Rai said he would vote for Lula because he is “anti-racist and anti-fascist” and because he is “anti-gun,” and he appealed to undecided voters and supporters of Ciro Gomes (PDT) and Simon Tabet (MDB) to vote for PT in the first round. “I vote for Lula with conviction. If you don’t think like me, vote for Lula for a more humane country, for more democracy, for peace. […] [No] First round, so there will never be any doubts about who we really are. […] Chiro, Tevet, come with us.”
Luxembourg called president and re-election candidate Jair Bolsonaro (PL) a “sociopath” and also asked to vote for Lula in the first round. “This game is about to end. This game that will define the future of our Brazil. It can be defined in the first half of the game, it does not need the second half. We should not give the opponent a chance.”
Other former athletes, such as Juninho Pernambucano and Casagrande, have already recorded videos in support of Lula’s campaign.
There are also Ballists who prefer Bolsonaro. The former goalkeeper Marcos, the Palmeiras star who played for the Brazilian national team, is one of them. In May, he posted a picture on Instagram carrying the Brazilian flag after winning the national team’s fifth championship, accompanied by the Bolsonista slogan “It will never be red.” In 2020, he already posted a picture of a carpet with the words “If you came here to talk bad about Bolsonaro, sorry, but you came to the wrong place” and a picture of a gun.
Another Bolsonaro player is Felipe Melo, from Fluminense, who appeared in several photos alongside the president. In January, when asked at a press conference about his support for Bolsonaro, he defended that his political position should not be a reason to remove his club of supporters who criticize the president.
Lucas Mora, who was exposed by Sao Paulo Football Club and is now in English Tottenham, already supported Bolsonaro in the last election, and announced on September 11 that he would vote for re-election. “I’m a conservative guy, on the right, who defends Christian principles, family… and I don’t think there’s a way to escape. First, I don’t see any ideal candidate, we’re far from that. , but we can’t deny that Bolsonaro is a guy who comes closer to what I believe , to the ideology that I think is right for our country,” he said in an interview with the Cara a Tapa podcast.
Football and politics mix
The interface between football and politics is old in the country and the involvement of football players in this year’s elections is not unusual, says sociologist Euclides de Freitas Cotto, author of the book From Dictatorship to Dictatorship – A Political History of Brazilian Football, to DW. , and a professor at the Federal University of São João del Rey.
He recalled that this mixture was institutionalized at the beginning of the military dictatorship, when the Presidency of the Republic appointed a representative to command the Brazilian Sports Confederation (CBD), later renamed the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). In the 1980s, during the Redemocratization process, football players also played an important role in the Diretas Já campaign rallies, such as Sócrates and Vladimir, who were active in the Corinthian democracy movement.
“Since soccer is part of everyday life, it is part of the Brazilian economy of emotions, it is only natural that players, managers and coaches will take advantage of this media space that soccer promotes to guide their political affiliation as well,” says Coto.
He believes that the current moment, of “political polarization”, encourages some footballers, especially those who have already retired, to take a stand: “Although we do not know the strength of this strategy, it is a legitimate strategy from the point of view of a democratic current.”
Active players are afraid to settle
Cotto says that taking a stand by active players is less common, as many athletes’ managers instruct them to be as “apolitical” as possible in their public roles.
He cites the experience of the Bom Senso FC movement, which existed between 2013 and 2016 and fought for better conditions for players. The group had difficulty overcoming the protection of the entrepreneurs and increasing the number of members, and was led mainly by athletes at the end of their careers and therefore less exposed to risks due to political action.
Historian Flavio de Campos, organizer of the book Football Object of the Human Sciences and professor at the University of São Paulo, also recognizes this fear among athletes. A member of the working group of the Lola campaign on sports, he says that some of the athletes asked to express support for PT “were not ready to record for fear of compensation, of losing a place, of a work contract.”
Campos believes that there are also Bolsonerista athletes who do not take a clearer position during this campaign, because there is a “prediction of defeat” for the president and they prefer to avoid “not resenting” the next government, in case of Lula’s victory.
