My last 10 months in London have been very interesting not only for all the great things the city has to offer, but also to understand a bit more about the English footballing culture. You guys are just as passionate, if not more, than we are in Brazil. Perhaps not winning any World Cups in the last decades gave you a sense of mission which we really don’t have anymore (except for the one we will play at home.) I applaud you.
But being the only non-native speaker in my postgraduate course gave me more than homework and evenings at pubs whose Scottish eggs I would never eat. Despite the big interest here, I also come across many misconceptions about Brazilian football. Some of them put a few sambaboys in a high level they didn’t deserve. Others just get it all wrong when it comes to world-class players that are looked down on here.
Some of them were really shocking to me. Here are the top.
10 - Brazilians don’t love their clubs that much
Lots of people told me the problem with South American players, specifically the Brazilians, is that they don’t have any passion to die for Manchester United, Arsenal or whomever. “Oh, all they want is to go back and enjoy the beaches. They die for the clubs they grew up in. They come for money and go back”%
10 - Brazilians don’t love their clubs that much
Lots of people told me the problem with South American players, specifically the Brazilians, is that they don’t have any passion to die for Manchester United, Arsenal or whomever. “Oh, all they want is to go back and enjoy the beaches. They die for the clubs they grew up in. They come for money and go back”, a friend said. Not true. They do the best they can in Brazil so they can play in Europe. If they fail, they go back so they can have a chance of playing for the national team. And then go back to Europe. If not, they at least get better sponsorship deals. Very few hold on to their clubs. Since the Bosman ruling, only two goalkeepers played more than 5 seasons for the same team in the Brazilian league. Don’t blame love: they just don’t care about anyone.
9 - Only you guys care about the goal John Barnes scored
I have been repeatedly asked about the great goal John Barnes scored in 1984 against Brazil in the Maracana stadium. After the second time I had to go to YouTube; I had never seen it. It was surely a great moment for the English, but Brazilians only care about two kinds of matches: the ones that have a slight relationship with the World Cup (friendlies are usually forgotten) or those that involve Argentina (losing).
8 - Our side-backs aren’t that great
It is a more recent thing because of Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Dani Alves and Marcelo. Most Brazilian side-backs are like Andre Santos -- so so in offense, absolutely lame in defense. Even the great ones had their flaws. Brazilians still make fun of Cafu because of his incredibly low performance in crosses. Carlos’ compatriots wanted to hang him after he let Thierry Henry score the winner in the World Cup quarter-finals against France in 2006. Whenever your team signs a Brazilian side-back, don’t get carried away.
7 - Big Phil is a great coach
The fact he wasn’t friends with Didier Drogba doesn’t change that. Many people told me Luiz Felipe Scolari was just an average coach that had a great team to win the World Cup in 2002. Ronaldo only played in the World Cup because Big Phil trusted him; he was coming back from injury and had been only to a couple of matches at Inter Milan. Ronaldinho was not a star yet -- he was a good player at poor PSG. The two defensive midfielders, Gilberto Silva and Kleberson, were basically his idea. Cafu had the captain badge, but the leader was really Scolari. I country that has to boast Roy Hogdson cannot say Scolari wasn’t good enough. Sorry, Roman.
6 - Rivaldo is not remembered for theatre
I had to laugh when a BBC program on the most shocking World Cup moments portrayed 1999 World Player of the Year Rivaldo as no more than the guy who faked an injury in a match against Turkey in the 2002 World Cup. I interviewed him sometime ago for a British publication and that was also one of the questions I had to ask. Everywhere else that seemed to be a minor incident in a career filled with glories. Maybe not good enough for some England fans. After all, Michael Owen never faked injuries, did he? And probably scored hundreds of goals like this one.
5 - There is Ronaldo and there is Cristiano
A few months ago I stopped at a PC World store to buy a dictaphone. I was so enthusiastic I told the clerk I was on my way for an interview with Ronaldo. “Is Real Madrid in town?,” he asked. Only you guys use Ronaldo to refer to Cristiano. No, in Brazil we don’t use “Fat Ronaldo” to tell the difference. There is only one Ronaldo who is the World Cup top scorer. There is only one Ronaldo who is a two-time world champion. Only one Ronaldo with three Golden Ball awards (it would be more if it weren’t for his injuries). Only one Ronaldo who scored three goals against Manchester United in the Old Trafford. You guys are probably alone in this: most of the rest of the world calls Cristiano Ronaldo only Cristiano. That includes Brazil. And PORTUGAL.
4 - No one dreams of playing for English clubs (yet)
Every time a Premiership club made an offer to a Brazilian player my friends asked me if they were good enough to play here. When some of them rejected the offer, they were very confused. Brazilians usually watch the best league in the world on TV. People in their thirties tend to like Italian clubs. People in their twenties are more into the two Spanish giants. The English league has become a world phenomenon very recently. Most youngsters still dream of Barcelona and Real Madrid. That might change, but it explains why Neymar wouldn’t be thrilled at all playing for Man City.
3 - Fans care little about Brazil
Except for the World Cup itself, Brazilian fans only care about their clubs. “I have never heard of them,” many English friends told me. “Too bad for you,” was always my answer. Since the Selecao plays most of their friendlies in Europe, there isn’t a great bond with the people. This video from the 2000 South American qualifiers. Since football was not great, people threw away their miniature flags.
2 - Brazilians are not proud of their football now
Before Brazil lost to England 2-1 at Wembley, loads of people talked about the Selecao as if a group of martians had just arrived. I told them repeatedly: this is the worst generation we have since 1990. I was right: we even lose to England now. Playing good football is almost mandatory for the national team and people just know when the display is lame. It is now. It kinda was in 2010. It definitely was in 1994, despite the fact they were champions. Forget about Neymar being hailed as a new start. In Brazil is he regarded as the sole hope for the yellow and blue not to lose the World Cup at home. Since he is one of the few skilled players there, they hold on to what they can. So no need to be subtle about Brazilian football now: it just sucks. And we do know it.
1 - Pelé didn’t score 1,000 goals in an “easy league”
That is by far the biggest misconception about Brazilian football. Let’s talk about history first. Very few players from other continents came to Europe in the fifties and sixties. The black players didn’t have any thrill with offers by Real Madrid or AC Milan: great footballers, like 1958 World Cup champion Didi, suffered a lot of racism from supporters and colleagues. That is also why most of the great players stayed home. This means Pelé scored more than 1,000 goals against many people who lifted the World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Not to mention his dozens of trips to Europe, when he would trash great teams like 1962 European champions Benfica (see video below). Of course scoring two goals against England in the 1986 World Cup builds a case for Diego Maradona in the British media, but the difference is so gigantic only a misinterpretation can make the comparison survive.