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
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
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
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
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 populationabout 1.3 million peoplebut
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 Comunicaçõeswww.celt.com.brwhich
specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign
clients. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.