EYE ON CULTURE: Brazil and the World Cup
Even if you have heard very little about Brazil, you probably know soccer is a big thing here. In fact, for a long time Brazil was known mostly for its soccer, its Carnaval (its version of Mardi Gras), its beautiful women and, perhaps, its forests. Unfortunately, considering that Brazil is a huge and extremely diverse country in so many senses, that is a very limited view of the country. However, as we are a few days away of the World Cup, today I want to speak about soccer. The World Cup is something that has always brought about an overall sense of excitement, regardless of whether one is or not a soccer lover. It is the time people bring out their flags and most everyone shows a tad of patriotism. Of all of the World Cups I have witnessed in my lifetime, three come to mind. The first is also the first World Cup I remember, held in Mexico, in 1986. I lived in a small town in northeastern Brazil, and I recall being enthralled by the big, spontaneous party in the streets after Brazil won one of the games. There were firecrackers and people parading and dancing in the town plaza.
Others drove up and down the cobblestone streets honking their horns, the vehicles full of people half out of the windows or even on top of the cars, shouting “Brazil, Brazil!”, while waving their flags.
Unfortunately, Brazil did not win that cup, and the heavy silence that followed was a big contrast to that party, even to myself, who barely knew about soccer then and didn’t really understand what was going on. Fast forward to the 1990s. 1994 was a big mark, of course, because Brazil won the cup for the fourth time. I was a teenager and much of the excitement was because so-and-so players were cute. The mother of a friend got a couple of autographs of the team captain for me and a friend of mine, which I still have. The upside was that I was visiting family in the United States, where we watched the games together and where the cup was actually happening (although I didn’t go to any games live). On the other hand, I remember being somewhat bummed because I was still travelling when the players returned to Brazil and paraded in one of the main streets of my city to commemorate the victory. And, of course, there was a big party that I missed. The third cup that I recall with fondness happened in 2006. One of my best childhood friends, who is from India and presently lives in Singapore, came over to visit, and we watched some games together. The World Cup always brings special memories of our friendship as she was a soccer enthusiast (she’s the friend who got the other autograph!), and we always saw the games together as teenagers. Unfortunately, that cup in 2006 was the last time we saw each other in person.
This year, the World Cup will be in Brazil. In fact, one of the games will be in a town neighboring mine. When one of the World Moms Blog editors suggested I write a post about the pre-cup climate here in Brazil it made me realize two things: 1) how detached I have been from this whole World Cup thing lately and how little excitement anticipation of the games have brought me this time 2) a sense that I might not be the only one feeling this way.
The last time the World Cup was held in Brazil was in 1970. Had a World Cup occurred here during my adolescent years, it would have been a big happening for my friends and I! Yet ,now, we have three kids, a demanding job and very little spare time; and what I really have been looking forward to are the days I will have off because of the games and how much overdue work I will get done while others watch the games.
Yes, in case you don’t know, everything stops here during the games that involve Brazil – stores close, companies send their employees home early or TVs get turned on in the companies themselves, and so on. Basically everyone stops to watch the game, no matter what day of the week.
That takes me to the second point. As I said, I have been a little detached from this whole World Cup reality, so I don’t know how accurate the following words will be, but the feeling I get is that the excitement is not as big as it would have been a few years ago, and it probably is a good sign. When it was first decided that the cup would be here in 2014, there truly was a sense of excitement, not only for the championship itself, but because of possible job, business opportunities and the like.
Yet, the years went by and people witnessed millions (billions?) spent on stadiums and other cup-related costs, while so many other essential areas need investment, notably education and health care.
To illustrate, here is a joke that has been going around these days. The parents take their newborn baby to the notary to get his birth certificate. When the notary asks what they are going to name the baby, the mother says: “World Cup Stadium – that way the government will surely invest in him!” As I said, I don’t know how accurate this perception of lesser excitement is, or if I am an anomaly, but if it is true, I take it as a good sign. It means that the population is maturing and that at least part of it won’t fall for the bread and circus trick any longer. Not that the World Cup, soccer or any kind of entertaining is bad in itself – but, as a country, there must be priorities.
Are you a Brazilian mother? If so, do you share the same sentiment? And, for all the World Moms out there, who will you be supporting in the games?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by EcoZiva in Brazil.