Translated from the Portuguese by Jethro Soutar

 

It matters not what the hypothetical sports reporter, who recognizes Brazil is chaotic but nevertheless falls in love with the place at the 2014 World Cup, says in praise of Brazil’s natural beauty, Brazil’s hospitality, Brazil’s sense of joy, the aligning forces that will make this ‘the World Cup to beat all World Cups’ – just as the Brazilian government said it would be, in speech after official speech, long before the sports reporters arrived – or about it being a World Cup played without fear, or that from now on something geographically akin to Copacabana beach ought to be a prerequisite of all future World Cups; Brazil remains a complex country, a country that’s difficult to understand, a country that’s very good at hiding its problems and defects and crooks, and that’s infinitely capable of finding new ways of making its problems and defects and crooks seem like the most normal things in the world. In this complex country, with its perverse and very particular history, there lives someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who doesn’t yet know that Brazil will not win the World Cup it is hosting.

This someone who wishes to remain anonymous is a Brazilian fiction writer, who’s a little over thirty years old, who lives in São Paulo and who finds the time to write his books without anything troubling him – at least for most months of the year, and for seven years now – thanks to the work he gets as a speech-writer during election campaigns. He has little interest in political parties, or in party coalitions; his main concern, practically his only concern – when the moment comes to be concerned – is that he finds a politician prepared to pay him more than other politicians are prepared to pay him, in order for him to write the politicians to victory.

In this year of 2014, on the day after the World Cup final, this someone who wishes to remain anonymous will start work for a coalition of parties in one of Brazil’s poor northeastern states, and he will not only concern himself with the state governor elections, but also take part in meetings to determine the coalition’s strategy for the presidential elections.

This is not only a World Cup year, but also an election year. People might think the World Cup is more important, but the World Cup is taking place in Brazil only because the winners of previous elections combined political efforts and forces to bring the World Cup to Brazil, and so it follows that elections in Brazil are more important than World Cups in Brazil.

This someone who wishes to remain anonymous is good at strategy basically because he’s a good researcher, finds what no one else finds, is able to prevail over the usual suspects, political cabals used to having things their own way, who have never known anything but clear runs to victory. He’s mastered the art of the retreat or advancement of an argument, of coming up with slogans, speeches, questions, answers and lies that demoralize opponents of the political campaign he works for. He knows Brazilian parties no longer exist in order to represent, but rather to conserve power; maintaining power for its own sake. Everything becomes more practical once you understand that a political project is about nothing more than maintaining power; it becomes easier to find the right rhetoric and turn that rhetoric, via the creation of election manifestos, into a circus.

Someone once said to him: I never saw a campaign writer with such a vocation for destruction. Planting absurd rumours in innocent comment boxes – taking every care to make sure your IP address won’t be discovered – rumours that spread around the internet and into the press and cause untold damage to victim’s reputations, before anyone points out they’re false, then coming up with a quick-fire counter-argument that destroys your enemy’s rebuttal while propagating an even more scandalous version of the original rumour, this one involving the shocking secret life of a close relative of the electoral enemy, so it goes and was ever thus.

This someone who wishes to remain anonymous is Brazilian but doesn’t like football much, at least not enough to pound his chest and scream that football is his nationality, his religion, his soul, for he’s the sort of Brazilian who realized in adolescence that dedicating too much time to football, to following football while knowing it’s a charade, was a waste of time. Nevertheless, he was overcome with joy when he found out the 2014 World Cup would be held in Brazil; he was even happy that those who managed to bring the World Cup to Brazil had been elected.

This someone who wishes to remain anonymous is a cynic, which is why he’ll never be a naïve, happy fool, as most Brazilians tend to be, or at least he thinks they are in the place he says he’s from, though up until now he’s never been clear about exactly where it is he’s from; being a cynic and a probing reader, and therefore a sceptic, he knew anti-World Cup protests didn’t stand a chance against the sound of the referee’s whistle as Brazil versus Croatia got underway. Good old democracy, making democratic choices, running things democratically. (And if you’re a writer, democracy has work for you.)

