I’ve never been a major football fan but I have to admit, when it comes to it, my country does it very well and we should be proud of it. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about – the country in question is Brazil – the “land of carnival, football and samba,” as the stereotype goes. But I mean this without a single hint of irony.
It is getting tiring to read many self-righteous articles back home that are part of the pre-World Cup fever putting down Brazil and all the attention football has been receiving. Of course, as they are saying, the country should invest more in education, health, and it still has much it needs to deliver on. But while Brazil is hosting the World Cup during a turbulent social period in its history, I don’t think we should look at the event through such a negative prism. It is an opportunity to put the country in the spotlight on the world stage, and I’ve always thought that Brazil punches below its weight in international politics. An event like this could certainly change things.
Football is Brazil’s most powerful form of soft power. Ask anyone, from Angola to Saudi Arabia, and they would know the name of a Brazilian football star. As I said, my knowledge of football is quite limited but I have to admit that I feel a tiny sense of pride knowing that we have five World Cup titles – more than any other country – it is the field where we are truly the best in the world and that’s a nice feeling.
Some Brazilian commentators and some members of the Brazilian middle class should stop being so dismissive of our popular pastimes. Many of my friends criticise while the country waits anxiously for the final episode of a homegrown telenovela but for those same friends it’s fine to be excited for the final episode of Breaking Bad. Opinions aside, they are the same thing. Go north and I can tell you many Swedes will be in thrall of their regional music competition Melodifestivalen and Americans will certainly be enjoying the Super Bowl.
So there’s nothing wrong with grabbing an ice-cold beer to watch the football and you can even Samba if you want – if your team wins, of course.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.