Football and endurance – 06/07/2021 – Guilherme Boulos

The holding of the Copa America in Brazil, close to 500,000 deaths, is an outrage. A slap in the face, as the narrator Luis Roberto defined it. From Bolsonaro and from the CBF, nothing is expected, but the resistance of Tite and the players, voiced by defensive midfielder Casemiro, brought some encouragement. Too bad it didn’t last long. The pressure was stronger and the group backed off, but if it decided to go ahead, inspiration would not be lacking.

In 1970, during the leaden years of the dictatorship, General Médici wanted to intervene in the call for the selection of João Saldanha, who replied: “the president chooses his ministry and I choose my team”. He was fired, at the behest of the dictator, on the eve of the World Cup. But before that, João Sem Fedo —as he was known— used the draw of groups in Mexico to distribute a dossier denouncing the regime’s torture and imprisonment. Some time later, Saldanha defined Médici as the “greatest murderer in the history of Brazil” and justified his decision saying that he “could not condone with such a being”.

Another one who honored the hopscotch was striker Reinaldo. Atlético Mineiro’s top scorer celebrated his goals with a clenched fist, in the manner of the Black Panthers, in a gesture against racism and dictatorship. “Authoritarianism dumbs down society,” he said. Before embarking for the 1978 World Cup, General Geisel gave him a message of intimidation: “Go play ball, let us do politics”. In response, in the game against Sweden, Reinaldo scored Brazil’s goal and, in the eyes of the world, celebrated in his own way. Coherence cost him, two games later, his starting spot and later his veto in the 1982 World Cup after a smear campaign. “The country’s fascist body has started to undermine me,” he said, not backing down from his positions.

It is impossible to talk about the encounter between football and resistance without mentioning Socrates. Icon of Corinthian Democracy and an active figure in the Directs movement, the Doctor made history both on and off the field. He gave an example of how a player can use popular prestige to represent society’s feeling of indignation. In the case of the attacks on Reinaldo, he mocked the pretext of “cachaceiro” to take him out of the Cup: “I drank in one night what the King drank in a year”.

Anyway, we’ve already had great idols of the national team challenging the arbitrations of power. It is true, as Juca Kfouri recalled, that Tite is not João Saldanha. And we are far from having someone like Reinaldo or the Doctor in our cast. But if he decided today to challenge Bolsonaro, the team would go down in history, with an incomparably larger size than any title it could bring. And, to top it off, it would rescue the honor of the canary shirt, so stained by misappropriations. They missed a golden opportunity.

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