Jair Bolsonaro: How a yellow jersey divides Brazil



This famous yellow jersey was engraved in the imagination of a worldwide audience during the 1970 World Cup. Inspired by Pelé’s spellbinding performances – he wore jersey number 10 – the yellow jersey represented Brazil’s success in the world. field and has created a positive image around the world over the past five decades.

Fast forward to 2020 and Bolsonaro’s critics claim the iconic yellow jersey is now marred by its close association with the Brazilian president.

Walter Casagrande, former footballer for the Brazilian national team and the São Paulo Corinthians club, remembers how it felt to have scored a goal while wearing the yellow jersey in his first match with the “selecao” in 1985 .

“It was a magical thing,” Casagrande told CNN Sport, “like an enchanted object that gave me tremendous emotion.”

Casagrande’s sentiments lie on the left side of the political chasm between supporters and opponents of Bolsonaro, and he feels that an element he cherishes is distorted.

“Now I consider the Brazilian yellow jersey to have been taken off and taken over by the right wing, so we cannot use it.”

Casagrande said that for him the power of the yellow shirt was once that it represented democracy and freedom.

“Brazil is appearing horribly in the world right now,” he said. “This is the first time in my life that I see the yellow jersey being used against democracy and freedom.”

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro pray during a procession and protest against the National Congress and the Supreme Court over lockdown measures amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outside the National Congress on May 9, 2020 in Brasilia.
A protester holds a sign that reads
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‘It’s not a question of politics’

As fast as the left can criticize Bolsonaro, its supporters are quick to counter the punch.

Cosmo Alexandre, a Brazilian fighter who holds multiple world titles for Muay Thai and Kickboxing, believes the left is confusing their many issues with Bolsonaro and using the jersey as another medium to voice their grievances.

As a Bolsonaro supporter, Alexander dismisses accusations that the symbolism of the shirt is being manipulated and says the reason supporters wear a yellow t-shirt is simple: everyone in Brazil has a yellow t-shirt.

He points out that supporters do not always specifically wear the Brazilian team’s jersey and that rallies are full of people wearing yellow t-shirts of all kinds.

Alexandre says that there is a separation between the sporting reputation and the associations of the jersey of what it represents politically.

“Everyone all over the world knows the Brazilian soccer team, so even though I go into battle and wear the yellow soccer jersey, everyone knows it’s Brazil.” , did he declare. “So it’s not a matter of politics – it’s just that the world knows about football in Brazil.”

It may be easier for some than others to isolate football and politics in a country where football is God.

Josemar de Rezende Jr. is a football fan who co-founded a group of Bolsonaro volunteers in his town ahead of the election. He said he was proud of the Brazilian team’s worldwide reputation for their victory and for him the yellow jersey “signifies love for the country, leadership, achievement and pride”.

Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro rally against current Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel on May 31, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro gather to support him and to protest racism and the death of blacks in Brazil's slums during a Black Lives Matter protest on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on June 7, 2020 .
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White and blue kit campaign

Nevertheless, the subject of the yellow jersey has become so controversial that a campaign is underway for Brazil to play in a white jersey.

João Carlos Assumpção, Brazilian journalist, filmmaker and author of “Gods of Soccer”, a book on the political, sociological and economic history of Brazil, is campaigning for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to completely abandon the yellow jersey and go back to the classic white and blue kit from the start of the program in 1914.

CNN contacted the CBF who replied that they had chosen not to comment on this issue, “because it is a very unique problem.”

“People loved Brazilian football because we played so well,” Assumpção said, “and if we play well with the white jersey in 2022, I think everyone is going to buy a white jersey. It will be very difficult to change. , but I think it’s not impossible. “

A supporter of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cries during a protest for his government amid the coronavirus pandemic outside Planalto Palace on May 24, 2020 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Protesters wearing face masks raise their fists on Paulista Avenue during a protest amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on June 14, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The white and blue jersey was deemed unlucky when Brazil lost the World Cup at home to Uruguay in 1950, so they switched to the yellow jersey and won five World Cups wearing it – a final record that is still relevant.

Assumpção’s vision for changing the color of the kit is to tell the world that Brazilians want change in the country. “Not the changes this government is making,” Assumpção said.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the color yellow, including the yellow jersey, represents a positive change in the country. Bolsonaro supporter Rezende Jr. believes the left’s attempt to reclaim the yellow jersey is an effort to “misrepresent the government,” which he describes as a “patriotic government that represents and enjoys the support of all classes social networks across the country ”.

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate to show their support in Brasilia on May 31, 2020 during the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
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Rival football fans unite

The political unrest in the country reflects the ferocity between inter-city football rivalries across Brazil. Except that it is not contained by city limits and that in recent months it has brought fans together.

São Paulo is home to four main clubs: Corinthians, Palmeiras, São Paolo and Santos. The rivalry between Corinthians and Palmeiras is particularly intense, and in June groups from each club gathered in the streets to counter protest against Bolsonaro supporters.

Sociologist Rafael Castilho, member of the Corinthian Democracy Collective and coordinator of the Corinthian Study Center said that for Brazil to overcome the current political situation, it will have to “unite different ways of thinking and accept the contradictory”.

Castilho explains the civic responsibility rival clubs feel in supporting each other and joining civil society movements, “as the country goes through a party representation crisis and social movements have been intimidated by the police action, “he said, adding that” the attitude of the supporters has won sympathy because part of society feels represented by the courage of the fans. “

The Corinthians have a history of mixing football and politics. In the 1980s, during the pro-democracy movement called Diretas Já, the club team was led by national team leaders Socrates and Casagrande.

The two linked football to politics when the team wore jerseys to a game in 1982 displaying the words “VOTE 15”, in an effort to motivate their fans to vote in the state government election. São Paulo.

Two years later, the Corinthians were at the center of a movement called Democracia Corintiana, which Casagrande said had put more than a million people on the streets dressed in yellow.

“It was a very important moment for Brazilian democracy, and this yellow jersey was at the heart of this movement,” said Casagrande.

‘I don’t want communism in my country’

The yellow jersey was back in the streets during the 2013 protests against ex-president Dilma Roussef and against corruption. A year before the World Cup was due to take place in the South American country, conservative protesters wore shirts that featured the colors of Brazil, while protesters on the left used other colors.

Alexandre and Rezende Jr. both say the yellow is an improvement over the red t-shirts government supporters wore when the left was in power, hinting at underlying support for communism.

“When Bolsonaro started running his supporters used the color yellow to show that I am Brazilian and that I don’t want communism in my country,” said Alexandre.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro presents US President Donald Trump with a Brazil National Team jersey to the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.

The fight for the yellow jersey leaves some with the desire to reclaim a victorious past, while others push forward to create new meaning for the iconic symbol. In a country so deeply rooted in football, this is a problem that is unlikely to go away.

Assumpção believes that it is only possible for the football community and Brazilians not associated with the far right to recover the jersey “maybe in five or ten years, but not now. Not now”.


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