Brazil | ‘Invisible chain of solidarity’ (w/ podcast)

Why don’t I write about football? And then I got to the answer immediately. I said because there is passion. This is something of course you can describe in a book, but [for] the experience of a sport, of football, you have to watch television, to listen to the radio, to go to the stadium. And I read some books on football. And I think they lack this emotion. They try to analyze it. They try to make some philosophies around what is happening. … It is something you should feel. It’s like love. You can read many books on love, but at the end of the day, it is your heart that is in love or is not in love.

Several notable Brazilian authors, of course, have worked to shape the sport and the Brazilian fascination into literary form. Playwright Nélson Rodrigues in crônica style, Luiz Vilela in short stories and Edilberto Coutinho in the story cycle Maracanã Adeus (translated into English as Bye, Bye Soccer) have made noteworthy efforts. Novelist Jorge Amado in A Bola e o Goleiro, a children’s tale, “tells the story of a ball who falls in love with a talentless goalkeeper,” writes Alex Bellos in Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life (Bloomsbury, 2002).

But despite the list of native literary and musical tributes to o jogo bonito, Coelho says he would not favor a companion cultural program to the 2014 event—at least not on the order of the €30 million that Germany invested in such attractions in 2006 (see “The Artistic and Cultural Programme to the FIFA World Cup 2006”). “This is something that I am really not concerned with. What I am concerned with is really to have the infrastructure, to show how Brazil is and not what we read in the press.” Coelho continues:

They think first of all that there is violence down there, that we don’t respect the environment, that we are lazy, that we only think about football, samba and Carnival. And this is not true. To put a World Cup together you’re going to see that you need to work in all possible fields, like engineering … many, many technical things. And then you’re going to see how we respect our environment, how we really take care of our people. We don’t have as much money as you have, but there is an invisible chain of solidarity in Brazil that, from the moment that the government cannot do things, the people do [them] down there. This is what keeps Brazil moving on. I hope that the World Cup will allow us to show this.


The musical snippet in the introduction to the Coelho podcast, “Futebol,” comes from Holland-based electronica band Zuco 103. They are led by Brazilian vocalist Lilian Vieira.

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