The Rise and Fall of Brazilian Football

Following the 1955 election of Juscelino Kubitschek as President, Brazil thrived. Charismatic and energetic, Kubitschek ordered a new federal capital to be built. Brasilia emerged on an empty plateau to capture the imagination of Brazilians and foreigners with its dazzling modernity.

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw the rise of Brazilian football. The game matched the capital’s global impact: the nation won the World Cup twice owing to the talents of Pelé and Garrincha. Brazilian writer Gilberto Freyre once likened Brazil’s football style to its landscape: “It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve; the curve that I find in the mountains of my country … in the body of the beloved woman.”


In 1958, João Havelange was appointed the president of the Brazilian Football Federation. He oversaw the World Cup campaign, raising the game to professional highs. First, came the medical checks. The team was diagnosed with diseases and malnutrition and subsequently treated. In Sweden, 25 hotels were tested before choosing the base, all female employees were replaced with males.

The Roots of Success

These two exceptional triumphs left a legacy. Brazil could finally get rid of its “mongrel-dog complex”. It was now the football nation. This brilliance grew out of vivid local football culture, with fans, music, clubs, poetry, and prose. Back then, clubs gave Brazilians more than football facilities. They provided identity and community at a price affordable even to the poor.

Football was integrated into the local culture, and fans became known as “Twisted ones” – Torcidas. This referred both to their wild enthusiasm and the distinctive whirred handkerchiefs. Icons and banners were ubiquitous. The chanting was directed by supporters’ own bands. The two World Cups saw over 35 football-related tunes, which drew on the richness of Brazilian music.

The Decline

The early 1960s were unstable, with soaring inflation and polarizing political opinion. Football teams, from Pelé’s Santos to tiny ones, went on foreign tours. After the military coup of 1964, national football suffered, as the regime tried to shape it in its own image. The military controlled the Brazilian Football Federation and the Seleção, and a national championship was established. As a result, the World Cup campaign of 1978 proved remarkably uninspiring.

By the early 1980s, the economic boom was over. Citizens were hungry, and the crime rate shot up. Amid the disheartening turbulence, The Jules Rimet World Cup trophy disappeared forever. During the times of hyperinflation, it was probably melted down.



Subscribe to comments Comment | Trackback |
Post Tags:

Browse Timeline

Add a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>