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

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The hills of Omar Monteiro Jr. in Rio de Janeiro, a ten-minute drive from the Maracana Stadium – the world’s largest football stadium – is where Brazil’s forwards are. You will find a beautiful picture of a leftist presidential candidate painted on the wall. What you won’t find — at least not on Monteiro’s back — is what might be the most iconic piece of clothing in sports: The yellow and green jersey of the Brazilian national team.

As Brazil kicks off Thursday’s World Cup campaign designed to win a sixth title, what could have been a moment of joyous anticipation in the Latin American nation has been tempered by the divisiveness that followed last month’s disastrous presidential election. The division is tearing at the seams canarinhothe once sacred shirt “little canary”, which was chosen as campaign clothes before, during and after the election by the supporters of “Trump of the Tropics” – the loser of the election Jair Bolsonaro.

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Camps established across the country by supporters of the president who continue to protest the electoral victory of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are seas of yellow and green. For many Brazilians, the acceptance of color in the Bolsonaristas it tarnishes the jersey made famous by generations of the Great Game’s greats, from Pelé to Ronaldinho.

“I have a yellow shirt. I was wearing it,” Monteiro said, but “man, it’s too hard [now]. The way they dressed themselves. It’s embarrassing to wear it. It has become a symbol of Brazil’s extreme right. ”

Bolsonaro has been criticized for his dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic, his support for the commercial development of the Amazon forest and his insults against women, minorities and the LGBTQ community. He lost the second and final election in Oct. 30; supporters flocked to military bases to complain, without evidence, of voter fraud.

For a continent-sized, football-mad country that would normally share a common dream for hexa – the sixth historic title – the bid for the world championship raises a serious personal question. Will the team’s run this year serve as a national recovery? Or will it shed light on how an era of toxic politics – fanatical personal attacks, violence between voters, baseless allegations of stolen elections – can leave lasting scars on society?

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The national team, often a beacon of national pride, has become a sub-division of national politics. A few players have at least tacitly supported Bolsonaro, with clear support from the biggest star: Neymar. The celebrity candidate posted a TikTok video of himself singing a campaign song and joined an attendee at the live broadcast. He promised to hand over the World Cup goal to the president.

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Meanwhile, Tite, the national coach, publicly lamented the introduction of politics into club affairs. If Brazil, the winningest nation in World Cup history, is to take the crown again, it has vowed to break a tradition dating back to the 1950s by refusing to join any team on the tour of the capital. to meet the sitting president, either Bolsonaro in December or Lula. in January.

When asked about the public controversy over the public football shirt last month, he told the newspaper O Globo that he did not want to participate in the ideological battle: “I tell you, that battle lies in you.’”

The current mood in the country is a stark contrast to the euphoric celebration that swept the country in 2002, when Brazilians cheered in unison as their team roared to a fifth FIFA World Cup trophy. The world. After the election, which Bolsonaro’s supporters say without proof was rigged, some have called for the seizure of the remaining businesses. Several Bolsonaristas have suggested that progressives decorate their businesses with the red star of Lula’s Workers’ Party so that customers can identify their political allegiance – an idea that some on the left say is backfiring. to the yellow Stars of David painted on Jewish businesses during the Nazi era in Germany.

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A cafe owner in the Brazilian city of Goiânia says his business has been added to the same list of extortionists. The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said her clients are turning away from progress, which minimizes financial damage. But she has become alarmed as Bolsonaro’s supporters target her online, post her political views on private family photos taken from her Instagram account and write negative reviews of her cafe on Google .

He said: “Maybe these attacks have worked, because I think I should not talk too much about politics.”

Yellow and green shirts are common among thousands of Bolsonaro supporters protesting the election results at Brazil’s Southeastern Military Command Center in São Paulo, one of several protests which has been going on since election night. Some protesters have called for military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in office. Crowd vendors sold popcorn in green and yellow paper bags with the logo of the World Cup in Qatar.

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Luiz Cláudio Pereira, a retired small business man, was one of many last week wearing a national shirt outside a military base in São Paulo. Bolsonaro’s supporter said it is more of a national symbol than a sports one. For me, the shirt represents Brazil, not the national team.

He said Lula’s supporters were hiding the jersey because of 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 symbol of Bolsonaro. “

Nike, which produces the official shirt, did not respond to a request for sales figures. Brazilian media reports suggest an increase in domestic sales ahead of Brazil’s election – partly driven by Bolsonaro’s supporters. But Brazil’s other jersey, a deep blue, is also popular, especially among those worried about the association of the yellow and green shirt with the political right.

“The division in Brazilian society is still there. It will not end because of the World Cup,” said Marcos Nobre, a political analyst and writer. “There is also a struggle on the left to bring back the national shirt for progressives. Maybe it will work, but people will still see the national shirt differently after all this.”

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In a society where poor kids dream of emerging from the favelas with soccer talent, and where religious shrines are dedicated to the game, the yellow and green shirt has a surprisingly dark political history. It was born out of a humiliating defeat – the loss of the 1950 World Cup by Brazil to its little neighbor Uruguay – and an unabashed love of country. The 1953 competition to replace the white uniform at the time had one requirement: To use the yellow, green, blue and white Brazilian flag.

The winner, designed by 19-year-old newspaper artist Aldyr Schlee, was a shirt with a yellow stripe – hence the canarinho, or little canary – lined with Kelly green and dressed in blue pants and white socks. Years later, Schlee would be imprisoned for writings that opposed the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985.

In 1970, when the dictatorship declared the World Cup victory the target of domestic propaganda and appointed a brigadier general to lead its tournament delegation, many left-wing Brazilians recoiled. shirt and vowed not to support the team. Others – including future president Dilma Rousseff, who was then in prison as a dissident – described Brazil’s revival.

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The polarization surrounding the shirt faded during the democratic era, but it resurfaced in 2013, when protesters against Rousseff’s left-wing government took over the symbol. Four years ago, the jersey became a symbol of die-hard Bolsonaristas, at the president’s instigation.

Bolsonaro asked his supporters to wear it on election day.

“Brazil is increasingly painted in green and yellow,” he said on an August podcast. “It is not for the cup; it is for patriotism. Part of it because of me? Yes.”

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Some on the Brazilian left are trying to get the shirt back. Others, including Lula’s wife, posed for selfies in jerseys and made the L sign with their hands for the president-elect. Others wore versions with a red star, the symbol of Lula’s Workers’ Party, or the number 13, the name given to the party in connection with the election.

Some say it is too late.

“The yellow shirts are on the street calling for military intervention, calling for extradition, calling for the return of tyranny,” writer Milly Lacombe said on a podcast last week. I could be wrong, but I think the yellow shirt cannot be redeemed. I don’t see how… we can get this shirt back. ”

Lula said this month she will wear the jersey with pride during the World Cup.

He said: “We should not be ashamed of wearing our green and yellow shirt. “Green and yellow are not for the candidate. It is not a party. Green and yellow are the colors of 213 million people who love this country.”

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Some here hope the World Cup can begin to heal a divided nation.

Juca Kfouri, one of the most famous sports journalists in the country, said that even the left will forgive Neymar if he rises in the coming days. “If he has a bright cup, people will come back. Even those who hate him deeply will make him their image.

With Lula’s victory, Kfouri said, the “state of hatred” has started to end.

“I think the World Cup will have this format, of people going to the streets together, and not asking who they voted for,” he said. “Maybe there will be a higher percentage of blue jerseys than yellow ones. Maybe there will still be people reluctant to wear the yellow jersey. But people who don’t have blue will wear yellow. Because it is the color of Brazil. ”

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