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The streets in Brazil are full of colors, but not everything is pretty

The streets in Brazil are full of colors, but not everything is pretty

Posted by Shanelle Weir on June 12, 2014

As Brazil’s controversial World Cup inches closer, a country-wide campaign is underway to make sure that the population is on board. It includes presidential addresses, popular television presenters, and free paint.

“We are going to receive visitors from the whole world with the happiness and hospitality that are characteristics of Brazilians,” Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said on Monday on her radio program, ‘Café with the President,’ just after discussing her government’s dental health program, which is called, purely coincidentally, Smiling Brazil.

On Tuesday night the president took to Brazilian television to defend the cup and argue that Brazil had spent 212 times more on health and education from 2010 to 2013 than on stadiums. "Friends from the whole world, arrive in peace! Brazil, like Christ the Redeemer, has its arms open to welcome you all," Rousseff said.

In recent weeks the president has held intimate dinners for both Brazilian sports writers and foreign correspondents. At each dinner, she told the story of how, in 1970, while a prisoner of the military dictatorship, she and her fellow imprisoned members of Brazil’s left-wing armed resistance supported the national team during a World Cup campaign they went on to win.

The underlying message was this: politics and football are not linked. Brazilians should get behind their team. The comments had particular weight because Rousseff rarely if ever discusses her time in prison and the torture she suffered there.

Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil’s most popular football commentators and columnists, was at the sports writers' dinner in May where Rousseff told the story. He noted that a campaign by the Brazilian left against the national team in the 1970 World Cup lasted about as long as the first goal. “People held up until the moment Brazil scored,” he told The Post by phone.

Eduardo de Andrade, known in Brazil as Tostão, is another a respected football columnist. He was a player in that 1970 team. “At the time I was very against the dictatorship but I had a commitment,” he said by phone. “We were worried about winning the World Cup and assuming the responsibilities of playing well and winning.”

Kfouri said Brazil will host two cups: one inside the stadiums, to FIFA’s exacting standards, one outside, where more protests, he argued, are inevitable. But in a quintessentially Brazilian accommodation, both can coexist, just as they did at last year’s Confederations Cup Final, when the Brazilian team and fans sang the national anthem together before the game while demonstrators and riot police faced off outside in a cloud of tear gas.

“Those who were in the stadiums were Brazilians who wanted to be inside, but in some way they vocalized their solidarity to those who were outside by singing the national anthem. And the team felt this,” said Kfouri. Brazil beat World Champions Spain 3-0 in the game.

In previous World Cups, the population painted streets and houses in Brazil’s national colors of green and gold. So far, the street art in Brazilian cities has been resolutely anti-Cup. 

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