The Italian (and deep) roots of Brazil

From Feola to Scolari and Tite: Brazil that speaks the tricolor.

Nestled in the heart of Latin America there is a place that, better than any other, tells and strengthens the ancient ties between the Old Continent and the New World. Unique pearl, intertwining of cultures and traditions that make it look like a huge European colony: the Rio Grande do Sul. Brazilian clove so close to its neighbors Uruguay and Argentina and so different from the stereotype “carioca” that we possess of the green-gold giant. Many threads reconnect the history of these places with that of the Italian emigrants. Many of them were forced to abandon the mountain villages of Lombardy or the Veneto plain to settle here, creating a new society that maintained a strong link with the Motherland. Through a language, the “talian”and the popular sport par excellence: football.


THE BOYS OF CAXIAS DO SUL


Anyone who saw him play had no doubts. Adenor Leonardo Bacchi was a true leader. Midfield caliph with good feet and fine brains. It was already noted then that that boy, son of Mantua settled in the Serra Gaúcha, would lead the way in the “futebol” of the future. Hades, as everyone called him, dreamed of a career that would take him to the top of football. Without having taken into account, unfortunately, the bad luck factor. Too many stops, his knees creak and at 28 he says enough. Caxias, his club, must do without him. Destiny, however, decides to lend him a hand and places before him a man with the face of a Hollywood actor.

Blue eyes and a thin mustache. The love for football and those same roots that many people have here in the Rio Grande. Luiz Felipe Scolari, Venetian do Brasil (And Italian citizenship since 2002), as well as coach of Caixas, enters Bacchi’s life with a mistake. At the first workouts, legend wants him to start calling him by his nickname Tite. A mistake that remains tattooed on the boy to this day. An epiphany: he will train too. No one, we are at the end of the seventies, can even imagine that those two sons of the boot who came into the world between the Pampas and the beaches of Rio will one day write the history of the most famous national football team ever: the Seleçao.

Despite an unbeaten qualifying round, Tite’s benchwho will become the longest-serving coach in green-gold history in Qatar, has experienced shaky months.

The defeat in last year’s Copa America was the lowest point of his management, a moment that made him forget the success against Peru in 2019. A tournament lost against his all-time rivals, in his home stadium; that Maracana empty due to the restrictions of the pandemic, which in Brazil has caused almost 600 thousand deaths; the tensions between the coach and President Bolsonaro (another Venetian transplanted from those parts). In fact, the Head of State did not like Tite’s words in support of the players opposed to the demonstration, giving rise to a political-sporting tension that had shaken the old Hades. A theme certainly not new in the pages of the history of the South American giant.


THE JOURNALIST AND THE GENERAL


Italy, from this part of the world, always seems to be there. Deep root, a legacy that is impossible to cut, which appears, disappears and then returns. In a land of football tightrope walkers, breathtaking landscapes and bloodthirsty leaders. In 1969, at the helm of the then bicampeao there is no coach, but a fine humanist by name João Saldanha. Journalist, writer, intellectual lent to football, who is leading him towards the Mexican Mundial. For Joao Sem MedoHowever, not everything goes smoothly. There are a couple of issues that are difficult to resolve. First: Saldanha is a militant of the Communist Party and the dictatorship of the Italian-born gaucho Emilio Medici does not like this at all. Second, neither the best footballer of all time, His Majesty Pele, nor the general’s favorite, Dario Maravilha, known as Dadastar of Atletico Mineiro.

Public opinion puts pressure in Saldanhabut the CT is a solid man and responds harshly.

«I don’t choose the ministers, just like the president doesn’t choose the players». Two weeks later comes the exemption. Mario Zagallo, more malleable than Saldanha, summons Dada, but without letting him play even a minute. And while Brazil dominates the tournament and humiliates the Azzurri in the final, the regime in the country finally throws off the mask, giving life to the darkest period of repression. Deaths, violence, arrests, torture. Pa frente Brasil” the slogan of the government. Jairzinho, Gerson, Pele, Tostao and the Paulista-Molisan Rivelino to enchant the world, while Saldanha’s complaints fall on deaf ears and Medici soldiers legitimize the power through the Rimet Cupraised to the sky while the blood flows hidden.


