European football (soccer) plays a prominent role in Brazil. The sport undoubtedly contributes a major portion in representing the nation’s cultural identity. According to FIFA, an international organization that oversees and governs global soccer trends, the Brazilian national soccer team ranked the second highest place in the world as of 2018. The team won five championships in the world cup, coming in as the team with the most titles. Interestingly, the team comprises of talented players with various ethnic backgrounds that show a wide variety of races. For instance, Neymar da Silva Santos, a worldly renown football player at Paris Saint Germain, identifies himself as a Brazilian yet comes from a dual heritage of African and Amerindian. In contrast, David Luiz, a famous football player at FC Chelsea, possesses both African and Portuguese genes. Regardless of their backgrounds, the national team performs excellent teamwork as a whole. Based on these observations, I believe the Brazilian national team signifies a larger historical theme that conveys racial diversity in Brazil.
In Brazil, cultural richness combines with racial diversity. With its profound history of colonization and immigration, the country produces a diverse environment under a unified nation. In the sixteenth century, the European dominance forcefully brought western cultures while the oppression begot African or indigenous cultures. Through constant adaptations, Brazil established a strong cultural foundation that conveys diverse yet unique ideas. For instance, Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, originated from African slave communities as a protection tool, which later transformed to a globalized art form with thousands of foreign practitioners. Soccer, although not strictly Brazilian, underwent a similar process as Capoeira in which the sport was introduced by European immigrants but was reinvented as a new form of culture in Brazil. Historians define this cultural adaptation as transculturation, a phenomenon of merging and converging cultures. Thus, this research project primarily considers transculturation as the essential component in defining soccer as the product of cultural adaptation that adds a new dimension to understanding Brazilian history, and further focuses on the correlation between race and culture in Brazil.
Brazil’s national soccer team poses for pictures prior to a friendly soccer match against Panama at the Serra Dourada stadium in Goiania, Brazil, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Back row, from left: Dante, Fred, David Luiz, goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Luiz Gustavo; first row from left: Oscar, Daniel Alves, Neymar, Ramires, Marcelo, and Hulk. Brazil is preparing for the World Cup soccer tournament that starts on 12 June. Brazil won the match 4-0. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) ORG XMIT: XAP124
Through this research project, I hope to discover how racial diversity and cultural adaption have interacted to produce national identity. In a broader perspective, this project will show how football in Brazil serves as historical evidence that indicates cultural expansion. Moreover, it is important to recognize football in understanding Brazilian history because the sport reflects the process of how race intertwines with cultural ideas in Brazil. Europeans’ forced recruitment of African slaves and their diplomatic relationship with the indigenous tribes in the sixteenth century fostered racial diversity within the nation. Furthermore, interracial marriages expanded the scope of racial categories in Brazil. However, this social expansion has organized under unified cultural and political ideologies. Despite the prevalent issue of racial inequality in Brazil, the national soccer team exemplifies this social expansion. Furthermore, football brings Brazilians together through creating an invisible social framework—Imagined Community—that establishes an inclusive environment among the people. Thus, football is crucial to recognize because it functions as an example of how the nation handles racial diversity through promoting popular cultures.
I plan to examine three primary sources and four secondary sources for this project. Consider the list of sources presented below this paragraph for feedback. Primary sources referred in this research consist of two interviews given by Neymar and Ronaldo, and an image of the Brazilian national soccer team to convey issues of race such as diversity, discrimination, identity, and mobilization across football culture in Brazil. Moreover, scholarly sources will provide an overall background of football trends in Brazil. Roger Kittleson argues that the Brazilian football style has absorbed popular Brazilian cultures such as Samba and carnivals, as the sport was strongly advocated by African Brazilians. Kittleson notes social mobility within football culture attracts racial minorities, as the sport is strictly based on individual’s talent not his or her race. Kittleson further views transculturation as an integral factor in adapting European football in Brazil. Janet Lever expands Kittleson’s idea through taking account of soccer as a nation-wide obsession that sets social and cultural norms in Brazil. As this research focuses on linking culture with race, two articles addressing two Brazilian football players (Ronaldo and Kaka), each identified as Afro and European Brazilian, will be examined throughout this project. Both scholars discuss various cultural impacts soccer players produce in Brazil, which are influenced by race.
“Brazil National Team.” Digital image. Soccer.com. Accessed February 13, 2018. https://www.google.com/search?q=Brazilian national soccer team&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS782US782&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ah UKEwjLv5qNqaPZAhWl3YMKHVAnBa0Q_AUICygC&biw=1440&bih=803#imgrc =ptRPI34884ZlTM:.
“Brazil: The ideology of “whitening” and the struggle for a black identity.” Black Women of Brazil. May 09, 2013. Accessed February 13, 2018. https:// blackwomenofbrazil.co/2012/02/09/brazil-the-ideology-of-whitening-and- the- struggle-for-a-black-identity/.
“Neymar Jr, Brazilian Racism and The World Cup of Football (soccer).” The Corn Dealers House. July 30, 2014. Accessed February 13, 2018. https:// tcdh.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/neymar-jr-brazilian-racism-and-the-world-cup- of-football-soccer/.
Kittleson, Roger Alan. The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil. Vol. 2. Univ of California Press, 2014.
Kulick, Don. “Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil.” Anthropology Now 1, no. 3 (2009): 32-42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41203556.
Lever, Janet. “Soccer as a Brazilian Way of Life.” Games, Sport and Power, ed. Gregory P. Stone 156 (1972): 138-159.
Jones, Jeremy V. Toward the Goal, Revised Edition: The Kaká Story. Zonderkidz, 2014.