Brazil’s toxic politics stain the canarinho, the national team jersey

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Omar Monteiro Jr.’s hillside bar in Rio de Janeiro, a 10-minute drive from the Maracana Stadium, a global football mecca, is a hangout for progressive Brazilians. You’ll find a flattering mural of the country’s leftist president-elect painted on a wall. What you won’t find — at least not on Monteiro’s back — is probably the most recognizable uniform in sports: the Brazilian national The team’s yellow-green jersey.

As Brazil kick off the World Cup on Thursday, looking to win a record sixth title, lingering divisions undercut what is usually a moment of jubilation in Latin America’s largest nation following last month’s ugly presidential election.chasm is tearing Canariothe once-sacred “Little Canary” shirt, was chosen as campaign wear before, during and after supporters of “Tropical Trump” – election loser Jair Bolsonaro – voted.

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Camps set up across the country by supporters of the outgoing president to protest Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s electoral victory were a sea of ​​yellow and green.For many Brazilians, the adoption of color bolsonist is sullying a jersey made famous by generations of graceful greats from Pele to Ronaldinho’s beautiful game.

“I have a yellow shirt. I used to wear it,” Monteiro said, but “Man, it’s hard [now]. The way they appropriated shirts. It’s awkward to wear. It has become a symbol of the far right in Brazil. “

Bolsonaro has drawn criticism for his ignorance of the coronavirus pandemic, support for commercial development of the Amazon rainforest and stigmatization of women, minorities and the LGBTQ community. He narrowly lost the second and final round of elections on Oct. 30; supporters flooded military bases to complain, without evidence, of voter fraud.

For a continent-sized, soccer-crazed country, it’s common to share a common dream hexagon – Historic sixth title – The battle for the global title raises a deeply personal question. Will the team’s run this year be a moment of national healing? Or will it crystallize an era of toxic politics — overheated personal attacks, violence among voters, baseless allegations of election theft — that will leave a nation with lasting scars?

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The national team, often a beacon of national pride, is already the epitome of the country’s political polarization. At least a few players backed Bolsonaro by default, with the most explicit support coming from its biggest star: Neymar. The pick’s celebrity frontman posted a TikTok video of himself singing the campaign song and livestreamed it with the sitting president. He promised to dedicate a goal to the president at the World Cup.

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Meanwhile, national team coach Tite has publicly bemoaned the injection of politics into team affairs. If Brazil, the most victorious nation in World Cup history, wins again, he has pledged to break with tradition dating back to the 1950s by refusing to join any team that travels to the capital to meet a sitting president, whether it be Bolsonaro or Lula in December. in January.

Asked about the public tug-of-war over the national team shirts last month, he told O Globo newspaper that he did not want to engage in ideological warfare: “I said to them, ‘This battle is up to you.'”

The current national mood stands in stark contrast to the rousing carnival that swept the country in 2002, when Brazilians cheered in unison as their team won the World Cup for a record fifth time. Some have called for a boycott of left-wing businesses after Bolsonaro supporters claimed votes had been stolen without evidence. Some Bolsonaristas have suggested that progressives should adorn their businesses with the Lula Workers’ Party red star so shoppers can identify their political allegiance – an idea some on the left say recalls images painted on Jewish businesses during the rise of Jewish businesses. Yellow Star of David. Nazi Party in Germany.

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A café owner in the Brazilian city of Goiânia said her business was placed on a boycott list. The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said her clients tended to be progressive, which limited financial damage. But she is increasingly terrified as Bolsonaro supporters target her online, reposting her political views with private family photos taken from her Instagram account and slamming her cafes on Google. negative comments.

“Maybe the attacks worked,” she said, “because I was thinking about not talking too much about politics.”

Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters who opposed the election results were everywhere in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s military command center in southeastern Brazil, in one of several protests that have continued since election night. Some demonstrators have called for military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in power. Vendors in the crowd were already selling popcorn in green and yellow paper bags emblazoned with the Qatar World Cup logo.

