The Brazilian Ambassador certainly feels so
The Brazilian Embassy at Aurangzeb Road is donning the canary yellow and green for the World Cup, even as the Brazilian team prepares for its lung opener this Monday night. And soccer to the Ambassador of Brazil, Jose Pimentel, is "poetic", it's "an invention", "a joy". But finally it is a "childish game", which transforms him into the boy of 1962, who remembers his team's win with shining eyes. He says the pre-eminence of soccer is evident, as today FIFA has more members than the UN.Explaining why Brazil enters the arena as the most popular team, Pimentel says, "Soccer is not an aggressive sport. In Brazil it's an art." Mere victory does not ensure popularity in Brazil. He says the 1994 squad was the champion but was "un-loved". However the 1982 team, which lost in the quarters was still "great". For this country, soccer is nothing but a passion. Pimentel, explaining with fervour the philosophy behind the game, says, "Brazil is a different country. It is the only place with a four-day carnival that allows you to be a different person." Everyone wants them in the final because the team, like in a carnival, is constantly experimenting and re-inventing itself. They are constantly refining their tactics and techniques". He cites a British journalist who said that Brazil had decided to have "fun" instead of "power". It is this `fun' and exuberance that the team brings to the field. This joy writ large on the face of Ronaldinho, endears him to the world.
Of many colours
Pimentel says the `favela' (hinterland) origins of the players and the rags-to-riches-stories do contribute to their popularity. But he also says the team is a `mix' of players, which includes players of the middle class. To him the racial composition of the team is its highlight. With its many colours and backgrounds, the Brazilian squad is globally appealing. The present World Cup team boasts players from African, Caucasian, Arab and Mulatto lineages. With presidential elections in October, Pimentel feels it is too simplistic to conclude that a trophy will ensure the re-election of President Luiz Inacio Lula. In Brazil, football is holy and not to be sullied by politics. Recently the President publicly asked the coach, "Is Ronaldo fat?" and newspapers struck back promptly, cautioning the President to "mind his own business". The World Cup epidemic has struck India. Pimentel says he found this "spontaneous excitement, striking and surprising", considering India has no tradition of soccer. He wants to promote Brazilian-Indian cooperation by encouraging Indian players to train with Brazilian clubs. For him the fitting finale to the championship will be a final against France, to redeem the l998 loss. NANDINI NAIR