Book of the week: Futebol - The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos
Saturday 26 April 2014
“Imagine na Copa!” – “Imagine what it’ll be like during the World Cup!” – is a wry catchphrase Brazilians use when contemplating the construction delays, mismanagement and blatant corruption surrounding the run-up to this year’s tournament. The implication is clear: if you think the planning has been shambolic, you ain’t seen nothing yet. However, one suspects the tournament will run smoothly enough, because it is more than the organisers’ and politicians’ lives are worth, possibly literally, to fail as Brazil, five-time winners, aim to add a sixth, and their first on home soil.
First published in 2002 and now updated, this exploration of football’s centrality in Brazilian society is amusing, enlightening and depressing by turns. Alex Bellos’s account of how a number of the country’s players came to ply their trade in the Faroe Islands leads on to an examination of how the country has almost become a brand name for footballing excellence: in 2012 1,429 of its players were transferred abroad, many to be cynically exploited by clubs and agents.
Lighter relief is provided by characters such as superfan Joe Radio, a retired policeman who blasts the opposition dugout with his radio and scabrous language at full volume throughout his team Sport’s home matches. When Joe had a heart transplant a rumour arose that the donor had supported a rival club, and the donor’s father felt compelled to publicly state that his son had indeed been a follower of Sport.
There will be much more said and written as the spotlight shines on the host country and its continuing love affair with “the beautiful game” before the World Cup kicks off on 12 June, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job than Bellos of portraying the good, bad and ugly sides of this fascinatingly complex country. Brilliant stuff.
Published in paperback by Bloomsbury, £9.99
Latest in Sport
What time is the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble on? And full match card
Cristiano Ronaldo vine: Real Madrid forward sent-off for kicking and striking opponent during 2-1 win over Cordoba
Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Gabriel Paulista fee agreed as Gunners make £13.5m bid to sign Villarreal defender - reports
Adrian Chiles leaves ITV: Football host joins exodus with immediate effect following Andy Townsend and Matt Smith announcement
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
David Cameron says anyone criticising Eric Pickles' letter to Muslims 'really has a problem'