THE DAWN OF THE NEW REY


When Zagallo takes the helm, he immediately realizes that there is no need to wallow in tactical misunderstandings. Brazil is a good team in defense, something never seen in attack. So strong that only Clodoaldo plays in midfield, who plays as an attacking midfielder in Santos. Unlike Valcareggi, who wears out training in the Mazzola-Rivera dispute, Mario doesn’t have any doubts.

“If I have five number 10swhy not let them all play together?».

A decision that has its origins in the experience of Sweden ’58. When to erase the shame of Maracanazo he arrives a plump coach from Salernowhose family settled near Sao Paolo. Vicente Feola, who decides to summon and impose an unknown 17-year-old who plays in Santos as owner. His name is Edson Arantes do Nascimiento, for everyone Pele. When the boy replaces the son of two very poor Trentino immigrants, Josè “Mazola” Altafini, at the center of the attack, the press spares him no criticism.

Pelé during the ’58 world final with Sweden, which finished 5-2 and in which he will score two goals

However, a few hours are enough to understand that Feola’s move has not only changed the fate of the competition, but has opened football up to another dimension. A novel character, the Professor. They say that during the match against Austria he fell asleep and then woke up in the 90th minute: with the boys now in control of the match, he started cheering them on as if they were at a disadvantage. Not to mention the gargantuan appetite and the disease that debilitated him, despite his 100-odd kilos. What might have seemed like an uncharismatic man, he imposed a new way of thinking about this sport. A true futebol bailadowith phenomena of the caliber of GarrinchaVavà, Didì, O’Rey, Dida and Zagallo himself put on a show, protected by Dino Sani’s midfield guard.


FELIPAO AGAINST ALL THOSE BITTER RETURNS


Every four years, the convocations bring controversy. The one for the 2002 Cup is no exception. Scolari decides to leave Romario at home, still at the top in front of goal despite forty years and looking for revenge after the setback four years earlier. The Baixinho points finger at CT e the mob, who adore him, attack Felipao, unsafe coach after the fool in the Copa America a year earlier. It doesn’t matter, for him there Family, nickname by which the rose was known, comes first. No one, not even a champion like the former Barcelona player can destroy an environment that aims, despite the odds, to become pentacampeao.

A united, stable, cohesive locker room. Perfect environment to unleash the golden trident Ronaldinho-Rivaldo-Ronaldo.

Impassive, but with a firm character, the coach shapes an unprecedented Brazil, surprising with the unknown Marcos, Kleberson and Gilberto Silva immovable starters. Leaving them the freedom to have fun, as at the end of the semifinal against Turkey, instead of establishing a barracks climate. And creating a perfect amalgam with the senators, on whom he leans in the decisive moments, such as in the days leading up to the grand final against the Germans. When the ghost of the convulsions of the Phenomenon in Paris, four years earlier, he attacked him. “Sleep in peace mister, Ronaldo will let us win tomorrow” Cafu and Roberto Carlos answer him. The signal that the team, all rowing with him, already imagined themselves holding the cup.

Feola, Scolari, Tite. The interference of Medici and Bolsonaro. And then Captain Bellini, Altafini, Rivelino. Every time the World Cup caresses green-gold hands, it always touches a touch of Italy. Rooted combination, grown among the vineyards of the Rio Grande and the skyscrapers of Sao Paulo. The fazendas gauchas and the factories of Belo Horizonte. In a few days Hadesthat boy who played under the orders of mister Scolari, will try to become the third Italian-Brazilian coach to triumph with the Seleçao.

He does so with a much stronger line-up than the one that disappointed in Russia. And with a stellar attack, which obscures the controversy over the call-up of the old Dani Alves. Whatever happens in Qatar, Tite has already confirmed that he wants to leave the national team bench. His time in Rio de Janeiro is over. No second thoughts and maybe it’s for the best. Because near the Maracana the comebacks in grand style, from Feola to Scolari, from Parreira to the myth Zagallo, all end with a resounding fiasco.

The Italian (and deep) roots of Brazil