|In the late 90s, Dida became the 1st black goalie for the Brazilian national team in nearly 50 years|
Note from BW of Brazil: In some ways, soccer, or futebol as it’s called in Brazil, is as popular or more popular in Brazil as the three most popular American sports combined. Maybe that’s an exaggeration; but maybe it’s not! Like Carnaval, in order to understand Brazil, one must also beat least a little familiar with this sport which is arguably a national obsession. As we often discuss issues of race and racism on this blog, futebol is yet another area where one can really gauge the position of blacks in Brazilian society. While popular opinion will tell you that blacks are the most prominent players in Brazilian soccer, a closer analysis sheds light on the reality of black players.
While it is true that black Brazilian players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romário and Rivaldo have all been honored as the world’s best soccer players of the year in the past few decades, and the legendary Pelé was honored as the Athlete of the Century (with Muhammad Ali coming in second), the reality has been different for Afro-Brazilian goalies. Similar to the long-time exclusion of African-American quarterbacks in American professional football due to stereotypical beliefs that questioned their capabilities, Afro-Brazilian goalies have long fought the same stigma. And like black American pro quarterbacks who have become more common in recent years, black Brazilian goalies are finally beginning to be a regular presence on Brazilian soccer fields. Soccer fan or not, the reality is intriguing.
Presence of black goalies in Brazil jumps from 12.5% to 31% in eight years
by Rodrigo Durão Coelho
Jefferson of Botafogo
Over the past eight years, the presence of black and brown goalkeepers of large Brazilian clubs jumped from 12.5% to 31%, but is below the national average, indicated by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), as being 50.7%. In the other positions, they represent 53% of the players, ie, they’re in line with the ethnic composition of Brazil.
The percentage of black and brown goalkeepers has increased gradually among the teams in Series A of the Brazilian Championship. In a survey done on the basis of published rosters of teams in Guia Placar Brasileirão, journalist Paulo Guilherme, author of book Goleiros – Heróis e Anti-heróis da Camisa 1 (Goalies – Heroes and Anti-Heroes of Jersey 1), which saw the presence of black and brown goalies in elite national soccer increase each year. In 2004, they were 12.5% in 2005, 18% and 2006, 20.5%.
A new survey, done by UOL Esporte, shows that participation continues to increase. In 2010, they were 25% and, the following year, 29% and reaching 31% this year.
“This story began with the conviction of an innocent man who died preoccupied (with this). Barbosa,” says Valdir de Morais, professional goalkeeper for two decades and pioneer as a coach for another four. “This kind of talk I’ve heard a lot and it always upset me, such nonsense,” he says.
The general perception is that the prejudice began with the goals conceded in defeat to Uruguay by the then goalkeeper of the Vasco team in the World Cup final of 1950. But Guilherme’s book indicates that the prejudice may be even older. He says that since the first game of the national team in 1914, until 2006, 92 goalkeepers have been invited to the team and only 12 of them were black and brown.
“They said that the goalkeeper had to be blonde with blue eyes. When I allowed a goal, the first thing they talked about was my color.” – Jairo, former goalie for Corinthians
It should be kept in mind that in the first half of the 20th century, the color prejudice was not a privilege of goalkeepers, but it affected all players. “The nickname Macaca (monkey) comes from us having been the first to welcome black players,” says the president of the Ponte Preta team, Marcio Della Volpe. “What for others was an insult, for us, from the beginning, was a motive of pride.”
|Barbosa died a persecuted man|
After Barbosa, the first black goalkeeper to establish himself in this position on the Brazilian national team was Dida in the late 1990s. Before then, the few invited didn’t have easy lives. Veludo, backup for goalie Castilho (Carlos José Castilho) and the Fluminense team in the World Cup in 1954, was marked by a failure in a game for the Rio state championship game in 1956. The incident prompted the board to reduce his salary by 60% which contributed to his bout with alcoholism and the end of his career. The easy goal allowed by Manga (who was classified as pardo or brown) in the Cup of 1966 in the game against Portugal was often explained – in all seriousness – as an emotional imbalance related to the color of his skin.
Another one that complains about prejudice is Jairo, goalkeeper which still owns the record for time without conceding goals for Corinthians (1,131 minutes), in the late ‘70s. “In my day, they said the goalkeeper had to be blonde with blue eyes. When I allowed a goal, the first thing that they talked about was my color.”
If many point to as the start of prejudice, Dida is cited as the goalie that ended it. “He went to Europe, playing on one of the biggest teams in the world (Milan) and opened doors. What do you say after that?”, says popular coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. The owner of one Flamengo shirt 1 says he never suffered prejudice. “In my time no longer I didn’t get any of this, it was a thing of the past.”
And he really contributed. After Dida, amany other black goalies have gained prominence in Brazil or elsewhere, like Helton, Gomes and Jefferson. But the latter, Botafogo and national team goalkeeper, knows that there is still a ways to go. “In Brazil today you don’t speak of prejudice, but we know it exists. Once a black goalkeeper said he would cheer for me the rest of my life because he knew the difficulty of getting something in your career,” he declared.
Source: UOL Esporte