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The shirts may create a sea of yellow and green among home-country fans at a World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo earlier this month, but the faces are almost uniformly white. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)
The shirts may create a sea of yellow and green among home-country fans at a World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo earlier this month, but the faces are almost uniformly white. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

Brazilians confront race and inequality through the World Cup Add to ...

“Most of the players in this country are black. I remember, two years ago, when this wave of racism started here in Brazil, they interviewed Neymar and he said he wasn’t black. Then he went to Europe, and they threw a banana at him. I don’t know if he’s realized yet. … I think the best way for players to realize if they are black or not, is to go to the United States, land of Ku Klux Klan. There they will see. Racism always existed, but now, here in Brazil, due to this ‘FIFA standard’ joke – the poor, who can be white or black, people who make $350 a month, have no chance to see the World Cup. It’s a competition for foreigners, tourists, not for us. The poor people in Brazil are black, from the Northeast, and they are not participating. I went to two games in Maracana, and you see all that luxury, with the politicians, the businessmen …. It’s not a party for the people. It feels more like a tennis championship in Wimbledon. This is all because of this ‘FIFA standard’ crap. They want to turn football in an elite sport, but they won’t make it. Football is a sport for the people, for everyone.”

Paulo Isidoro de Jesus, 60, played for Brazil in the 1982 World Cup:

“Today, it bothers me because I’m paying attention. Back in the day, I didn’t, I never had this kind of problem. Now I notice that even the little kids who escort the players on the field are all white. If you see one black kid there, I’ll give you a prize. That really upsets me. We are a country where the majority of people are black, but we are not participating in this party. This is cruel. Cruel is maybe not even a strong enough word, given the discrimination we see. As a black man, I watch these people on television saying there is no racism in this country and I can only think they are the biggest of all racists. It’s a party in a country where most people are black and black people aren’t in it, and it makes me really mad. I’m almost sure players don’t notice this. When I was playing, I didn’t worry about things like that. The concentration involved in playing the matches is too great for you to notice anything else. After you stop playing you notice and then you realize how cruel the world we live in is.” I watched as the national team went in, and no black kids with them. It makes me want to turn away and not watch it. I get too upset. The party is beautiful, but for us who are from this land, we are shut out of it. I even tried to see if we, as former athletes, would have the opportunity to watch a game, get tickets. But they didn’t even give us that much. You are worth something to them only in the moment you are playing. Afterwards, nothing.

Stephanie Nolen and Manuela Andreoni

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