By D. Luiz Miranda
The journalist Juca Kfouri, a great sport thinker in Brazil, mainly soccer, in Sabbath given to Roda Viva, in 2014,he tells that, before the Brazil World Cup, he got a call from Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Dany, Le Rouge), one of the leaders of the famous popular Parisian movement, in May 1968. Cohn-Bendit wanted to know what would explain a phenomenon among Brazilian soccer players: the high level of political participation among them. Juca, naturally, like you and I would do, questioned: “what high level?” saying the name of fewer than ten players. And the French said: “how many names of European athletes can you mention?”
Well. Who knows a little bit about the history of soccer in Brazil knows that we have, even though far from how we want to, the participation of the athletes in the political scenario. Truth be told, for better or for worse. Maybe the most emblematic case is the “corinthiana democracy”, in the 80s, that gave active voice to the athletes and workers in internal and external decisions in the team from São Paulo. In the midst of the military dictatorship, with the direct participation of Juca and other great names of the time and of Brazilian history, such as the publicist (among other things) Washington Olivetto and the players Sócrates, Casagrande, and Wladimir, the movement was also a powerful flag in the struggle for direct elections in Brazil.
More recently, we can mention the creation of the Bom Senso FC movement, with the performance of names like Paulo André and Alex, which aimed mainly at supporting the players of smaller clubs, who do not receive the media attention or the glamor of fame, helpless by CBF, the highest body of Brazilian football, in addition to adjustments to the calendar and other reforms necessary to transform the current regrettable state of Brazilian football into something closer to what – as the name of the movement says – commands common sense.
It’s true that these movements are, mostly, smothered and silenced, the bold players that improve them are expelled and, practically, only a little change. This can the theme for another text. For now, I’ll stick to soccer as a tool.
Anyone that can join two and two knows that, undeniably, when we talk about soccer, we talk about the biggest Brazilian cultural product. It’s on the internet, on the cinema, television, movies, soap operas and TV shows, in literature, in big media, in highlight positions, naturally, that the production process of heroes and symbols, national or individual ones, establish itself. And it’s also in soccer. It’s for Pelés, Martas, Zicos, and Formigas that many of the eyes among the little ones get directions from an early age. These are the voices that want to hear the Brazilians – mainly during the darkest times. No other mass product has this strength. Not in “tupiniquim” land. Darcy Ribeiro, one of the biggest public figures of the national history, also in a Roda Vida interview, in 1995, said: “the Brazilian common homeland is soccer.”
Last July, a Premier League player, the biggest national soccer league on the planet, sent an anonymous letter to “The Sun”, declaring himself a homosexual. The dramatic outline, even though not surprising, of the letter is built when the athlete says that he doesn’t feel safe to take on his real sexual orientation with team colleagues and leaders. According to him, just very close people know that he is a homosexual, and living hidden is psychological torture that affects him non-stop. Why is it like that?
Why did Thomas Hitzlsperger, a summoned player to the German team in the 2006 World Cup, took on publically his homosexuality only in 2014, after announcing his retirement? Why did Sweden Anton Haysén found his career stagnant after declaring himself gay? Why did Justin Fashanukill himself in 1998, at the age of 37, seeing his career drown after putting himself as a gay player? Why?
When it comes to Brazil, where more than 10% of the population is LGBTQIA+ and 52% of the young population can identify with this group, in gender or sexual orientation with the community, the case is even scarier. None of the most 12 thousand professional soccer players in Brazil is publically LGBT. That is, we can state the obvious: the biggest Brazilian cultural problem, “the real Brazilian homeland”, isn’t a “country for everyone”.
I need to say that here, in this topic, we are dealing only with LGBTphobia team, but the transformation of soccer as a society cell not for this theme. Sexism and racism cases, so naturalized and common, need to be understood as unacceptable and treated with a specific and keen look, reeducating the soccer scenario. Scenes like the ones seen in the valid match for the Brazilian championship, Flamengo versus Bahia, when the “Indian” Ramirez, of the Bahia team, said a “shut up, black” against the defensive midfielder Gérson, from the Rio team, need to be gotten over and treated as unacceptable. There’s no space for prejudice in soccer. This must be the action line of the soccer teams and federations, with CBF seal, internal and externally, to the municipal, state, and federal levels.
This is why soccer is a political fight space. Because it is a discussion space about our reality as a country. And it can be a social transformation tool. Life-changing. Families and communities. Dreams. And, because it is a space, it needs to be disputed and occupied. Occupied by everyone. Whatever race, gender, or social orientation you are. Not only in the “arenas”, in the command tables. As long as the ball’s workers are black, LGBT, and poor, but the top hats who make the laws and sign contracts are white, heterosexual, men, conservatives, and rich, the hope for change is small. The change needs to occur, in soccer and society, structurally. And it has already started. It’s small, but it’s started. The “feet of the work” has already been lifted to say “no”. As a community, we need to get reorganized, we need to get to know the soccer object and we need to participate in it. It’s this or barbarism. And we’ve seen enough barbarism.