Until When Will the Great Brazilian Football Idols of Today Continue to Ignore Racism, Prejudice, and Brutal Social Inequality?

By Joao Evangelista (CCR, Section of the RCIT in Brazil), 24 February 2016, http://elmundosocialista.blogspot.com




Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, or simply Socrates, not the great Greek philosopher of course, but the great footballer and a doctor of medicine, delighted the planet with his fellow Brazilian teammates in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. But Socrates was also notable for his political activism, particularly during the 1980s, when he led a movement for the democratization of football as well as that of the entire country. While the military dictatorship in Brazil officially ended in 1985, with the election of Tancredo Neves as president, his election was not by popular vote but rather indirect, by means of an electoral college. At that time Socrates took part in the “Direct now!” movement, in which he militantly stood for the right of the Brazilian people to elect the president of the republic by a direct and secret vote.


Socrates died in 2011, bequeathing to us both longings and lessons; not only as a football genius, but also as a militant fighter for democracy. By comparison, we can say that he was the Brazilian version of the American boxer Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), who refused to be sent off to the war in Vietnam; or that of the champions of the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos who, in their courageous protest against racism, held aloft clenched black-gloved fists in a salute to Black Power when the American national anthem was played after they received their medals, an act which caused such a scandal at the time. But Socrates was the happy exception in every way. Unfortunately, he has not been, and still is not, a model for today’s sports idols.


Edson Arantes do Nascimento (“Pelé”), our greatest example of foot-balling perfection, renowned worldwide, named the so-called “athlete of the century” in the 1980s, during an all out campaign for the democratization of the country and against the military dictatorship scandalously declared that “The Brazilian people are not ready to vote, due to a lack of both practice and education. Vote more out of a sense of fellowship!” Furthermore, Pelé always denied that racism existed in football; in fact, in the mind of Pelé racism simply doesn’t exist; for him it is rather an optical illusion of the beholder, and supposedly the little that he himself actually does witness, he recommends not to report, not to protest against. Pelé is a true “Doubting Thomas.”


Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima, known as Ronaldo, Ronaldo the Phenomenon, or simply Ronaldinho, is considered by experts to be one of the greatest football players of all time. Well, this so-called phenomena commenting about expressions of racism at football stadiums, said unbelievably “I think all blacks suffer (from racism). I, who am white, also suffer from such ignorance!” But Ronaldo’s true ignorance is his not realizing that he himself is of African descent. This very same Ronaldo Nazário recently took part in the demonstrations calling for the impeachment of the elected president of the republic, Dilma Rousseff, thereby aligning himself with the most reactionary and conservative forces in Brazil who are doing their utmost to pull off a coup d’etat. During the preparations for the 2014 World Cup, demonstrators protested against the criminal absurdity of spending so much of public funds, invariably at the expense of health, education and housing. When the protestors were violently repressed by the police, Ronaldo Nazario gave his opinion saying “The World Cup has got nothing to do with the building of hospitals!” Of course, being a millionaire, Ronaldo and his family have access to the best health care.


The footballer Romario de Souza Faria, known simply as Romario, was a team member of the 1994 Brazilian World Cup Championship which was held in the US. In 2010, he was elected to the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies for the state of Rio de Janeiro, as a candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) which, by the way, has nothing at all to do with socialism. In parliament, Romario has delivered fierce speeches against corruption in Brazilian football and FIFA. He is currently president of the PSB for the state of Rio de Janeiro. In April 2015, he gave a controversial interview to the sports magazine Placar (Score) in which he first revealed his desire to one day become mayor of Rio de Janeiro, and added what became an emblematic comment about Brazilian politics: “I thought politics was a place of thievery and dirt. And I was right.” Following publication of the interview, the senator apologized on his Facebook page and said he was overexcited during the interview. In his apology he claimed that “there are great politicians in Congress.” As the 2015 political crisis headed towards an attempted impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, Senator stated that care should be taken saying that “Regardless of whether we are for or against (impeachment), we senators want the country to get back to economic growth and to get out of this crisis. In the current context, opportunistically, Romario largely stands with those supporting a coup d’état. But nothing is by chance, as Romario is now playing for his new audience: the reactionary proponents of the coup and right. As already reported, he is one of the candidates for in the elections for mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro to be held in October 2016.



Daniel Alves da Silva, commonly known as Dani Alves, a member of the Brazil national football team who plays for Barcelona in the Spanish league (where he achieved heroic status during that club’s fantastic 2014 season), was involved in another episode of football racism. During a Spanish league match, a supporter of Villareal threw a banana at the Brazilian Alves who responded humorously by taking a bite of the fruit before resuming the match. The story went viral on social networks worldwide, with an overwhelming number of comments welcoming the player’s easy handling of the incident while condemning the racist act. Among the various personalities who expressed solidarity with Alves’s handling of the matter was the current great football idol Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, better known as Neymar Junior.


Neymar himself was a victim of racism in Barcelona’s match against Español in January 2016. At the beginning of the match, fans began chanting racist slogans and later in the game, when Neymar made contact with the ball, some fans started making monkey sounds. The former head of the Barcelona club, Toni Freixa, wrote on his Twitter account that “I hope that the racist cries made towards Neymar will be recorded in the minutes of any arbitration.” But, somehow, completely inexplicably, Neymar commented that he “did not hear the screams. I do not hear things off the playing field. It is truly difficult things which bother me; I just play football!” In this reaction, Neymar shows himself to be a true disciple of Pelé.


