Brazilian football realized modernist ideals and displayed its contradictions

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​It is difficult to find an image that dialogues more with the work “Operários”, by Tarsila do Amaral, than a stadium grandstand. Swap the industrial chimneys at the back for a concrete marquee and try not to imagine the general look of the old Maracanã.

The analogy will be in the exhibition “22 em Campo”, at the Football Museum, starting in May, which will draw parallels between the Week of 22 – which celebrates its 100th anniversary this Sunday (13) and was the milestone of the Brazilian modernist movement – and the sport.

In the 1920s, however, football was still not the popular game it would become. Its stands were stuffed with evening gowns, binoculars and hats. The club’s players were, for the most part, people from affluent social strata.

One of the main names at the time, goalkeeper Marcos de Mendonça, was a staunch defender of maintaining the sport as an amateur. There was fear among the elites that professionalization would bring blacks, the poor and factory workers who were starting to assemble their first teams into the game.

Meanwhile, the modernist movement, whose exponents were the likes of Tarsila, Mário de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade, proposed the vision of a national idea and a Brazilianness based on the concept of anthropophagy and miscegenation.

That is, the transformation of European ideas from Brazilian forms, building a new culture from blacks, Indians, mestizos and whites.

“Neither Oswald is thinking about football, nor is football thinking about Oswald. But, in a way, what a wing of modernism proposed to be our great originality, Brazilian football did”, says historian Luiz Antônio Simas.

“Football prefigured this great affirmation of the black, the mulatto and the indigenous as great figures capable of becoming public figures and inventing an aesthetic that is widely recognized. It is the consummation of the modernist project, without there having been a direct relationship between the two things”, says Guilherme Wisnik, curator of “22 em Campo”.

“This process of popularization of football has to be inserted within the idea of ​​modernism, yes, because we play football by cannibalizing the English game. The most striking example of anthropophagy in Brazil is not in the lyrics, in the music, or in the social thought. It’s in football,” adds Simas.

The consecration of a Brazilian way of playing football was preceded by a rapid popularization of the sport.

If the Semana de 22 was hectic with the celebration of the centenary of the Independence of Brazil, championships such as Paulista and Carioca were also agitated, with the charm of the winner calling himself “champion of the centenary”. In 1922, Brazil hosted the South American Championship, which would later be called Copa América, and was champion.

In the context of the popularization of football were the influence of radio, the emergence of large urban masses and the Vargas era, which boosted the game in an attempt to forge a national identity.

To the English sport were added the dribble, the ginga, a trait that refers to the African heritage and to capoeira. The game broke European rationality and emphasized playfulness.

But, in the process of realizing the modernist ideal, football also brought out its contradictions. For example, the praise of miscegenation or the idea of ​​a cordial social integration between blacks, whites and Indians.

It is Macunaíma, a character by Mário de Andrade, who became a samba-enredo at Portela in the hands of Norival Reis and David Corrêa: “Indian, white, catimbeiro, black, sly, sorcerer”.

“This Gilbertofreyrian vision hides all the violence that blacks have suffered, including in football. History shows that there was great difficulty for blacks to be incorporated into sport”, says Wisnik.

“Football carries all the contradictions of modernism, including the myth of cordial miscegenation. In the 1958 World Cup, the king of Sweden greets an enslaved Bantu descendant, Pelé, and a funiô Indian, Garrincha. illusion that we would solve, in the field of culture, our social ills: football solving our historical dilemmas”, points out Simas.

The contradiction is exposed in modernism when it values ​​black and indigenous cultures for their spiritual, ritualistic and instinctive dimension (which borders on the primitive), while reserving to the European tradition the place of the civilizing and rational.

Black stars (such as Leônidas da Silva, Domingos da Guia, Didi and Pelé) were positive examples of these characteristics.

“Barbosa, from the 1950 World Cup, became a great national scapegoat”, recalls Wisnik, citing the player who is still attacked today as responsible for Uruguay’s two goals that silenced Maracanã in that World Cup final.

“Football plunges into the discourse that black people are free corporeality, but they do not have the psychic and intellectual structure capable of withstanding the tension of the game. I researched a lot that says that what happened [a derrota da seleção] it was because the black is instinctive and doesn’t have the necessary coldness to hold the pressure that the goalkeeper position demands”, completes Simas.

The two agree that the greatest symbol of football as a modernist achievement is the Maracanã stadium, the subject of a recent book by the historian.

The “Nation Stadium” represents the idea of ​​a democratic space, which includes everyone, but not in an egalitarian way — just like modernism, which protects each culture from its contribution within a mestizo ideal.

From the general public to the boxes, the mass has space in the popular party that would ease social tensions in a cordial encounter between inequalities.

Curiously, says Simas, Maracanã was “destroyed by post-modernity”: the process of elitization that the stadium has gone through in recent years, its transformation into an arena, the end of the general one (the popular sector) and the increase in ticket prices. .

“This new model of arenas is, yes, neoliberal and absolutely elitist, of a football that has become an asset in International finance capital”, says Wisnik.

“Brazil is a case of reinvention. Either you reinvent or you go to hell. You need to reinvent. The idea that comes from modernism is gone, it’s dead. And I don’t know if it’s bad to have gone to the bag. You have to think from a new perspective “, concludes Seamus.

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