Bahia coach gives class on structural racism to sports journalism
When analyzing the situation of the Brazil’s black population, to get a fair synopsis, we have to analyze nearly every area of society. It may be an impossible task, but I try to cover as many areas as possible to present an acurate overview. One of the areas that I touch on occasionally in the field of sports. With Afro-Brazilians being extremely under-represented in so many areas of importance in the country, people often point out how black Brazilians excel and play prominent roles in sports and entertainment. Hmmmm, sports and entertainment…this sounds vaguely familiar. As such, as the black community continues to demand a fair place in other sectors of society, I like to take a peek at these areas that are often seen as places that are fair to black people in ways that other areas are not. It’s kinda funny actually, because by admitting that sports and entertainment are “fair”, it inadvertently admits that other sectors are not fair.
Futebol, football or soccer has a long history of black Brazilian participation with a sizable proportion of the greatest of players of all-time being black. It wasn’t always that way. Truth be told, in its beginnings in Brazil, futebol also discriminated against black players excluding them from elite teams forcing them to wear white rice powder on the fields to disguise their blackness, stereotyping them as not having enough heart to play the game, excluding or diminishing their presence from one of the most important positions on the field and blaming them when Brazil didn’t play well in tournaments.
To be sure, nowadays, black players are some of the highest paid in the world and many of these players are able to take their talents to some of the best teams in the world, making tens of millions of Euros playing in European leagues. It is obviously true that, if they’re good enough, black players can make a fortune in Europe, the United States, Russia and also China, which would seem to prove that blacks have overcome any restrictions they once experienced on these futebol fields, right? Not quite. For today, even in the 21st century, it is still quite common to hear headline making stories of this or that player being insulted with racist insults. Regardless of how much money they may make, this doesn’t necessarily exempt them from racist treatment in Brazil or overseas. But racist insults are just one manner of gauging the fortune of black players in sports. Another is what seems to be an unwritten restriction of blacks entering the ranks of coaching and front office positions after they hang up their cleats.
Exclusion from positions of command and decision-making is something that’s been whispered about for many years, but very rarely do you hear about black coaches and athletes speak of this area of racial exclusion. But a few days ago, in what could be seen as an historic match, two black coaches spoke bluntly about the lack of opportunities on the sidelines for black former athletes and aspiring coaches.
Roger Machado, the coach of Bahia’s series A futebol team, recently criticized the media’s emphasis on the fact that there would be a match between two black coaches. He said: “It shouldn’t have such a big impact that two black coaches are facing each other in the area of coaching. For me this is proof that there is prejudice”
Roger Machado, Bahia coach gives class on structural racism.
He said: “It shouldn’t have such a big impact that two black coaches are facing each other in the area of coaching. For me this is proof that there is prejudice. “Pic.twitter.com/epLCU7mwa6 – NINJA Media (@MidiaNINJA) October 13, 2019
More than issuing a brief statement on the issue, Machado schooled sports journalist on the issue, giving an anthological speech at Rio’s famed Maracanã stadium for equal opportunity for black professionals to move up in their careers and refuting the idea that Brazil is some sort of a racial democracy. Of course, I’ve been exposing this for a number of years, but as incredible as it seems, it’s still necessary to address this issue as if it were more than just a myth.
In an historic scene in Brazil’s most iconic stadium, on Saturday night, coaches Marcão, from Fluminense, and Roger Machado, from Bahia, shook hands before the start of the match and commanded their teams wearing a shirt stamped with the phrase “Chega de preconceito” (Enough with prejudice). They are the only two black coaches of the first division of the Brazilian Championship, known as the Brasileirão. Although these are several divisions and levels or futebol leagues in Brazil professional futebol, Series A teams are those considered to be the big leagues. The meeting was proposed by the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Futebol, which monitors cases of racial offenses in the sports environment, promptly accepted by clubs and, above all, by coaches, with combative speeches against racism.
“I know what I am representing, as a Fluminense coach, for people of our color,” said Marcão on the eve of the game at Maracanã. “We have other black people who are capable of working in futebol, but often what is missing is opportunity. I’m here because I have prepared myself and I want to contribute so that more qualified professionals receive this chance to show their potential.”
While Marcão, 47, an ex-assistant, took command of Fluminense after the dismissal of Oswaldo de Oliveira, Roger Machado, 44, he had already had experiences as coach of a big club with Grêmio, Atletico Mineiro and Palmeiras before arriving in Bahia in April. Despite his prestige in the market, he makes a point of positioning itself on racial discrimination in privileged job posts.
