Football is not only the most popular sport in Brazil; it is a defining feature of our nation. While sports like volleyball, basketball or Formula 1 do touch Brazilian hearts, football is a very piece of ourselves and of our national identity.
Almost everyone in Brazil supports a local team from a very early age. Youngsters play football on the streets and in improvised fields. Children are introduced to the very concepts of countries and nationalities through the World Cup matches, flags and team stickers. Virtually every Brazilian boy (and a growing number of girls) dreams about becoming a football player one day. It should come as no surprise that over 10,000 Brazilians play professionally all over the world.
Brazil is the only country to have won the World Cup five times – 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 – and the only one to participate in all the editions. In Brazil, everyone stops to watch the national team play. In pubs, restaurants, shops and open spaces, big screens and small TVs are all tuned in to the World Cup. Russia’s edition will not be any different. In Brazil by now, the people, the houses, the streets, the cars…, everything is adorned in the green and yellow colours of the Brazilian flag.
Football is deeply rooted in Brazil’s popular culture, and the World Cup is the time to celebrate and strengthen our national unity and self-esteem. As the lines of a famous song for the Brazilian squad in 1970 World Cup go, we are “all connected to the same emotion, everything is a single heart.” Ask any Brazilian what he/she thinks about how the team is performing, and you are likely to hear a detailed report with a full prescription for improvement. During the World Cup, everyone in Brazil is a football coach!
Brazilian passion for football is contagious. Nothing else could explain the strong support for its national team in so many different places, sometimes in distant countries that wouldn’t have strong links with Brazil otherwise. It is an essential part of our country’s soft power, through which we can spread messages of joy, peace and fair play.
While India and Brazil celebrate 70 years of bilateral relations, Brazilians’ favourite sport is becoming increasingly popular in places like West Bengal, Goa and Kerala, and in the entire North-eastern region.Football also presents an opportunity for India to make business. Both I-League(formed in 2007) and Indian Super League (created in 2013) are helping to promote and professionalize Indian football. In 2016, India hosted in Goa the first edition of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China) U-17 Football Cup during the 8th BRICS Summit.The first FIFA tournament ever hosted in the country, the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup was considered the most successful one of its kind, with a record public of 1.35 million (surpassing China’s 1985 edition). Owing to this, India has also bid to host the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
In the last decades, football became a serious global business within which Brazil plays an important role. There should be a place in the green field for India as well. Since three of the BRICS countries – South Africa in 2010, Brazil in 2014 and now Russia – have been consecutively selected to host FIFA World Cups, India’s turn for this major event may not be so distant.
Football is a fertile field for cooperation between our countries. In fact, around 20 Brazilians play currently in the Indian leagues where as our coaches and other professionals work to promote football in the country. As one of our biggest stars in the sport, Zico supported the Indian Super League in its inception and coached FC Goa for three years, until December 2016. He is famous for being the main striker of our national team in 1982, fondly remembered as the best squad not to win the World Cup.
Football is about everything that surrounds the ball: the players’ ability, the hoarse-shouting fans, the joyous cry of the winners and the tears of the defeated. As Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade once wrote: “football is played in the soul”.In football, as in other sports, winners and losers play the dialectic game of life. The true winner, it is said, must show honour and humility. The loser may find difficult to accept the result, but only defeat shows the path towards renewal.
As any Brazilian, I wish to see my national team lifting the golden trophy after the final match in Russia on next 15 July. Whether that comes true or not, the ultimate goal in the World Cup would be to fuel the dreams of youngsters everywhere, encouraging them to use the sport as a driving force for their development under the principles of fair play. Brazilian football, renowned worldwide for its graceful and creative style,sets an example within and beyond the green field.