Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Writing this in 2014, just before the World Cup, so the article may change once the soccer ends and the courts hopefully investigate the number of deaths on the soccer building sites, and the scale of corruption (not comparable with the Sochi Olympics, but even so) involved in building the site for this latest excuse for international tribalism.

[Update January 2015: no investigation has yet been announced about either; the official investigation over alleged corruption surrounding the 2002 World Cup in Qatar has been published, but in such a manner that the investigator resigned in protest and the FBI are now investigating it themselves - click here, and here, for details]

[Further update, June 2015: at last, arrests, resignations...click here for the full timeline and details]

Meanwhile, believe it or not, there is more to Brazil than soccer, though only just...one of the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China were deemed to be the new economic giants in the making; South Africa was on the original list too, though its initials are missing, rather like its diamonds, its gold, its economy and its democracy; President Zuma nonetheless has a lovely house now, complete with swimming pool, both paid for out of taxes, and AIDS is on the agenda for next year). 

But Brazil…Destruction of the rainforest appears to be its major economic strategy, with settlers being driven in by tax incentives and state-created job opportunities from the 1970s; loggers and cattle ranchers have deforested massively, but what right do we in Europe have to protest, given that we deforested 98% of Europe by the end of the 18th century and now have conservation groups trying to protect the “countryside” as a part of our heritage, when in fact that “countryside” is mostly the cultivated grass left over where the forests were cut down? 

But Brazil…In 2005 the government stopped encouraging this settlement, when it realised that one-fifth of the forest was gone, though it is still diminishing (27,000 square kilometres were lost in 2004 alone). The gap between rich and poor is of normal human proportions, which is to say vast, with almost all the arable land in the hands of a small number of families (cf Magna Carta). Peasant protest is growing (The Movement of Landless Rural Workers in particular), and throats will no doubt eventually be cut, or people simply, mysteriously, disappear. Most of what is one of the world’s largest populations lives in the main cities, and about a third of these live in slums, known as favelas. AIDS has been epidemic. Aspiring democracy – the current President, Dilma Rousseff, was jailed in 1970 for three years for involvement with the underground resistance to the military dictatorship, a statement which is not intended as a criticism of her, but as a description of how far Brazil has come from its recent fascism. She is also famous for complaining that President Obama hacked her cellphone. I'm not sure what she was fussing about; everybody knows that President Obama hacks everybody's cellphone.

Brazil's greatest contribution to humanity, of course, is soccer, which young boys learn by playing barefoot on the beach with a type of soccer ball that may become known as a Patriot - it is deliberately deflated, in this case to make it more difficult to kick. The point about this method of learning to play soccer is that, if you can control a ball effectively when it is deflated and you are barefoot, your skill increases incrementally with an inflated ball and shoes on. This is universally understood, though no one else seems to have tried it. Actually far more significant is the strange fact that Brazilian footballers are almost entirely Brazilian feetballers, and therefore technically play a different game from the rest of the world. Football, by definition, is a game played with only one foot, hence the oft-heard remark of commentators, "oh, what a shame it was on his wrong foot". Brazilian footballers - and this may be a form of cheating - play feetball, a game which assumes the equal use of both feet, something that no Englishman would ever consider gentlemanly. Brazil has won the World Cup five times, and is the only team never to have failed to qualify. What a surprise.

Brazil's other great contribution to humanity, though it is even less well known and not, I am delighted to say, unique in this regard (though almost unique), is the way it has responded to decades of military rule with an open and transparent "truth and reconciliation" process, albeit one that took five decades to come to fruition. A report on the report is available on Amnesty International's website (click here), or you can read the actual report here, provided you understand Portuguese. The report includes recommends legislation to ensure that nothing of the same order is repeated, and that human rights are formally respected. No moves yet in Parliament to bring that about, but it has only been a month since the report was published.

Pele performing a reverse pike roll and cartwheel with bent arm extension while scoring a goal with his wrong foot

Marks For: 7

Marks Against: 3

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

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