He likes watching Brazil’s matches at the World Cup and he knows his work depends on how Brazil play, because attacking or defending exorbitant spending on infrastructure and stadium projects, while things still don’t work as they ought to, is only effective depending on Brazil’s performance, for this World Cup is being played at home, and not even the military dictatorship – the dictatorship that began in Brazil in the mid-1960s and only ended in the mid-1980s, the military dictatorship that made political gain out of Brazil winning the 1970 World Cup in Mexico – had a World Cup at home to exploit.

It’s all the same, this someone who wishes to remain anonymous will still have to write whatever political speech he has to write, convince whoever he has to convince. Which is why he not only sees the World Cup as a ceasefire, but also as a series of sleights of hand that hide what’s really going on, political debauchery, spin and chicanery, deciding what the dozen stadiums in the dozen host cities will come to signify, a dozen stadiums that could have been seventeen, as the former president of Brazil originally wanted, until FIFA, on its way to becoming the great villain of the piece, demanded only eight.

All the things that happened at the rehearsal but didn’t happen during the World Cup, the strikes and street protests, would have had a greater impact if they’d happened during the World Cup – that will be the raw material of his work. That’s why he’s been mapping, in parallel to the fixture list, what else has been happening: the voices at the little marches and small protests, the way the apparatus of repression has been perfected in order to suffocate any demonstrations during the World Cup; he knows that tension lurks in this suffocation, and it is from this tension that surprises will emerge once the World Cup is over, and the suffocation relents.

This someone who wishes to remain anonymous has no problem with being a loner, a loner can better observe things. In order to observe one of perhaps many demonstrations to receive no media coverage, this someone who wishes to remain anonymous left his apartment in downtown São Paulo and walked a few blocks to Praça Roosevelt, an area with a few theatres that has been a focal point of cultural resistance. Here a public meeting was taking place involving a few hundred people who’d gathered to discuss abuses committed by civilian and military police during recent protests against the World Cup, and to formulate a response to the imprisonment of a teacher and a student who had been detained at a demonstration a few days earlier accused of being Black Blocs. This someone who wishes to remain anonymous noticed that the mood was tense, and that special-force military police officers hovered round the meeting, intimidating people in the square, and he thought about turning back and going home, but he decided to wait, found a less-exposed spot and observed the meeting and its consequences. He watched as two lawyers, who were there to lend their expertise to the demonstrators, were arrested and taken away. The last protest he went to was called to commemorate the workers who’d died building World Cup stadiums. He knows all protests against the World Cup taking place during the World Cup will be seized upon by politicians in power and the opposition, which is why he’s waiting until after the World Cup is over. But on this day, as he is watching the protest in Praça Roosevelt, he still doesn’t know that Brazil will not win the World Cup it is hosting.

This someone who wishes to remain anonymous knows that violence has increased in the countryside as well as in urban areas, that the quality of a range of federal, state and municipal public services has dropped severely, that social inequality remains alarming, that the country still has serious problems in terms of transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, that there are demonstrations in Recife, in Manaus, in Salvador, in the other host cities and in the non-host cities, but what he mostly thinks about are things being brushed under the World Cup rug, things even he can’t see, things that are being hidden behind the great theory of the successful World Cup, things awaiting the end of the ceasefire to be revealed when the usual order of things returns, an order that has been absent during the World Cup and that has made the hypothetical sports reporter believe, and want to tell the whole world, that this Brazilian World Cup is the best World Cup ever.

The advantage comes in knowing how to anticipate, in managing to read between the ceasefire’s lines. He knows that for most people who profited from the World Cup, the year ends the day after the World Cup, but that’s not the case for him. For this someone who wishes to remain anonymous, the year 2014 will begin in the days after the World Cup, when, along with the country’s eternal and preexisting problems, problems that gain in importance during election campaigns, he will have to make a quick decision about how to deal with the World Cup and all the social surprises that appear when it finishes. Especially once he knows that his country’s team, the country hosting the World Cup to beat all World Cups, will not win it.

 

Photograph courtesy of Rocky Chang

Be Careful with that Fan
Three Football Books