Brazil: Copo de Vagabundos

By Alastair Kinghorn
July 15, 2014

Long before it started proper, it added to our perception of a country in crisis.

First there were the riots in São Paulo about hikes in bus fares way above the inflation rate but then this mushroomed into protests about a much greater malaise in Brazil; the disease of corruption mingled with that of federal and estadual ineptness, the waste of government money on prestige projects like the FIFA Fan Fest 2014, instead of the much needed improvements to virtually every state funded sector. Highlighted were hospitals and schools, but they were just the front runners in a long list of infrastructure that serves the majority of the population in an extremely ad hoc way, where winners and losers compete for an already insufficient government pot, and that is before it has been robbed by just about everyone on the way to delivery.

No wonder then that many projects like the High speed train from Rio to São Paulo and Campinas, or the new metros in São Paulo and Manaus are still-born. No wonder that many millions are disaffected by this callous disregard for social and fiscal propriety.

Then amidst all of this and feverish concerns from FIFA and foreign press about incomplete facilities, the football began and the land fell under a spell woven by almost 24 hour coverage from all major television channels with nether a mention of anything but Brazilian Joy!

Despite catcalls and unmitigated abuse thrown at Dilma during the inaugural game, the PR fanfare only played a victory tune. How can such blatant public manipulation go on unnoticed among a country of more than 200 million people?

First round to Brazil against Croatia.
Second round draw but won on points against Mexico.
Third round victory against Guatemala?
Then Brazil almost met its match against Chile, but won, albeit on penalties!
Quarter final victory against Colombia!

Then the costs began to tell… Neymar stretchered off with what was later diagnosed as a fractured spine. Team captain suspended due to foul play. Germany loomed onto the horizon. The party began to take on a different note. Maybe it was not all good news after all?

The political imperatives are clear; Dilma needs a victory to secure her popularity for re-election in just three months time. Her opposition would love to see her suffer a public relations disaster. The bookies had her and Brazil at odds to win. Neymar is in hospital. What miracle of benign intervention could save us from ignominy? Or could a disaster on the pitch save us from another term of weak government?

Brazilians put up with a great deal and always come out smiling, but if there is one thing that is detested here, it is bad news. Tuesday night revealed a much deeper degree of bad news than even the most cynical could have predicted.
In what could only have been a premonition of what was in store, I watched it unfold in an almost deserted bar. I had been there only days ago for the Colombia match, when it had been throbbing with activity, filled with a cheering crowd and awash with beer. But on this night it was me, the owner, and one onlooker, who was not even drinking.

We watched in amazement, disbelief and growing discomfort as embarrassment turned into a sorrowful pain. Ball after ball hit the back of the Brazilian net until we began to lose count and all sense of entertainment. A few other men arrived, driven from their home TV sets by the agony of it, downed a few beers and fled into the night, unable to take in more. I stayed to the bitter end. It was raining lightly, darkness had fallen and even the owner had gone, leaving only his wife and infant son on guard. The Brazilian team are all millionaires, she said. They play for European clubs. They can go there now and forget this night, but we must stay and live with the shame of it. The poignancy of the scene, matched the social reality perfectly.

Again and again I am reminded of the awesome gap between the haves and have nots in this beautiful country. We Gringos are often criticised by our Brazilian hosts, for being critical of their country. Earlier in the day a friend of mine had commented via the internet that she had visited Blumenau recently, where everything worked!”, and that if this was an example of how the Germans could succeed, even in Brazil, she was going to be cheering for them later that night, even if she is a Brit! I remarked that she is always controversial! Little was I to know, how controversial that was to become.

Is there really no other way for Brazil to find the destiny that it deserves, other than through social conflict? Can there not be a middle path? Is there no jeito? Must we always be on the attack against unassailable odds, only to be beaten back, again and again? Can we only quench our grief in beer until the jokes restore our humour and alcohol allows us to forget… until the next time?

Or is it only a game?

2014 Alastair Kinghorn

Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in &rsquot;86 due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the &rsquot;Yuppie&rsquot; years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create AlastairsBrazilianBlog because there is so much to tell about this beautiful land and its wonderful people.

Previous articles by Alastair:

Brazil: Seguranca
Brazil: Modestia
Brazil: The Ghost of Ayrton Senna
A Fora de Prazo
A Scotsman in Brazil

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