On Sunday 30 October the second round of the presidential elections was voted in Brazil. A second round that sanctioned the victory of Lula da Silva, who managed to defeat the Brazilian far-right candidate Bolsonaro.
Beyond the political analyzes – of the sympathies or hostilities comrades in our latitudes towards the Partido dos Trabalhadores – an interesting point of view on the question is certainly that offered by the endorsements received in the election campaign by the former president Bolsonaro by athletes of different disciplines, in a country where sportsmen are mass idols and where there is a very thriving economic sector linked to physical activity.
This helps to think about the dynamics of propaganda, the construction of consensus and the so-called sport washing. These dynamics are very present in the current political-social contingency and which played an important role in the Brazilian elections.
Many have wondered, for example, why footballers like Neymar, Kaka, Cafù, Ronaldinho, Felipe Melo have expressed their support without inhibitions for a candidate like Bolsonaro – considered by many unpresentable for his political positions – to the point of alienating themselves the sympathy of several fans.
In particular, strong controversy sparked Neymar’s TikTok video, right on the eve of the first electoral round at the beginning of October, especially because the PSG player comes from a background made of extreme poverty and deprivation, and the outgoing president does not seem like a champion. of the popular classes. Romario, the historic world champion of 1994, is also a Bolsonarist of the first hour and was re-elected in the first round, again a senator.
Beyond personal choices, in short, there seems to be something more complex: something that has to do with the social role of athletes and their weight within the country. They move a lot of votes and are therefore coveted prey to exhibit. This Bolsonaro has understood very well – already from his first candidacy – and continues to reproduce the mechanism of seeking consensus through the use of the public profile of successful sportsmen.
But football, certainly the most popular sport, was not the only discipline to spend the re-election of the outgoing president. Particularly interesting is what happened around the world of combat sports.
Already in 2018, the year of Bolsonaro’s election, prominent Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) athletes had registered massive support for the far-right candidate.
Also this time it was the same and some athletes even participated directly in the electoral competition in linked lists or direct expression of the former president.
Above all, Wanderlei Silva, former champion of the Pride and sacred monster of MMA, candidate in the state of Paraná, who has repeatedly gone down in the first person to support the cause of Bolsonaro’s re-election, both with a pounding job on social media and with various initiatives in square. Wanderlei Silva is not just an athlete but one of the pioneers of the sport, with a huge following gained thanks to his aggressive and spectacular style.
Central to Bolsonaro was also the support of important members of the Gracie family, the founders of the BJJ, who have built very close relations with the outgoing president, also thanks to a series of foundations that have become partners in public initiatives in the field of sport. and volunteering. Both Renzo, Royca, Royler and Reyson Gracie did not skimp on the work of the former army captain who became president and repeatedly stressed that Brazil without Bolsonaro “is lost”.
On social media, a photo taken between September and October has recently become viral in which old and new names of MMA have been portrayed together with Bolsonaro in what looks like an investiture: there were Jose Aldo, Fabricio Werdum, Maurizio Shogun Rua, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cyborg Abreu and Buchecha. Many former UFC world champions, but above all characters who have a huge following and who are very influential within the Brazilian martial community.
Besides them, Marcello Brigadero, Anderson Silva, Paulo Costa, Rafael dos Anjos, Bigfoot Silva, Thiago Tavares, Andre Galvao, Fabio Maldonado, Jacare Souza, the UFC champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Patrício Pitbull Freire have never hidden their faith. wore his Bellator champion belt in homage to Bolsonaro.
What is striking is not so much the massive support from a community, but the absence, at least in its top management, of conflicting voices. There was some silence, but none – and this is indicative – of the most prominent athletes expressed their support for Lula.
A possible explanation for this crushing on Bolsonarism could be of a “culturalist” type: the Brazilian martial world is strongly imbued with a classist and elitist sentiment inherited from Japanese culture that flirts with the military, which does not really boast a “liberal” tradition , and which has a visceral connection with the world of combat sports.
Certainly a central role is also played by the evangelical churches to which many of the athletes mentioned adhere. In fact, the Gospel-Pentecostal galaxy was one of the foundations of Bolsonaro’s power.
But in reality, much more brutally, the MMA and BJJ fighters in Brazil today are very rich and privileged people who defend their possessions and who are ready to support the political party that most protects and cares for their interests. In the end, in short, it seems more a question of structure than of superstructure.
* from Popular Sport
Below, however, you can appreciate the opposite side of the Brazilian sports world. The organized supporters of the Corinthians’ Gaviões da Fiel approach the Bolsonarists who were blocking traffic on the Tietê marginal in São Paulo and on the Dutra highway, which connects São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. The arrival of the supporters alone expelled the Bolsonarists, without conflict, which the Federal Traffic Police refused to do. Convincing, it seems to us …
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