a blog with cultural bulimia.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Soccer IS/AS a metaphor.

"Every neutral fan following this month's World Cup will want Brazil to win, and every soccer-lover with a national stake in the competition will have Brazil as his second team. Soccer is the world's biggest religion, cutting across race, faith, geography, ideology and gender like no other global phenomenon. Brazil is the religion's favorite church.

Why the love? Some of it comes from the fact that Brazil is a country without enemies. That a defeat at home to Uruguay in the World Cup final in 1950 still ranks, in all seriousness, as one of the greatest tragedies in Brazilian history bespeaks a nation without much of a war-making tradition. Brazilians prefer a rip-roaring carnival. More important, perhaps, is the appearance of racial harmony that Brazil's national team projects. Some players are black, some are white, but usually they are a blend of the two, the shades and shapes representing the range of types that come from the Amazon basin, from West Africa and from the European countries that have contributed so much to the genetic cocktail: Portugal, Italy and Germany. The first superstar of Brazilian soccer was the green-eyed, curly-haired Arthur Friedenreich, who scored the winning goal in a celebrated 1-0 victory over Uruguay in 1919. Racial stereotypes -- blacks are more graceful, say, or whites more tenacious -- break down. Ask any Brazilian who, in terms of pure skill, was the greatest Brazilian player ever, and chances are he'll be torn between the competing claims of the brown-skinned Garrincha and the blond Zico."