—www.celt.com.br—which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br.
© John Fitzpatrick 2004

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