Is it compulsory for Brazilians to support Brazil in the World Cup?
Is it my duty as a Brazilian citizen to support my national team in the World Cup? Are football allegiance and national identity inextricable?
The answer to both questions is no. I was born and I grew up in Brazil, and I do not support the Brazilian football team. Yet I love Brazil profoundly.
Worst still, is it acceptable to hope that Brazilian loses the World Cup? Does that make you a heretic, the most loathsome and execrable traitor imaginable?
Once again, I beg to differ.
Football in Brazil is like an orthodox religion. It does not tolerate anyone who refuses it; it massacres them instead. The majority of Brazilians think that the mere desire that Brazilian loses the World Cup is the most abominable and unforgivable blasphemy.
Football allegiance in Brazil is exacerbated and pathological, the most sacred national duty. Supporting Brazil is more important than voting and paying taxes. The failure to do one of the latter is forgivable, and widely practised by Brazilians. The failure to support Scolari’s boys is not.
Football has a somniferous effect on Brazilians. It makes us delusional, dreaming that we live in a super nation, devoid of problems, merry and united in victory and prosperity. At least during the World Cup, we can be everything that we are not.
This reeks of blind patriotism and a tacit sense of superiority. Precisely the same principles that guided the world through so many wars. The difference is that our ambitions are not bellicose, unlike Hitler or Dubya. Our exacerbated patriotism only harms one people: ourselves.
The patriotic rhetoric is so powerful that one is quickly labelled as a betrayer if they don’t abide. This has often happened to me. For example, in 1998 I was a victim of verbal abuse by two total strangers on the streets of São Paulo simply because I looked happy immediately after Brazil´s defeat to France in the World Cup final. The two males deemed my merry body language thoroughly unacceptable. The matter could have easily turned violent had I not avoided confrontation.
I have never kicked a football, not even when the small kids from next door accidentally shot it my way. I don’t support any teams, neither in Brazil nor in Europe. And I think that the World Cup is a waste of time and money, in a country that has its priorities all wrong.
Perhaps I am not alone in my thinking. In June this year, millions of Brazilians took to the streets in order to protest against our failed education, healthcare, justice and police systems. They expressed their indignation at the billions squandered on capricious whims like the World Cup and the Olympics. Millions slammed Pelé and Fat Ronaldo for suggesting that we should stop protesting and unite behind our football team instead. Sadly these protests nearly died out once Brazil beat Spain in the final of the Confederations Cup. The “the giant woke up” signs were quickly replaced with “go for it Neymar”.
I still have a lot of faith in the country where I was born. I think that it has an enormous cultural and economic potential, and could become a social and diplomatic champion in the world. But we will achieve none of that through blind devotion to football. Quite the opposite: exacerbated zeal can be very toxic.