Try black coach
In the aftermath of Brazil’s defeat by the Dutch in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in Nelson Mandela Stadium on Friday, the need for reflection on coach Dunga’s tactics, strategies and player selection needs to be extended to include reflection on the continued refusal of the Brazilian Football authorities to recruit and select a coach from among the nation’s community of black Brazilian talent. This moment of defeat and the caustic rumination the Brazilian football playing machine will do in its search for a new World Cup winning formula cannot be allowed to ignore this missing ingredient in the development of the nation’s football. Perhaps!The whole soccer loving world is watching its response to this defeat to learn how to cope with such a loss.I admit to playing not-nice with this question at a time when soccer, care of the World Cup, offers its four-yearly serving of mass joy and globalised satisfaction for the great unwashed of the modern world in South Africa in 2010. This is not the time popular mood suggests for such seismologically critical interventions in the cultural diet for the world’s untermenschen-[i.e., German for inferior people].It is rather a time for the poisons of social conflicts and inequalities to be buried whilst a common humanity is resurrected and practised with the same ease as life in its absence. A consideration such as this, at such a time, is a most unwelcomed disturbance.It is best dealt with headed for the waste bin of history, but surely there is no better time for this question to be asked, if not during the World Cup then when for the non-Brazilian fan of Brazilian soccer?From Brazil’s 1958 victory in Sweden, under the leadership of Vincente Fiola, when Zito, Garrincha and Pele were unleashed upon an unsuspecting post-Second World War era with their beautiful mesmerising skills, to now, Brazil has never had a black African Brazilian coach, why?Why, indeed when one considers the legend of legendary black Brazilian soccer playing talent that the nation seemingly possesses in as much abundance as it does rivers, oil, root vegetables and sunshine. They are part of the social fabric of the Brazilian nation and are seemingly born every minute with each generation possessing more skill and talent than the one before.Why with a roll call as distinguished as Didi, Edu, Garrincha, Jairzinho, and Carlos Alberto, to name a but a few, can the nation that has given birth to such illustrious talents not be able to recruit any from among them for the highest position in its most internationally renowned export. Why?The current cry around the world is for the hiring of local coaches – see the debate with Africa and its panoply of globalibed non-African coaching guns-for-hire – yet Brazil has magically escaped this lash of international public inquiry if not derision? Why?Perhaps this oversight has something to do with the differences between the definition of “race” in Brazil and that outside of the country.Perhaps for Brazilians, including African Brazilians, the absence of an African coach is not a problem.Perhaps what Brazil calls black is different from what Africans and Europeans from its more northerly neighbours would not call such. Perhaps!Perhaps we – non-Brazilians – have to admit that the Brazilian explanation of race is such that it needs to be respected as unique to the nation and its history and North American considerations on the matter should stop at the door step of Brazilian sovereignty. Perhaps!Perhaps Brazil will get to the promised land of democratic inclusiveness, accountability and transparency in its social conduct in the realms of popular culture when it raises its standard of living in a globalised world where its economic and technological prowess now matters in many international markets in many product lines from shipbuilding and military technology to oil production and agribusiness. Perhaps!Perhaps Brazil is learning that when you are a major player on the globalised world stage there are standards of conduct expected of a senior state such as accountability, transparency, and consistency in governmental affairs which may run counter to domestic preferences on some issues – like choice of soccer coach for the national team or the legal rights of homosexuals or assisted suicide. Perhaps!But, if the reader will allow the plebian egalitarian prejudices of this author be invoked with due respect the intellectual prevarications above on the matters of “race” and Brazil and “race in Brazil” the following is issued for soccer lovers to ponder: when are we to see a coach of Brazil’s national soccer team who looks like Pele, the country’s, and the modern game’s most world renowned icon? When?When Brazil?
• Charles Simon-Aaron is a professor at University of Malaya, International Relations and Strategic Studies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.