Have a godfather

31May12

“Democracy is something new to South American nations, that were dominated by dictatorships until the second half of the last century” (Andrew Jennings, BBC reporter)

Historical background

Unfortunately, football has an intrinsic and strong link to politics in South America and what happens off the pitch ends up reflecting on the pitch. During the period in which dictatorships set rules, some people and even clubs benefited from their privileged network and, probably, the realization of FIFA World Cup in Argentina is the greatest example of it due to the fact that the local military used the competition to deliver a successful image in order to legitimize their control.

You reader might be wondering why FIFA allowed its tournament to take place in a troublesome Argentina where an estimated 25 thousand people were killed, but you gotta keep in mind that the president at that time was an influential Brazilian man: João Havelange. From 1956 to 1974, he was the president of CBD (Brazilian Confederation of Sports) and, under his rule, Brazil won 3 FIFA World Cups. Despite the fact that  samba boys’ country was facing severe repression because a strict Unconstitutional Act established two years before the World Cup in Mexico (1970), both the Brazilian dictatorship and CBD adopted the circus et panis policy by associating the fantastic performance on the pitch with a political campaign that was approving of the harsh regime.

There are many examples of people and institutions which benefited of the Military Dictatorship. The Brazilian club that probably benefited the most from dictatorship is São Paulo FC. For reasons Maracanazo 2014 can’t figure out, Brazilian media has never investigated it, but it’s true that a meaningful part of Tricolor Paulista‘s patrimony was obscurely forged by Laudo Natel, who was simultaneously the club’s president and Governor of the State of São Paulo – and non elected by the population. It is reasonable to think that Mr. Havelange followed in the footsteps of Mr. Natel by picking up a couple of lessons that, some years later, certainly became part of FIFA’s procedures.

Nowadays

We can see some dictatorships going on in South American football. Nicolás Leoz has been the president of CONMEBOL (the South American Football Confederation) for 25 years; Julio Grandona became the head of AFA (Argentine Football Association) in 1979; and Ricardo “Ricky Tricky” Teixeira was the set-ruller of CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) between 1989 and early 2012.

Things remain the same in Brazil, though Teixeira’s exit. His successor is José Maria Marin, a former footballer and Governor of the State of São Paulo in the last years of dictatorship in Pelé’s country. A couple of months before taking charge of CBF, Mr. Marin was caught stealing a player’s medal in the final match of a youth league.

This was done in front of cameras, then it isn’t difficult to imagine what he might be doing when there’s nobody watching… Unfortunately, Maracanazo 2014 is afraid to stress that, off the pitch, Brazil will keep on being old-fashioned.

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