This year, the trophy only after the campaign
There is a peculiarity about this year’s campaign that has reduced the potential for political use of soccer: the World Cups are usually held in June and July, less than three months before the first round of elections in Brazil. In 2022, for the first time in history, the cup will be held in November and December: the tournament will be held in Qatar, a desert region where temperatures in the middle of the year often exceed 40 degrees Celsius.
Therefore, the election campaign will not have images of candidates watching the team’s matches, fans supporting or booing politicians in the World Cup stadiums or the President of the Republic who ends up trying to take advantage of the country’s positive performance in the tournament.
In 2014, at the World Cup in Brazil, the main candidates published pictures wearing the yellow shirt of the national team and watching the games at home or in the stadiums. The tournament also caused a moment of embarrassment for then president Dilma Rousseff, who was cursed at the opening of the cup after the national anthem was played.
In 2018, then-disqualified Planalto candidate Guilherme Bolos attempted to challenge the political significance of using the team’s shirt, now associated with the right and far-right, by wearing it while watching Brazil’s first match at the World Cup. Cup, against Switzerland, in a settlement of the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) in the south of São Paulo.
The symbolism of the national team shirt
Bolus’ initiative was an isolated act, and today the national team’s jersey is unequivocally linked to the right and the extreme right, Koto estimates. He says the appropriation of this national symbol by this political field began in the second wave of the June marches, in 2013, when anti-PT groups and opposition to the Dilma government took to the streets with the dress.
The goal was to convey the message that this movement would represent the country, and not just a part of its population: “By appropriating this symbol of the nation, ‘we’ are speaking on behalf of the nation that we no longer want it. A type of government,” he explains.
On the eve of the second round of 2014, the then PSDB candidate for Planalto, Aécio Neves, sought to take advantage of this identification and asked his voters to wear the colors of the Brazilian flag on the eve of the election. Issio lost the election, Dilma was ousted in 2016, and the yellow shirt was then incorporated into the Bolsonista aesthetic, a strategy reinforced by the slogan “Our shirt will never be red”, referring to the color of the PT.
“Bolsonaro follows the logic of authoritarian populists. […] He subscribed to the idea of nationalism, and there is nothing closer to that idea than football. One of the pillars of our national identity is precisely in football and the Brazilian national team,” says Coto.
Bolsonaro has worn the shirts of more than 70 teams
In addition to the symbolic appropriation of the team’s yellow shirt, the president is trying in other ways to take advantage of the political-electoral potential of football. In December 2018, shortly after winning the election, Bolsonaro – who he says is from Palmeiras – watched the team win the Brazilian championship at the Allianz Park stadium. At the end of the game, he went to the field to hand the medals to the players and stood up to raise the trophy.
During his government, Bolsonaro also often went to stadiums. This September 7, after leading a political-electoral act in Copacabana, he watched the match between Flamengo against the Argentine team and Les Sarsfield, for the Copa Libertadores de America, at the Maracanã stadium, where he received a combination of boos and applause.
A certain behavior of the president in this area is to wear the shirt of many teams – of dozens of them. By June 2021, Bolsonaro had been photographed wearing the shirt of 72 different Brazilian teams, according to a survey by historian Victor Figules, of the Federal University of Parana.
It’s a strategy with contradictory effects, says Cotto. On the one hand, it is possible that he will garner support from the supporters of these groups. On the other hand, it upsets some fans, because they know the president is looking for another team. “It gives the impression that it is not authentic. Football is one of the few identities that lasts over time […] People generally don’t change teams. The club, especially in the male field, is a family legacy given by a male figure. So the sense of honor of a football club is in direct contrast to what Bolsonaro is doing, which is to wear the shirt of all the clubs.”
He believes Lola, from Corinthians, has a stance more in line with the club’s loyalty, as he does not usually wear shirts from other major teams. When he does, “he belongs to a less expressive club.”
Author: Bruno Lupion (Masao Paulo)