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Retired small businessman Luiz Cláudio Pereira was one of many who donned the national team jersey last week outside the Sao Paulo military base. Bolsonaro supporters say it is more a symbol of nationalism than sport. “For me, this jersey represents Brazil, not the national team.”

He said Lula’s supporters shunned the shirt due to a lack of national pride.

“I think it’s a lack of patriotism,” he said. “That’s why they don’t want to wear it. I don’t think it’s a sign of Bolsonaro.”

Nike, which produces the official jerseys, did not respond to a request for sales figures. Reports in Brazilian media suggest a surge in domestic sales ahead of Brazil’s election – partly due to Bolsonaro supporters. But Brazil’s dark blue alternate jerseys are also popular, especially among those concerned about the association of yellow and green jerseys with the political right.

“The division of Brazilian society will persist. It will not go away because of the World Cup,” said Marcos Nobre, a political analyst and author. “There is also a struggle on the left to bring back the national uniform for progressives. Maybe it will succeed, but people will still think that this national team jersey is different.”

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In a country where poor kids dream of rising from the ghetto with football talent and religious shrines are dedicated to the game, the yellow and green jersey has a surprisingly politically charged history. It was born of humiliating defeat – Brazil’s 1950 World Cup loss to smaller neighbor Uruguay – and unabashed patriotism. A 1953 race that replaced what was then mostly white uniforms had one requirement: It used the yellow, green, blue and white colors of the Brazilian flag.

The winner, designed by 19-year-old newspaper illustrator Aldyr Schlee, was a yellow shirt – hence the canarinho, or little canary – lined with Kelly green trim, paired with blue shorts and white socks. Years later, Schley would be imprisoned for his writings that clashed with the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985.

When the authoritarian government made World Cup victory a domestic propaganda goal in 1970 and appointed a brigadier general to lead its tournament delegation, many left-wing Brazilians eschewed the jersey and vowed not to support the team. Some — including future president Dilma Rousseff, then jailed as a dissident — described cheering for Brazil no matter what.

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Polarization around the shirt faded in the democratic era, but made a comeback in 2013, when protesters against Rousseff’s leftist government seized the sign. For the past four years, the jersey has become the hallmark of the recalcitrant Bolsonaristas, encouraged by the president.

Bolsonaro asked his supporters to wear it on Election Day.

“More and more Brazil is being painted green and yellow,” he said in an August podcast. “It’s not about the mug; it’s about patriotism. Part of me? Yes.”

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Some on the Brazilian left are trying to reclaim the jersey. Some, including Lula’s wife, are posting selfies in the jersey and making an L sign with their hands for the president-elect. The name assigned to the party on an election ballot.

Others say it’s too late.

“Yellow shirts are in the streets calling for military intervention, calling for a coup, calling for a return to dictatorship,” author Millie Lacombe said on a podcast last week. “I could be wrong, but I think the yellow jersey is irretrievable. I don’t know how… we can get the shirt back.”

Lula said this month he would be proud to wear the jersey during the World Cup.

“We don’t have to be ashamed of wearing our green and yellow shirts,” he said. “Green and yellow don’t belong to the candidates. It doesn’t belong to either party. Green and yellow are the colors of the 213 million people who love this country.”

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Some here hope that the World Cup will begin to heal a divided country.

Juca Kfouri, one of the country’s most prominent sports journalists, says that even the left will forgive Neymar if he plays well in the coming days. “If his glass is good, people will come back. Even people who hate him will make him their idol.”

With Lula’s victory, the “climate of hatred” began to fade, Kfouri said.

“I think the World Cup will have that characteristic, people going out into the streets together, not asking who they voted for,” he said. “Maybe there will be more blue jerseys than yellow jerseys. Maybe there will be people who don’t want to wear yellow jerseys. But people who don’t have blue will wear yellow anyway. Because it is the color of Brazil.”

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