The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazilby Roger Kittleson
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and the Brazilian national team is beloved around the planet for its beautiful playing style, the jogo bonito. With the most successful national soccer team in the history of the World Cup, Brazil is the only country to have played in every competition and the winner of more championships than any other nation. Soccer is perceived, like carnival and samba, to be quintessentially Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian.
Yet the practice and history of soccer are also synonymous with conflict and contradiction as Brazil continues its trajectory toward modernity and economic power. The ongoing debate over how Team Brazil should play and positively represent a nation of demanding supporters bears on many crucial facets of a country riven by racial and class tensions.
The Country of Football is filled with engaging stories of star players and other key figures, as well as extraordinary research on local, national, and international soccer communities. Soccer fans, scholars, and readers who are interested in the history of sport will emerge with a greater understanding of the complex relationship between Brazilian soccer and the nation’s history.
How soccer shaped Brazil and how Brazil has shaped soccer.As Brazil readies to host the World Cup, it also prepares for the world’s attention. Kittleson (History/Williams Coll.;The Practice of Politics in Postcolonial Brazil: Porto Allegre, 1845-1895, 2005) explores the development of soccer in Brazil and that country’s unique contributions to the world game. He also uses the game and many of its key Brazilian figures to explore the ways that soccer, society, culture, race, class, politics and nation have intersected in Brazilian history and helped to create the country. Though Brazilian fans expect to win, they also expect to do so in a particular way, a way that reflectsbrasilidade, Brazilianness, which in turn reflects a debate aboutfutebol-arte(art soccer) versusfutebol-força(strength soccer). The former embodies the idealized view Brazilians have of their own beautiful game, with its individual brilliance embodied in stars such as Garrincha, Pele, Ronaldo and others. The latter embodies a pragmatic, technical, European style of soccer. Central to all of these discussions is the role of race, as Afro-Brazilians are oftentimes seen as embodyingfutebol-arteeven as Brazilian society is more riven by race than the country’s boosters acknowledge. Kittleson organizes the book chronologically, but within each chapter, he focuses on individuals who embody the period’s debates, styles of play and developments on the field. Thus, players take central stage, but so, too, do individual managers andcartolas—literally, “top hats,” but referring to the bosses who run the country’s top clubs and football infrastructure. In the process, Kittleson provides a work of both impeccable scholarship and compelling narrative.Whether Brazil’s national side wins or loses this World Cup in its backyard, one can be sure that the debate will endure over how they won or lost and how it reflects or falls short of the ideals ofbrasilidade. This book provides a fine context to that debate.
Meet the Author
Roger Kittleson is Professor of History at Williams College and the author of The Practice of Politics in Postcolonial Brazil: Porto Alegre, 1845–1895.
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