- The Country of Football: Politics, Popular Culture and the Beautiful Game in Brazil ed. by Paulo Fontes and Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda
The Country of Football gathers some of the latest research on football (soccer) in Brazil. Focusing on the political significance and cultural impact of Brazil’s most popular and [End Page 416] renowned sport, editors Paulo Fontes and Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda have produced a well-organized and broad volume that highlights the profound ways in which football has shaped Brazilian society over the last century. Exploring topics like race, social mobility, urban reform, and political ideologies, the book demonstrates the intimate connections between the sport and the construction of modernity. The diversity in academic backgrounds and perspectives of the contributors has led to a finely textured analysis of “the historical, political and public dynamics of football in Brazil” (xiii). With contributions from the fields of sociology, anthropology, history, and geography, this volume showcases a multidisciplinary approach that helps the reader understand “how football has become one of the main vectors of condensing the idea of ‘Brazilianness’” (3). The variety of topics covered provides novel insights into the many ways in which football has contributed to shape Brazilian identity.
Arranged in a chronological manner, The Country of Football explores the relationship between football, modernity, and identity. Starting off with the early British-influenced beginnings of football in Sao Paulo, sociologist Fatima Antunes evaluates the social and political dimensions of factory football teams. As a space for resistance and political mobilization, these clubs helped forge a strong working-class identity. The workers in Rio Grande do Sul are the subject of Marta Cioccari’s anthropological exploration of how football helped shape “identities and antagonisms” (68) in the coal mines. The professionalization of football in the 1930s is the focus of Gregory Jackson’s chapter on the “changing dynamics of racial and class meanings” (44) during the Vargas era. Arguing against notions of racial democracy, Jackson demonstrates how professional football both created opportunities for the racially mixed poor sectors and prevented the upper sectors from perceiving the structural inequalities that divided Brazilian society. These inequalities lie at the core of Sergio Leite Lopes’s chapter on the rise and fall of Garrincha, one of Brazil’s top football idols in the 1950s. With a strong anthropological look, the author sees the working-class background of the star and his physical decline and alcoholism as the ultimate symbol of the end of an era in the 1960s when economic and political circumstances created favorable conditions for workers’ social mobility. Deepening the analysis of class identities during the Vargas era, historian Paulo Fontes focuses on amateur football clubs in Sao Paulo and argues that this “associational fever” helped create a multifaceted laboring class that was able to integrate and mobilize collectively for common gains (91). These clubs shaped and expressed specific local, ethnic, and racial identities in working-class districts. Focusing on oral history, Clément Astruc argues that, as football became more professional, the multiple identifications of players ultimately prevented them from achieving unified objectives and ambitions. Moving forward in time, José Paulo Florenzano looks at the militarization of football during the dictatorship. While seeking to expand the practice of football to new social sectors, the military was able to control and manipulate the meaning of the game. By co-opting indigenous groups into playing, the military tried to “civilize” them and make them submissive to the regime. The last two chapters look at football and identity through the analysis of football stadiums. Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda, through the history of the Maracanâ stadium, and Christopher Gaffney, with his look at the new stadiums erected for the 2014 World Cup, show how football continues to create deep inequalities in contemporary Brazil. [End Page 417]
The multiple methodologies and perspectives in The Country of Football have helped create a broad and nuanced look into the manners in which the sport...