Brazil shakes off the electoral tension dreaming of the “hexa” in Qatar

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – The Brazil shirt “has no owner, it belongs to everyone,” says Eliézer Oliveira, a resident of Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, where World Cup enthusiasm finally awoke after an election in which the “verdeamarelo” identified with the Bolsonarism.

For years, but especially during the most polarized electoral campaign in decades, the Brazilian flag and its colors have become synonymous with support for far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who encouraged the use of this national symbol and the “canarinha” shirt among His Followers.

But in the country of soccer, the Brazilians are beginning to re-identify their flag with the “seleçao”, a serious candidate to be crowned in Qatar, which would represent their sixth world title in history.

“The flag is ours. We are defending the country, it has nothing to do with politics,” explains Marcela Fadini Moreira, responsible for a World Cup decoration with which she hopes to win the contest organized by the Rocinha residents’ association to reward the street with the most pretty.

Boycott Neymar

However, this 41-year-old teacher admits that this year they diluted the green and yellow, using more white and blue in the decoration of the walls and in the banners that form a “ceiling” over the entire street.

They also drew on a wall the effigy of Flamengo forward Pedro, instead of putting Neymar, the star of the Brazilian team, because the neighbors vetoed it.

“They didn’t let us put Neymar on, because he supported Bolsonaro” in his re-election campaign, explains Fadini Moreira. On the 10th of the “canarinha” he called to vote for the far-right against the leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who finally won the ballot on October 30.

A supporter of outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on October 2, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro CARL DE SOUZA AFP/Archives

In a higher area of ​​Rocinha, hit like many Rio favelas by drug trafficking, another street stands out for its vibrantly colored murals alluding to the World Cup.

In addition to the players, La’eeb, the mascot of Qatar-2022, appears.

“We are excited, we want to see Brazil win the title this year,” says Francisco Carliton, 23, before the team’s debut on Thursday against Serbia.

Another young man brings a ball from home and they quickly set up a round of “altinha”, with the aim that the ball never touches the ground.

After the mourning and the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic, Eliézer Oliveira assures that “few people have shown enthusiasm to decorate the streets as before.”

“After so many problems that we are experiencing, so many wrong policies, so many losses in the world… seeing Brazil champion would make us smile,” adds this 57-year-old community leader, who heads social projects in Rocinha and who you saw with pride the shirt of Brazil.

The “joy” of Brazil

The return of the World Cup illusion after a tense electoral period is visible in other parts of Brazil.

Pennants, balls and different versions of the official jersey line the windows of shops, beauty salons and restaurants, from Rio de Janeiro’s crowded downtown to Copacabana beach.

General view of Rocinha, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, on November 22, 2022
General view of Rocinha, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, on November 22, 2022 CARL DE SOUZA AFP

Together with his childhood friends, Uber driver Jadson Paixao keeps alive the tradition of decorating the street where they grew up in the Vila Medeiros neighborhood of Sao Paulo… including graffiti with Neymar’s face.

“It’s great that people can enjoy the World Cup and forget about the election, which is over. Politics is politics, soccer is soccer,” said Paixao, 35.

Attempts to claim the national team jersey for all Brazilians come from various fronts.

Lula launched a campaign to encourage the squad: “Brazil hexa, Lula tri: green and yellow are the colors of those who feel love and support the country,” he said in reference to the third term that he will assume in January.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) also produced an advertising piece to depoliticize the shirt and “reconnect” the fans with the national team.

“The World Cup is a moment of union (…) Soccer does not live without fans, and our purpose is to connect people of all ages, places, colors, races, ideologies and religions to soccer,” said the president of the CBF, Ednaldo Rodrigues.

Whether or not this operation will be successful for many will depend on performance within the field.

“If Brazil wins, I think everyone will want to wear the shirt again,” Fabio Vassalo Grande, a 47-year-old businessman from São Paulo, told AFP from Qatar.

“Soccer is the joy of Brazilians,” he adds.

Brazil shakes off the electoral tension dreaming of the “hexa” in Qatar