The iconic Brazilian football shirt became a symbol in the divisive political climate and the Presidential election. Repost from Póg Mo Goal Issue 6 by Bruno Rodrigues.

When a TV helicopter over downtown São Paulo carries footage of a crowd dressed in yellow, it could be mistaken for a football celebration. But while many wear Amarelinha, the Brazilian shirt, it has little to do with sport.

Since 2013, Brazil has been embroiled in political unrest, seen in its fiercest form in ex-president Dilma Roussef’s 2016 impeachment. A consequence of ‘Lava Jato’ (Operation Car Wash), the corruption investigation which also saw former president Lula da Silva imprisoned, meant any illicit activity stuck like glue to the Workers’ Party (PT) which had governed Brazil for over a decade

With mass protests against the Olympics and World Cup, against this backdrop, Brazil’s football shirt became appropriated by conservatives.

The jersey was a visual identifier of the nationalist agenda, a uniform of the crusade against leftists for the recovery of the country’s apparent lost pride. It also became directly linked with President Jair Bolsonaro, elected on a wave of anger against what many called
‘the old politics’ – a euphemism for the PT’s apparent destructive role in Brazil up to then. But such was the association with the movement, that ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Brazil’s alternative blue kit was a best-seller among street vendors as many distanced themselves from those who now wore the famous yellow.

The latter had apparently forgotten how the Amarelinha was tainted by as much corruption as the symbols and representatives they were supposedly fighting against. The last three presidents of the Brazilian Football Confederation, Ricardo Teixeira, José Maria Marin and Marco Polo Del Nero, were all banned by FIFA.

When confronted with that point, conservatives, along with the far-right and their sympathisers, would usually try to separate the political aspects from the physical object itself saying: “Let’s not mix politics and football.” But by wearing the national team shirt, were they not already guilty of it? That only depends on what “fight against corruption” you’re involved in.

Bruno Rodrigues is a Brazilian journalist who runs Futebolcafe. Instagram: @futebolcafe

Illustration by Andy Beller, an American designer living and working in Dublin.

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