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

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Omar Montero Jr.’s hillside bar in Rio de Janeiro, a ten-minute drive from the global cathedral of soccer, Maracana Stadium, is a haven for Brazilian progressives. You’ll find an impressive mural of the country’s leftist president painted on a wall. What you won’t find — at least not on Montero’s back — is perhaps the sport’s most recognizable uniform: the yellow and green jersey of the Brazilian national team.

Brazil are favored to win a record sixth title when World Cup play begins on Thursday, usually a moment of joyous anticipation in Latin America’s biggest nation because of lingering divisions after last month’s ugly presidential election. The split is tearing at the seams canarinhoThe once sacred “Little Canary” shirt was co-opted as campaign clothing before, during and after voting by supporters of the “Trump of the Tropics” – election loser Jair Bolsonaro.

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A sea of ​​yellow and green encampments set up across the country by supporters of the outgoing president to protest the election victory of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. For many Brazilians, the use of color Bolsoneristas From Pele to Ronaldinho, the beloved greats of the beautiful game pollute the jersey made famous by generations.

“I have a yellow shirt. I was wearing it,” Monteiro said, but “Man, it was so hard [now]. How they owned the shirt. It’s embarrassing to wear it. It has become the symbol of the Brazilian far right.

Bolsonaro has drawn criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his support for commercial development in the Amazon rainforest, and his insults against women, minorities and the LGBTQ community. He was narrowly defeated in the second and final round of elections held on October 30. Supporters have flocked to military bases to file unsubstantiated complaints of voter fraud.

For a continent-sized, soccer-obsessed country that usually shares a collective dream Hexa – The bid for a historic sixth title – global championship raises a deeply personal question. Will this year’s team run serve as a time for national healing? Or will it crystallize how the era of toxic politics—heated personal attacks, voter violence, baseless allegations of a stolen election—can leave lasting wounds on a nation?

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Normally a beacon of national pride, the national team is a microcosm of the country’s already polarized politics. Several players supported Bolsonaro, at least tactically, with the most obvious support coming from the biggest star, Neymar. The celebrity front-runner joined the incumbent in a live broadcast, posting a TikTok video of him singing a campaign tune. He has promised to dedicate a World Cup goal to the President.

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Meanwhile, Tait, the national coach, has publicly lamented the injection of politics into team activities. He vowed to break with tradition from the 1950s by refusing to join any team traveling to the capital to meet Bolsonaro or Lula in December if Brazil, the winningest nation in World Cup history, regains the crown. In January.

Asked about the public tug-of-war over the national football shirt last month, he told O Globo newspaper that he wanted no part of the ideological war: “I tell them, ‘That fight is with you’.”

The current national mood is a sharp contrast to the electric frenzy that swept the nation in 2002, when Brazilians cheered as one as their team roared to a record fifth World Cup title. After the vote, which Bolsonaro supporters say was stolen without evidence, some are calling for boycotts of left-wing businesses. Several Bolsoneristas have suggested that progressives decorate their businesses with the red stars of Lula’s Labor Party so that shoppers can identify their political allegiances — some on the left say it goes back to the yellow stars of David seen in the rise of Jewish businesses. The Nazi Party in Germany.

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A restaurant owner in the Brazilian city of Goiânia said her business had been added to one of the boycott lists. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said her clients tend to be progressive, which limits the financial damage. But she has been terrorized by Bolsonaro supporters targeting her online, reposting her political views alongside private family photos taken from her Instagram account and writing negative reviews of her cafe on Google.

“Maybe these attacks have worked,” she said, “because I think about not talking about politics as much anymore.”

Yellow and green shirts are ubiquitous among the thousands of Bolsonaro supporters who have gathered at the southeastern military command center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, against the election results, one of several ongoing protests since election night. Some demonstrators have called for military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in office. Popcorn is sold in green and yellow paper bags with the logo of the World Cup in Qatar.

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Luis Claudio Pereira, a retired small businessman, was one of many wearing the national shirt outside the Sao Paulo military base last week. The Bolsonaro supporter said it was more a symbol of nationalism than sport. “For me, the shirt represents Brazil, not the national team.”

He said Lula supporters were avoiding 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 symbolic of Bolsonaro.

Nike, which manufactures the official shirt, did not respond to a request for sales figures. Reports in the Brazilian press suggest a surge in domestic sales ahead of Brazil’s election – driven in part by Bolsonaro supporters. But Brazil’s alternate jersey, in dark blue, has also become popular, particularly among those troubled by the association of the yellow and green shirt with the political right.

“The division of Brazilian society stops here. A World Cup won’t make it go away,” said Marcos Nobre, a political analyst and writer. “There is also a battle on the left to reclaim the national mantle for progressives. Maybe it will work, but after all this people will still see the national shirt differently.

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In a nation where impoverished children dream of footballing their way out, and where religious shrines are dedicated to the sport, the yellow-and-green shirt has a surprising political history. It was born out of humiliating defeat – Brazil’s loss to tiny neighbors Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup – and unabashed patriotism. In 1953, a match that replaced the mostly white uniforms had one requirement: that it use the yellow, green, blue and white of the Brazilian flag.

Designed by 19-year-old newspaper artist Aldyr Schlee, the winner wore a shirt with a yellow field – hence the canarinho, or little canary – Kelly dressed in green trim, blue shorts and white socks. Years later, Schlee would be jailed for writings against the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985.

In 1970, when the dictatorship identified winning the World Cup as a domestic propaganda goal and appointed a brigadier general to head its tournament delegation, many left-wing Brazilians ditched the shirt and vowed not to support the team. Some – including future president Dilma Rousseff, who was later jailed for dissent – have described Brazil as cheering anyway.

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Polarization around the shirt faded during the democratic era, but resurfaced in 2013 when protesters against Rousseff’s left-wing government appropriated the symbol. Over the past four years, the jersey has become a trademark of diehard Bolsoneristas, encouraged by the president.

Bolsonaro asked his supporters to wear it on election day.

“More and more Brazil is painted green and yellow,” he said in an August podcast. “It’s not for trophies; It is for patriotism. Partly because of me? Yes.”

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Some on the Brazilian left are trying to reclaim the shirt. Some, including Lula’s wife, posted selfies in Jersey and made an L with their arms for the president-elect. Some wear versions with a red star, the symbol of Lula’s Workers’ Party, or the number 13, a designation assigned to the party on election ballots.

Others say it’s too late.

“The yellow shirts are calling for military intervention in the street, calling for a coup, calling for the return of the dictatorship,” writer Millie Lacombe said in a podcast last week. “I could be wrong, but I think the yellow shirt is irreversible. I don’t see how we can get this shirt back.”

Lula said this month that he will wear the jersey with pride at the World Cup.

“We should not be ashamed of wearing our green and yellow shirt,” he said. “Green and yellow do not belong to a candidate. It does not belong to 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, a renowned sports journalist in the country, said that even the left will forgive Neymar if he steps up in the coming days. “If he has a shiny trophy, people will come back. Even those who strongly dislike him regard him as their idol.

With Lula’s victory, the “climate of hatred” has begun to fade, Kafouri said.

“I think the World Cup has this character where people go out into the streets together and don’t ask who they voted for,” he said. “Perhaps the percentage of blue jerseys is higher than yellow. Maybe there will still be people who are reluctant to wear the yellow jersey. But those who don’t wear blue wear yellow anyway. Because it is the color of Brazil.

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