At the opening of the 2014 World Cup, Neymar scored a goal that gave the Brazilian team the lead. The crowd cheered for a few seconds, and then decided that it was time to do something else: curse the President of the nation, Ms. Dilma Rousseff, who was there watching the game with them. Nothing could define our elite in a more precise manner.
Elite that was, on that day, introduced to the poor urban area of Itaquera, in São Paulo, where the brand new Arena Corinthians is located. Elite that, taking an educated guess here, goes to soccer games with the regularity that the Halley comes across our neighborhood. Elite that, when was told they would have free tickets to the VIP area of the opening game in the World Cup – an event that they bitch about for the last seven years –, not only gladly accepted them, but rushed to the fancier stores to buy brand new Brazilian team jerseys, and whatever else they could put their hands on. Elite that took cars driven by chauffeurs to get to the stadium, despite the fact the subway could take them to the door.
But at least they knew they were safe because the Brazilian people wouldn’t be attending the game – not at the stands, due to extremely high prices, and especially not at the upscale VIP area, where they were heading; the stadium was sanitized for the luxurious event they were heading.
And screw the critics driven to the World Cup they were verbalizing angrily for the past years: if I got this VIP ticket for free I’ll be there, and later I can get back to railing at the event, and to complaining about the damn use of people’s money wasted in all those stadiums. The thing is, they never miss a free event with VIP passes this elite of ours, and they sure can’t stand federal corruption, although they seem to have no problem with tax frauds or with bribing anyone whenever it becomes necessary. How do I get to this Itaquera neighborhood by the way, does anybody know?
Inside the stadium, the National Anthem was carried by them, collectively, loudly and proudly. What a beautiful thing it was, but for what? And, especially, with what purpose? There is no time to reflect on it; let the game begin.
The so-called one percent decide it is time to cheer for the team. For a couple of minutes at least, before diving into a huge silence. And then into more silence. It began to look like something other than a soccer match. Croatia, the other team playing that day, scores. The silence deepens, as if it was even possible. Neymar ties it up, the elite decides to stand up and chant for another three minutes, and then they, a well educated crowd, seat down.
Break time. And time to Instagram all the pictures they were happily taking during the first half. Women in heals, tight jeans, lots of makeup. Men wearing perfectly coiffed hair, not a strand out of place, jeans just as tight, and super clean shoes. They complain about the bathroom and bar lines, and they do not seem very happy with the slow Internet connection either. It’s important to promptly Instagram their happiness and their joy and their richness to friends and friends of friends. They are not used to waiting, these people. They never do in the outside world — their world — so why should they wait at a soccer game? Bring me my beer right away, damn waiter! Second half is about to begin.
And it does. Brazil gets, by the blessing of a benevolent referee, an non-existent penalty kick. Neymar scores again. The one percent cheers for another minute and then decide it is time to say a collective “up yours”, along with hand gestures, to the president Dilma Rousseff, who was seated in a special area.
The sound they make is loud and clear: “Ei, Dilma, vai tomar no cu” (something like, ‘hey, Dilma, up yours’). It’s offensive, extremely, and, even more, it is vulgar, and they know it; so they chant louder. Now the whole world can hear the nice and well educated Brazilian one percent collectively offend the commander-in-chief.
At this point my indignation sky rockets, and I want to talk a little about that.
Right after a decisive goal you simply get to your feet and scream and dance and hug whomever happens to be by your side. After a decisive goal you do not turn your back to the grass to curse the President of the country.
The matter here is less one of ‘cursing’ — as much as the vulgarity it carried with it was enormous — and more one of ‘timing’. If you go to soccer games in Brazil, you know cursing and booing are part of the spectacle and part of the book.
Of course we would have to separate things here, since the cursing was driven to the President of the nation and echoed by thousands of famous and rich people. It’s only reasonable that we examine this within context, and not only using the guide of an accepted moral code that exist inside a soccer stadium.