Currently Neymar, along with his father and the former president of the Barcelona club, are being accused in Spanish and Brazilian courts of an alleged multimillion-real tax fraud involved in Neymar’s move from the Catalonian Santos team to Barcelona. The Spanish press indicates that the “unreported” amount of the transaction comes to more than 170 million reals, with obvious negative implications for the public coffers due to unpaid taxes. Strangely, in the Brazilian media, in which headlines and entire pages are devoted to crimes of alleged corruption and money laundering by politicians, the only mention of the multimillion-real tax fraud perpetrated by Neymar are relegated to the sports pages. Obviously, this is the media’s way of hiding from the population that their great idol may have withheld millions of reals in taxes, which would otherwise be available for healthcare, education, housing, etc. In the end, Neymar and Ronaldo Nazario are one and the same.


Meanwhile, thousands of young people from all over Brazil, from the periphery to the urban slums dream of being the next football phenomenon. This dream can only become a reality for a very, very few. The vast majority of the country’s football players never reach either fame or fortune. The dream is almost in all cases an illusion as impossible to achieve as winning the lottery. And yet, because of this cruel illusion, many young people place no value at all in their studies; rather they drop out of school early to participate in tryouts for kids’ football clubs. And for most of the very few that do become professional, their salary is no more than twice the minimum wage. It is only when they mature, with no professional success nor with the necessary educational background, at times even semi-literate, that they realize that they have lost a considerable part of their lives in search of an impossible dream.


The current heroes of Brazilian football, and some veterans like Pelé, are sad examples of political alienation, opportunism, the ostentatious display of wealth, tax evasion, the complete ignoring of the most grotesque acts of racism, homophobia, and sexism. By their example, they confirm the truth of what the great German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht once very appropriately said: “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero!



About RCIT Britain

What the RCIT stands for Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT)is a revolutionary combat organisation fighting for the liberation of the working class and all oppressed. It has national sections in a number of countries. The working class is composed of all those (and their families) who are forced to sell their labor power as wage earners to the capitalists. The RCIT stands on the theory and practice of the revolutionary workers’ movement associated with the names of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. Capitalism endangers our lives and the future of humanity. Unemployment, war, environmental disasters, hunger, and exploitation are all part of everyday life under capitalism as are the imperialistic oppression of nations, the national oppression of migrants, and the oppression of women, young people, and homosexuals. Therefore, we want to eliminate capitalism. The liberation of the working class and all oppressed is possible only in a classless society without exploitation and oppression. Such a society can only be established internationally. Therefore, the RCIT is fighting for a socialist revolution at home and around the world. This revolution must be carried out and lead by the working class, for only this class has the collective power to bring down the ruling class and build a socialist society. The revolution cannot proceed peacefully because a ruling class never has nor ever will voluntarily surrender its power. By necessity, therefore, the road to liberation includes armed rebellion and civil war against the capitalists. The RCIT is fighting for the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ republics, where the oppressed organize themselves in councils democratically elected in rank-and-file meetings in factories, neighbourhoods, and schools. These councils, in turn, elect and control the government and all other statue authorities, and always retain the right to recall them. Authentic socialism and communism have nothing to do with the so-called “socialism” that ruled in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and which continues to do so in China and Cuba, for example. In these countries, the proletariat was and is dominated and oppressed by a privileged party bureaucracy. Under capitalism, the RCIT supports all efforts to improve the living conditions of the workers and oppressed, while simultaneously striving to overthrow this system based on economic exploitation of the masses. Towards these ends, we work from within the trade unions where we advocate class struggle, socialism, and workers’ democracy. But trade unions and social democracy are controlled by a bureaucracy perniciously connected with the state and capital via status, high-paying jobs, and other privileges. Thus, the trade union bureaucracy is far from the interests and living conditions of its members, based as it is on the top, privileged layers of the working class – a labor aristocracy which has no real interest in replacing capitalism. Therefore, the true struggle for the liberation of the working class, the toppling of capitalism and the establishment of socialism, must be based on the broad mass of the proletariat rather than their “representative” from the upper trade union strata. We also fight for the expropriation of the big land owners as well as for the nationalisation of the land and its distribution to the poor and landless peasants. Towards this goal we struggle for the independent organisation of the rural workers. We support national liberation movements against oppression. We also support the anti-imperialist struggles of oppressed peoples against the great powers. Within these movements we advocate a revolutionary leadership as an alternative to nationalist or reformist forces. While the RCIT strives for unity of action with other organizations, we are acutely aware that the policies of social democrats and pseudo-revolutionary groups are dangerous, and ultimately represent an obstacle to the emancipation of the working class, peasants, and the otherwise oppressed. In wars between imperialist states we take a revolutionary defeatist position: we do not support either side, but rather advocate the transformation of the war into a civil war against the ruling class in each of the warring states. In wars between imperialist powers (or their stooges) and a semi-colonial countries we stand for the defeat of the former and the victory of the oppressed countries. As communists, we maintain that the struggle against national oppression and all types of social oppression (women, youth, sexual minorities etc.) must be lead by the working class, because only the latter is capable of fomenting a revolutionarily change in society . Therefore, we consistently support working class-based revolutionary movements of the socially oppressed, while opposing the leadership of petty-bourgeois forces (feminism, nationalism, Islamism, etc.), who ultimately dance to the tune of the capitalists, and strive to replace them with revolutionary communist leadership. Only with a revolutionary party fighting as its leadership can the working class be victorious in its struggle for liberation. The establishment of such a party and the execution of a successful revolution, as it was demonstrated by the Bolsheviks in Russia under Lenin and Trotsky remain the models for revolutionary parties and revolutions in the 21st century. For new, revolutionary workers' parties in all countries! For a 5th Workers International to be founded on a revolutionary program! Join the RCIT! No future without socialism! No socialism without revolution! No revolution without a revolutionary party!
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