Reading columns and opinion pieces in the papers from my home country of Brazil for the latest on this year’s presidential elections, I'm noticing how frequently the expression “acabar em pizza”, or “to end in pizza” crops up.
“To end in pizza” is a saying used in scenarios following a scandal or period of political upheaval when no verdict is passed and nobody is punished. Given how widespread corruption is in Brazil, the expression crops up a lot.
The phrase – like so many others in the country – has its roots in football. It all started in the 1960s when São Paulo football club Palmeiras was going through a series of managerial and structural problems. These led to long meetings and angry discussions about its future – one of the meetings was reported to have lasted 14 hours. At the end of it 18 pizzas and many more beers were ordered to celebrate.
Milton Peruzzi, a sports journalist following the case at the time, summed up the affair. The piece was headlined “Palmeiras crisis ends in pizza”. And the expression stuck. Rio de Janeiro already had its own variant, “to end in Samba”, to describe similar situations.
In 1992 the expression began to assume an increasingly negative connotation. Instead of being used to describe the Brazilian tendency to end squabbles with a party it became a term to condemn the impunity of our politicians. At that time, people were taking to the streets to march against the incumbent president Fernando Collor de Mello, who was involved in a series of corruption scandals. The protests eventually led to his impeachment. In a court case investigating one of Collor’s many schemes, Sandra Fernandes de Oliveira – a Paulista testifying against him – famously said, “If this whole thing ends in pizza, it will be the end of our country.”
From that day onwards the saying has been splashed across the media with sadly all-too-frequent regularity when investigations into corruption are inconclusive. Scandals are discreetly shoved to the sidelines and subtly extinguished.
I think that both the positive and negative connotations of the expression “to end in pizza” says a lot about modern Brazil. The ease with which my countrymen can end an angry and passionate discussion about football with a party is an appealing trait. But if we fall into the trap of taking the same attitude when it comes to our political system – letting people off the hook, failing to hold our leaders to account – then we have a big problem.
So I’m all for ending in pizza. I just feel that our politicians need a bit more of a balanced diet.
Gaia Lutz is a researcher for Monocle 24.