It’s one thing to curse a player or a team or the referee, it’s one thing to compose funny and creative little songs to public figures and chant them collectively – as it was done in Mineirão, a soccer stadium in Minas Gerais, when Brazil played Argentina some years ago and Aecio Neves, a famous Brazilian politician, was made fun of during a match attended by the people and not exclusively by the elite. It is all part of the game. But to have the one percent offend the President face to face so as the world could see it is another thing.
And the timing – right after a decisive goal – tells us a lot about who we are.
It’s a symptom of our alienation. We are disconnected from reality, we can’t attach ourselves to deep emotions anymore. We are infected with pragmatism, craving for our vacant souls, in desperate need for something that elevates us to higher grounds. We know how to hate, but forgot how to love. We are infantile and spoiled. We were brought up that way, and it’s a hard thing to break free from these kinds of chains and see the world as it is.
Meanwhile, in the field, the Brazilian team mirrors the elite that is now cursing the commander-in-chief: playing cowardly, deceptively, snobbishly; a team that prefers to fool than to play, that prefers to con than to work hard – a power metaphor for the elite’s way of life.
Fred, the Brazilian forward, gets the ball inside the Croatian area and has a clear chance of keeping with it and going for a memorable goal, but he chooses to dive theatrically inside the Croatian area, clearly hoping for a penalty kick. It’s simply easier and more fun to fool the authorities than to sweat for achievement.
Someone tweeted that to collectively curse a commander-in-chief is easy; that the hard thing to do is to attend the game knowing you are going to be cursed at for thousands.
Let’s put ourselves in Ms. Rousseff’s shoes – even if we do not like her administration. How many of us would have attended the opening game knowing we would be bumper to bumper with the one percent that never liked us in the first place, and knowing that we would be booed at?
Of course booing was not what happened there, as it was in Maracanã, when thousands of people booed Lula, then President, during the 2007 Panamerican games opening ceremony. But still. Would you attend, knowing you’d be going down that same road?
By Ms. Rousseff’s side was Sepp Blatter, President of one of the nastiest corporations on the face of the earth: FIFA. The man accused of so many crimes that we can’t even begin to name them here. If Ms. Rousseff was being cursed because that elite thinks she is the leader of a corrupt government (and let’s imagine that that was the reason), why wasn’t Blatter cursed as well? What kind of selective ethic is this from our extremely well educated one percent?
Probably this has is something to do with the fact that he is a man, and we cannot exclude machismo from what happened there, simply because machismo is alive and kicking inside that sophisticated elite of ours.
Every time I chat with one of them – and I cannot completely exclude myself from them because I was born into it – I ask what exactly got worse in their lives in the past 12 years, since Lula’s party, the working party, took up power. They have no answer for me other than generally speak about the traffic, the violence and the poor education given to the people – a sweet irony if put in the lights of what happened inside that stadium.
They also avoid going deep into the subject, maybe because they know things got better for that 40 million who were taken from inhumane conditions of life and ended up joining what is generally called as middle class. Also because they might understand that they are richer than they have ever been, and that the chaotic traffic in the streets of São Paulo is the sole responsibility of the governor of the state; a state that for the past 20 years has been administrated by the right-wing conservative party, PSDB.
At that specific game they collectively and loudly cursed the commander-in-chief for leading a corrupt administration, because apparently they cannot tolerate corruption whatsoever, despite the fact that they were all celebrating a game that was a clear rip-off, a contradiction that their alienation prevents them from seeing.
I ask myself if in that stadium were only low-class workers, maids, bus boys, rural workers, and bus drivers, if in that case Ms. Rousseff would be as offended as she was.
I think she wouldn’t.
I think she wouldn’t because these people know that a lot of things have changed in the past 12 years. Because they understand that a World Cup match is too important to be wasted on cursing the commander in chief, and that it’s necessary to enter the game with their souls. Because they know that that kind of communion does not happen very often, and that it’s a time to chant for the team, that was in clear need of some collective support. And because the truth with capital T is that the people that is excluded from the stadiums during this event is much more elegant than us.