“To deny it and silence it is to confirm racism,” the coach said during a blunt news conference after his team’s defeat at the hands of Fluminense. Given the environment and seemingly exclusionary policy, the coaches words on the topic were possibly more important that the outcome of the game.
“My position as a black man in the futebol elite conforms to this. The biggest prejudice I felt was not from injury. I feel that there is racism when I go to the restaurant and the only black person is me. At the college I went to, the only black was me. This is the proof for me. But still, quickly, when we say that, they still try to say, ‘There is no racism, you see? You’re here.’ No, I’m proof that there is racism because I’m here.”
For Roger, the shortage of black coaches in futebol reflects the structural racism of the society. Besides him and Marcão, only Hemerson Maria, from Botafogo-SP, figures as a black coach in command among 40 clubs of series A and B of the Brazilian Championship. “We have more than 50% of the black population and proportionality [between coaches] is not equal. We have to reflect and question. If there is no prejudice in Brazil, why do blacks have a lower level of education than whites? Why is 70% of the prison population black? Why are young black people dying in Brazil? Why are the lowest salaries, between blacks and whites, for blacks? Between black and white women, (why) are they (lower salaries) for black women? Why, among women, those who die most are black women? There are several types of prejudice. If there is no prejudice, what is the answer? For me, we are experiencing a structural, institutionalized prejudice.”
Speaking on the social ills of the day that affect all black Brazilians, Machado is definitely a rarity within the coaching ranks. There have been a number of reports on how difficult it is for black coaches to get the opportunity to coach Series A teams, but Machado has to be one of the most outspoken to speak on the issue in such a fearless manner and speak on it from a position of being an authority on the facts.
Since hanging up his cleats and preparing to become a coach, Roger Machado has never neglected to talk about racism. However, his most striking positions, such as his speech in Maracanã, coincide with his arrival in Bahia, a pioneer club in the country for creating a core of affirmative actions and raising the flag, in various social responsibility campaigns, against ethnic discrimination, of race and gender.
✊🏾 Once again, we wear the @ObRacialFootball shirt! It shouldn’t be like this, but the game marks the meeting of the only two black Series A coaches #ChegaDePreconceito (Stop Prejudice) #BBMP pic.twitter.com/48iJpgfBCC – Esporte Clube Bahia (@ECBahia) October 12, 2019
“We have long believed in the myth of racial democracy. When I respond to people saying that I didn’t directly suffer prejudice, the offense, the injury, is just the symptom of this great social cause that we have,” he said, demanding of the government that policies of reparation in favor of black people do not embitter setbacks. This point can’t be stressed enough, as Brazil now has a president who seems bent on halting the social progress of black Brazilians over the past decade and half and actually reversing the momentum through a number of controversial policies.
“It is the responsibility of us all, but the fault of this delay, after 388 years of slavery, lies with the state, because it is through it that public policies, which in the last 15 years have been instituted, have rescued the self-esteem of these populations that over many years have been denied basic assistance, are being taken away at this time.”
Roger Machado also contextualized the lack of blacks in the upper echelons of futebol with the country’s unresolved history in the face of the consequences of slavery and colonization. “In fact, 10 million individuals were enslaved. More than 25 generations. It went through colonial Brazil, the Empire and was only masked in Brazil Republic. These now increasing cases of femicide, homophobia and racial prejudice show that the social structure is racist. It was always racist.”
In the conclusion of his touching account, Roger criticized currents that point to an idea of racismo às avessas (reverse racism), as if blacks were guilty for questioning the racist standards that afflict them. “We have a system of beliefs and rules that is established by power: the power of the state, the power of the church, the power of communications. When these powers don’t see or want to admit that racism existed and don’t want to make a correction in this course, they often say that we are victimizing ourselves, or that there is reverse racism. That’s why futebol, unlike other areas of our society, makes us a little whiter. And it makes us well accepted.”
Marcelo Carvalho, researcher and mentor at the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football, was thrilled to comment on the satisfaction of seeing the meeting between the two coaches, wearing the shirt of the only organization dedicated to studying prejudice in the environment of sports. “I have no words for what happened. And the excitement was complete by Roger’s press conference. May we continue the fight and may other voices rise.”
Machado should be commended for his speech. There can no longer be fear to speak on such issues. The facts are clear and everybody knows it. Now, whether they are bold enough to admit it or not is another issue.
Wth info courtesy of Brasil 247 and El País Brasil