Jogo Bonito: Believing in the Beautiful

June 16, 2006

Slug, of the Sluggishly Sluggish Slug Blog, whom until recently I thought was somebody else and not my own wittier alter ego (silly me, how else could our backgrounds, views, and posting timelines agree so much?) has reminded me -and I am profoundly grateful for this reminder- that burying myself neck-deep in the sand of miseries that surrounds Afghanistan is not right. It is a good excuse for the sort of depressive mode that I can easily slip into and not get out of for months, and hence the perfect recipe for laziness – laziness of the kind that is often paraded as philosophical-intellectual concern. And there is far too many good things happening all around to be myopically concerned only with doom and gloom.
Take, for instance, the FIFA World Cup games underway in Germany!

Look at those colorful, smily faces! This must be the nicest World Cup logo I have ever seen, and all too much needed at a time like this. Kudos to the designers who could not have come up with a more untimely and irrelevant -and hence more artistic- design for the tournament logo (I have not seen a better definition of art than that provided by that indispensible prophet of our own darker sides, Nietzsche, who said that “art sanctifies lies,” and that the profession of the artist, that is, professional lying, is a necessary one.)
OK, back to the World Cup: it’s amazing how once every four years this event distorts all political, cultural, social, economic, religious, and civlizational alliances and antagonisms. It trumps conventional loyalties (well, with the exception of national ones) and organizes the world along completely different lines. Ronaldhino becomes a household name in Afghanistan, and Brazilian football wins fans from Kabul to Kuala lumpur. Iran gets to beat the US in the game that incorporates art and finesse, and does not rely on size (always a plus for the Americans) and annual military spending. Togo and the Ivory Coast vie for the same prize as Japan and Germany. And colors fly! It is a new-age bacchanalia of sorts, where emotional outburst -which has been frowned upon for roughly the past two millenia- is regarded as good and beautiful. My first fond memories of watching the World Cup are those of Coupe de Monde ’98, which the roosters took home. I woke up at ungodly hours to watch the Korea-Japan games with family and friends, and I suspect I might have disturbed the neighbors on a few occasions over the past couple of weeks as well.
My favorite team?
The Canarinhos, the little canaries, the Os, in their yellows and blues, the Brazilians, the believers in the “Jogo Bonito”, the beautiful game. Now I know that lately “I am sick of Brazil” is in vogue. And I admit that a sixth victory would be unfair to the rest of the world and to the Germans in particular. What I like about the Brazilians -aside from the obvious, that is, their superb technique, creativity, an ever-changing roster of young talents, sportsmanship, and their natural grace in stardom- is that they play the game with ideology. They have helped football transcend, from a sport of brawn and bruises to an art with finesse. The canarinhos encapsulate this aspect of the game. Their ideology in football, which has annoyed the heck out of many a European commentators, is that they “believe in the beautiful”, and you just have to respect those who think of sports in those terms.
And they are immensely entertaining. Brazilians are confident enough on the field to not be afraid of taking risks, and as we all have come to learn, no game can be more boring than one in which the sides play it safe, do not take chances with the ball, afraid of giving it away. I am not generally favorably disposed to the superiors, and at times unwittingly support underdogs, but the Brazilians do not wear their supremacy on their sleeves. God forbid is any European country won the cup three times in a row: they would probably institute their own standards for the game and figure ways to extract political and economic juice out of their superiority in the game. I think the fact that so many people support the Brazilians around the world (I read somewhere recently that they are “everybody’s second favorite team, after that of their own country) is because many of the players epitomize the rags to riches profile, as does the country, arguably.

And so my fellow believers in the beautiful, join me in celebrating the canarinhos over the next few weeks, and enjoy the games.

And yes, Slug is my online alter-ego and if I (writing, of course, under the pseudonym of Slug) tell you otherwise, don’t believe it. It is a case of cyberzophrenia and I might just be denying it.