It’s simple. If you’ve ever heard about soccer or “futebol” as we’ve come to understand it over the last two weeks, “A Copa” is a thing. It’s an event of a magnitude and meaningfulness that requires more of an understanding than John Oliver, the collective social media presence of all soccer players, and FIFA can cobble together. In Mexico, it’s when you gather with friends and discuss every minor aspect of a player whose name is a green legume (Chicharito). In the United Kingdom, it’s the type of place where you have your girlfriend sign a “World Cup” contract in which she agrees to every preconceived notion of what shouldn’t be.
But in Brazil… in Brazil… it’s a thing of family.
Whether your family is the stereotypical mãe, pai and filho/a or whether it includes an extended variety of parentage, it’s family. It’s a thing where you enjoy one too many “cervejinhas” iced over a bucket in the service area and still pig out on “salgadinhos” and pizza and “linguiça” and meat and cheese. But it’s also a thing where you know the people you are screaming with, and the people you are screaming for are longtime friends with whom you are on a first-name basis, even if you’ve never met them.
The city of Rio de Janeiro grew into a boil over the past week. We arrived two Saturdays ago, “modestly” excited about a likely once-in-a-lifetime experience but recognizing that our ten-minute wait in the immigration line at the Guarulhos airport would likely not repeat itself for another month. But still the excitement was guarded if only because we knew that the U.S. and Mexico, although they would put up a fair fight, faced a long struggle towards that trophy.
But the cab driver to the hotel had ideas. Brazil would win. Or the country would lose.
The Seleção (Brazil’s national team) is a different entity completely separate from state, people and power. That all four are tightly interconnected is merely an accident of space and time. With that said, watching the whole country slowly come around to the idea of #vaitercopa, don the yellow shirt, and convincingly win their likely achievement of “hexa” is something otherworldly.
That the reelection of the southern cone’s incumbent president has a lot to do with the performance of the players’ ability in the “jogo bonito” has nothing to do with the fact that the country’s realities exceed its expectations. Sure the country is not performing in line with analysts’ expectation and the protectionist legislation for most Brazilian industry is still in place. But still, the thing to understand is that much like the team, the culture is very much alive and well and hoping to continuously improve the quality of life in Brazil. There’s a desire to improve the country and meet internal and external expectations of both reality and expectations. The raw materials are there – and based on conversations with business leaders and our own assessment of the people, Brazil’s ability to continue growing will depend on investments today in infrastructure and education.
In addition to simplifying public sector bureaucracies and making investments in critical areas of need, Brazil’s capacity to increase productivity and realize its full growth potential will largely depend on the country’s ability to effectively confront a deeply entrenched culture of political corruption, a perennial impediment to economic growth in Brazil.
But after watching Brazil’s first world cup game in a family household surrounded by Lauder alumni and our new Brazilian friends, we can only say one thing. We hope the truth about Brazil ultimately translates into the success of team. Not only for the true joy of having Brazil bring it home, but also because it will allow a people who are still hurting, to begin the healing process.
By: Diego Hernandez and Kevin Keefe (Lauder Class of 2016, Portuguese Track)
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Portuguese Track – Summer Immersion 2014