In Brazil, we all watch the World Cup
By James Young
It is a Thursday night in a bar on Avenida Amazonas in downtown Belo Horizonte, the day after Atlético Mineiro have beaten Independiente Santa Fé in the Copa Libertadores.
“What about that pass from Guilherme to set up Jô’s goal?” I say to Thiago.
“Pure class. And Berola’s bicycle kick at the end!” says Thiago.
“Magic,” I say.
We both turn to Rafael, who is watching the girls go by.
“You’re very quiet,” I say to Rafael.
“I don’t like football,” he says.
“Not at all?”
“Not at all. In fact, I hate it.”
“Can’t be much fun, hating football in Brazil.”
“It’s not. It’s all anyone ever talks about.”
I turn to Thiago and get back to talking about football.
But Rafael is not alone. Although Brazilian history and football are inextricably intertwined, the idea of Brazil as “o país do futebol” does not always stand up to serious scrutiny. The average crowd in Serie A last year was just under 15,000, lower than MLS and only slightly higher than (gulp) the Australian A-League. Although clubs such as Flamengo and Corinthians point to market research surveys and boast of their 25 million or more fans, only a tiny fraction of those “supporters” have the means or the motivation to commit to regularly attending their team’s games.