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Soccer and Samba

Photo:MB Media/Getty Images.
Brazil’s players celebrate by dancing the samba after their win over South Korea. 

Is it my imagination or is there new excitement in the US over the World Cup this year? We have never been prominent among soccer teams, and that’s changing. Also, we have many immigrants and naturalized Americans from big “futball” nations. So there’s that.

In any case, it’s been fun. Suzanne and Erik and the kids each picked a team at the start, and three of them have had to swallow their disappointment and choose a second favorite. Suzanne is still standing.

Every soccer country has its own way of reacting to wins and losses. Not many are subdued. Today’s story is about the form that Brazilian soccer celebrations take.

Ed Aarons opens his story at the Guardian with a player’s memories of games in the 1930s.

” ‘I was afraid of playing football [soccer] because I had often seen a black player get struck on the pitch for committing a foul,’ said Domingos da Guia, a defender who played for Brazil in the 1938 World Cup. ‘But I was a very good dancer and that helped me on the pitch. I invented the short dribble by imitating the miudinho, a form of samba.’

Roy Keane did not like it but when Brazil’s players – and the coach, Tite – celebrated scoring against South Korea in their last-16 victory on Monday by performing Richarlison’s trademark pigeon dance, they were following a historic tradition that represents the very soul of the Seleção. Samba, which has its roots in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo via the African slave trade, and football were adopted by Brazil’s working classes just as Da Guia was making his international debut in 1931.

“According to Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, the distinctive style of play Brazil has become known for comes from the indelible link between the two:

‘In football, as in politics, a feature of the Brazilian racial blend is a taste for bending the rules, an element of surprise or frills that calls to mind dance steps and the Capoeira.’ …

“When a 17-year-old Pelé and the winger Garrincha inspired them to their first World Cup victory in 1958, the song A Taça do Mundo é Nossa – The World Cup is Ours – left no doubt about the vital importance of music to the team’s success. …

“According to legend, the celebrated samba singer Elza Soares fainted in the stands at the end of Brazil’s 3-1 win over Czechoslovakia in the final but recovered in time to perform a song in honor of her future husband Garrincha in the changing room.

“Pelé was among those to pay tribute to Soares in January after her death at the age of 91, describing her as a ‘legend of our music, historic, genuine, unique and unparalleled.’ …

“The tradition of celebrating goals with dance routines is generally a more recent phenomenon that has not been restricted to Brazilians. Roger Milla’s corner flag wiggle at Italia 90 and again at USA 1994 were inspired ‘by his own imagination’ according to the Cameroon striker, while Papa Bouba Diop celebrated his goal against France, the holders, in 2002 by removing his shirt and performing a mbalax dance with his Senegal teammates. But after Bebeto and Romario’s cradle-rocking routine in 1994 that was a tribute to the former’s newborn Mattheus Oliveira – now 28 and playing in the Portuguese second division – it is Brazil that has always had the strongest tradition to uphold.

“ ‘Dance is the symbol. We symbolize the joy of scoring a goal. We don’t do it to disrespect, we don’t do it in front of the opponent,’ said West Ham’s Lucas Paquetá after the South Korea match. ‘We get together, you can look. Everyone is there and we celebrate. It’s our moment, we scored the goal, Brazil is celebrating.’

“For Vinícius Júnior, who scored the first goal against South Korea, the criticism will have had particular resonance. In September, the Real Madrid forward was accused of not respecting his opponents and told to ‘stop playing the monkey’ by Pedro Bravo – a leading agent and president of the Association of Spanish Agents – on live television after celebrating his goals by dancing. …

“ ‘They say happiness upsets. The happiness of a black Brazilian successful in Europe upsets much more,’ Vinícius wrote. ‘Weeks ago they began to criminalize my dances. Dances that are not mine. They belong to Ronaldinho, Neymar, Paquetá, [Antoine] Griezmann, João Félix and Matheus Cunha. … They belong to Brazilian funk and samba artists, reggaeton singers, and black Americans. Those are dances to celebrate the cultural diversity of the world. Accept it, respect it. I’m not going to stop.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, riots break out after the World Cup loss to Portugal.

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flowering-tree-BostonlEven though it was a bit chilly early on, the flowering trees and sunshine suggested that spring isn’t going back on us.

After church, we had a lively, chaotic Easter egg hunt and marching band with grandkids who are 1, 2, and 4 and very funny.

Then came a leisurely brunch with a beautiful fruit salad from my daughter-in-law, and new recipe for egg strata that turned out very well.

My husband and I got a little bonus time with Suzanne and Erik as the three of us tried to tire out the two-year-old in the playground before his car ride back home.

Suzanne is always up for an Easter egg hunt. In fact, Liz, her roommate, used to do the honors for her back in college. Liz sent Suzanne a text this year to make sure that everyone’s Easter was being taken care of.

Easter-at-churchdyed-eggsWhatever you celebrate, I hope you had a sunny weekend.

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