Jair Bolsonaro: How a yellow jersey is dividing Brazil



Brazil’s bright yellow jersey is a symbol that unites the country through a love of football and national pride, but in the past two years the shirt has been adopted by right-wing supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, who have used it in protests to show their political allegiance. and wear in rallies. The president of Brazil is causing controversy.

That famous yellow jersey was burned into the imagination of global audiences at the 1970 World Cup. Inspired by the great performances of Pele – he wore the number 10 jersey – the yellow shirt has represented Brazil’s success on the pitch and created a positive image around the world for the past five decades.

That 1970 national team also became embroiled in politics, especially before the World Cup in Mexico when General Medici, president of a nation under military dictatorship, played a key role in removing the coach – Joao Saldanha – who had overseen a perfect qualifying campaign.

Fast forward to 2020 and Bolsonaro’s critics say the iconic yellow jersey has now been tainted by close ties to the Brazilian president.

Walter Casagrande, a former footballer for the Brazilian national team and Sao Paulo club Corinthians, remembers the feeling of scoring a goal in his first match with the “Selecao” in 1985 wearing the yellow jersey.

“It was a magical thing,” Casagrande told CNN Sport, “like a magical object that gave me a great feeling.”

Casagrande’s sentiments lie to the left of the political divide that separates Bolsonaro’s supporters and opponents, and he feels that something he loves is being misrepresented.

“Now I understand that the yellow jersey of Brazil was hijacked by the right wing, so we cannot use it.”

Casagrande said that for him the power of the yellow shirt was that it represented democracy and freedom.

“Brazil looks terrible to the world right now,” he said. “This is the first time in my life that I am seeing the yellow jersey being used against democracy and freedom.”

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro pray during a motorcycle rally and protest against the National Congress and the Supreme Court over lockdown measures amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in front of the National Congress on May 09, 2020 in Brasilia. done

A protester holds a sign that reads

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As quick as the left is to criticize Bolsonaro, his supporters are not slow to counter punch.

Cosmo Alexander, a Brazilian fighter who holds multiple world titles for Muay Thai and kickboxing, believes the left is compounding many of their issues with Bolsonaro, using the jersey as another way to air grievances. is

As a Bolsonaro supporter, Alexander dismisses accusations that the jersey’s symbolism is being manipulated, and says the reason supporters wear a yellow T-shirt is simple: everyone in Brazil has a yellow T-shirt. – There is a shirt.

He points out that supporters don’t always wear a particularly Brazilian team jersey, and rallies are filled with people wearing all kinds of yellow T-shirts.

Alexander says there is a separation between Jersey’s sporting reputation and the associations it makes politically.

“Everybody around the world knows about the Brazilian soccer team, so even if I go to a fight and I use the yellow soccer team shirt, everyone knows it’s Brazil,” he said. “So it’s not about politics – it’s just that the world knows about soccer in Brazil.”

Separating football and politics may be easier for some than for others in a country where football is God.

Josemar de Rezende Jr. is a football fan who co-founded a Bolsonaro volunteer group in his hometown before the election. He said he was proud of the Brazilian team’s global reputation for victory, and that the yellow jersey for him meant “love for country, leadership, achievement and pride.”

Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro rally against current Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel on May 31, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro gather in support of him and to protest racism and the death of black people in Brazilian slums during a Black Lives Matter protest on Copacabana Beach on June 7, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro.

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However, the subject of the yellow jersey is so divisive that there is a campaign for Brazil to play in a white shirt.

João Carlos Asempio, a Brazilian journalist, filmmaker and author of “Gods of Soccer”, a book about the political, social and economic history of Brazil, is leading a campaign for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to completely abandon the yellow jersey. and revert to the classic white and blue kit since the program began in 1914.

CNN reached out to the CBF who responded that they choose not to comment on the matter, “because it’s a very unique issue.”

“People loved Brazilian football because we played very well,” Asampco said, “and if we play well with the white shirt in 2022 I think everyone is going to buy a white shirt. Changing it It will be very difficult, but I think it is not impossible.

A supporter of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cries during a demonstration in favor of his government amid the coronavirus pandemic in front of the Plano Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, May 24, 2020.

Demonstrators wearing face masks raise their fists on Paulista Avenue during a protest amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, June 14, 2020, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The white and blue jersey was considered unlucky when Brazil lost the World Cup at home to Uruguay in 1950, so they switched to the yellow jersey, and won five World Cups wearing it – a finals record that still stands today.

Assumption’s vision for changing the color of the kit is to tell the world that Brazilians want change in the country. “Not the changes that this government is making,” Asempsio clarified.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the color yellow, including the yellow jersey, represents a positive change in the country. Rezende Jr., a Bolsonaro supporter, believes that the left’s attempt to reclaim the yellow jersey is an attempt to “mischaracterize the government”, which he describes as a “patriotic government” that supports all social classes across the country. represents and supports the

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate to show their support, during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, in Brasilia, May 31, 2020.

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The political upheaval in the country mirrors the ferocity between inter-city football competitions across Brazil. Except it’s not contained by city limits and has brought fans together in recent months.

São Paulo is home to four main clubs: Corinthians, Palmeiras, São Paulo and Santos. The rivalry between Corinthians and Palmeiras is particularly intense, and in June groups from each club took to the streets to protest Bolsonaro’s supporters.

Sociologist Rafael Castilho, a member of the Collective Corinthian Democracy and coordinator of the Corinthian Study Center, said that for Brazil to overcome the current political situation, it will have to “unite different ways of thinking and accept the opposites. ”

Castilho explains that anti-civic clubs feel the need to support each other and join civil society movements, “as the country experiences a crisis of party representation and social movements are intimidated by police action.” He said, “The attitude of the fans has gained sympathy as a section of society feels represented by the courage of the fans.

Corinthians have a history of mixing football and politics. During the pro-democracy movement called Diretas in the 1980s, the club team was led by national team leaders Socrates and Casagrande.

In an attempt to motivate their fans to vote in the Sao Paulo state government elections, the two combined football with politics in 1982 when the team wore jerseys displaying the words “Vote on the 15th” during a game. added

Two years later the Corinthians were at the center of a movement called Democracia Corinthiana, which Casagrande said brought more than a million people dressed in yellow to the streets.

“It was a very important moment for Brazilian democracy, and this yellow jersey was central to that movement,” Casagrande said.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: A man passes graffiti of multicolored hands supporting the planet marked with the Brazilian flag on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is on June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil take on Croatia.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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The yellow jersey returned to the streets in 2013 in protests against former president Dilma Rousseff and corruption. A year before the World Cup was held in the South American country, conservative protesters wore shirts depicting Brazil’s colors, while leftist protesters used other colors.

Both Alexander and Rezende Jr. say the yellow is an improvement from the red T-shirts that were worn by government supporters when the left was in power, showing an underlying support for communism.

“When Bolsonaro started running, his supporters used yellow to show that I’m Brazilian and I don’t want communism in my country,” Alexander said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Washington, DC.  presented the Brazilian national team jersey to US President Donald Trump at the White House on March 19, 2019.

The battle for the yellow jersey leaves some yearning to reclaim a triumphant past, while others move to create new meaning for the iconic symbol. In a country with very deep roots in football, this is an issue that is unlikely to go away.

Assumpção thinks it is only possible for the football community and Brazilians who are not on the far right to recover the jersey “maybe in five years or 10, but not now. Not yet.”

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