By Wale Ajibade (African Views Organization)
Thanks to Soccer, Africans are at Home in the World
A Soccer world cup in Brazil changes everything. All participating countries have had to qualify for the tournament and each one is anxious and very determined to make a valuable airtime opportunity count while the whole world watches. Every team has been well prepared, and each player is at the peak of their performance and the whole atmosphere is filled with host of unbridled passionate audience. This statement simply describes the permanent sentiment about soccer in Brazil where the national interest in soccer is unrivaled and serves as benchmark for the soccer enthusiasts around the world. Brazil has won the tournament 5 times since the official inception of the world cup on July 13, 1930, and is currently the most successful nation in the world cup tournaments especially for having being the only team to have played in every tournament.
But these may not be the only reason why having the World Cup tournament in Brazil in 2014 changes everything. Brazil has hosted the tournament before in 1950 but this particular tournament will go down in history as a special world event that changes the paradigm of diversity and inclusion in national representation as well as sets a vision of branding a new world image. There are many sports in the world today that are crossing national boundaries, but there is none like soccer in terms of business, social influence, solidarity and global impact, that makes Soccer the most popular sport in the world, and Brazil — the most favorite Soccer nation.
Football is taken very seriously in Brazil and the world respects that. During the World Cup, workers pause from their duties to watch their team in action, and banks shut down three hours before matches to allow their workers to prepare for the game. Soccer reflects a nation’s culture, especially in South America and Africa because it permeates all levels of a society. Credit of this Brazilian development cannot fully be understood without Nelson Rodrigues and Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known as Pelé, the King of Soccer.
The journalist, writer, and playwright Nelson Rodrigues wrote an editorial to encourage the Brazilian national soccer team in his column for the magazine Manchete Esportiva at the advent of the World cup scheduled to take place in Sweden in 1958. He reflected on the so-called Maracanazo, which translates from Portuguese to the ‘Maracana Stadium blow’ in English. This term helps to truly appreciate the significance of the World Cup of 1950 and its influence on the Brazilian psyche. The unexpected loss to Uruguay had such an emotional and psychological impact on the Brazilian society in general that it is considered to be a national tragedy. Aldo Rebelo, the Brazilian minister of sport, suggests that “Losing to Uruguay in 1950 not only impacted on Brazilian football. It impacted on the country’s self-esteem. Moacir Barbosa, the goalkeeper of the Brazilian team, suffered the most as a result of the tragic defeat. As goalkeeper, he suffered endless criticism from Brazilians who blamed him for the defeat. Since Barbosa was of African descent, racism often pervaded the criticism, making it all the more painful.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Afro Brazilians were scapegoats, and it was common to blame them for society’s various problems. However, during the 1930s, a group of particularly gifted Afro Brazilian football players became national heroes and, as a result, they encouraged their compatriots to appreciate the diversity of their country. Since the 1930s, football has served to unify Brazil. Although many of the football players admired in Brazil in the 1950s were black, such as Didi and Léonidas da Silva, Barbosa’s plight demonstrates that the Brazilian society of the era was still marked by prejudice and racism. To shake this paradigm, Nelson Rodrigues used the term “mongrel complex” to describe the lack of self-confidence among the Brazilian people and to provoke the contrary.
“When the Brazilian footballer shakes off his inhibitions and reaches a state of grace there is no other player in the world that can match him in terms of fantasy, improvisation and invention,” wrote Rodrigues. “We have, in short, an excess of talent. The national team’s problem isn’t about football any more, or technique or tactics. Its problem is self-belief. Brazilians must convince themselves that they are not mongrels and that they have more than enough ability to go to Sweden and succeed. To be or not to be a mongrel: that is the question for the national team.”
The Brazilian team went to compete in Sweden in 1958 with a new mindset. Their objective was to reclaim the glory due them and there was no one else on the team more determined than the Rookie, Pele. Chesting down a cross inside the box, Pele flicked the ball over the nearest defender’s head and volleyed home for one of the finest goals ever scored in the finals. Pele’s second goal of the day was with an injury-time header. “When I passed to Didi, I made as if I was going to run forward but turned back instead. That confused the defender a little and he let the ball come through to me. When I controlled it on my chest he thought I was going to shoot. I got my foot on it and flicked it over his head, which was something the Europeans weren’t used to. They always tried to close you down because they were used to people shooting straightaway. I hit the ball before it touched the ground and in it went. It was one of the most beautiful goals of my career,” Brazil’s Pele relives his side’s third goal.
When Brazil defeated the host nation 5 – 2 in the final, they had freed a society off the mongrel complex and shaped the destiny of a nation, reborn with new strength and belief. Brazil would ever be the same again. What Brazil didn’t know is how much of their enthusiasm and valiant exhibition have impacted the rest of the world. Nelson had given a people a tool to shift their paradigm and Pele helped the nation to move on from the failures of the past. Pele’s influence as a Brazilian of Africans descent has had an unimaginable impact around the world. 1958 was a memorable year in Brazilian history and not just because of the achievements of the national team. The country’s president, Juscelino Kubitscheck, instigated a period of near-miraculous economic growth, giving the green light to the construction of the new administrative capital Brasilia and overseeing the manufacture of the first all-Brazilian-built cars.
On the cultural front the guitarist Joao Gilberto came up with a revolutionary sound for the Elizete Cardoso song Chega de Saudade (No More Blues), regarded as the first formal example of bossa nova, a uniquely Brazilian style of music that would earn worldwide recognition. The writer and journalist Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos later pen a book entitled1958: The Year That Should Never Have Ended.
The society had found a way to make Brazil a home for Brazilians of African descent. It has found a way and a mean for cultural harmony. And with soccer, in the face of the world was able to demonstrate the efficacy of its diversity and inclusion in national representation. Many nations have all demonstrated their cultural diversity and inclusion of immigrant population in the composition and selection of their national team. An interesting article by Jason Overdorf, titled: Here’s what World Cup teams would look like if immigrants weren’t allowed to play and another article on How Does Immigration Affect the Teams at the World Cup? Countries that are late in being inclusive will take longer to attain cultural harmony. While soccer is not the only means to achieve this end, it has become an undeniable most comprehensive idea of competitive showmanship and cultural phenomenon across the globe. Brazil has already achieved the social goal of soccer and it should no longer matter if it wins or loses a soccer tournament. Regardless of who wins the World Cup, the tournament will contain much profound symbolism of cultural harmony and cultural strength, and that is all that it takes for any World tournament to be fascinating. The following table is titled ‘Africans at home in the world’: the content is based on statistical demonstration of percentage of persons of African heritage representing their various countries in diaspora during this tournament:
|Country||Total Team Members||Number of persons of African heritage in National Team||% of representation in National team||% of people of African heritage in the country’s population|