Futbol (Soccer) as a National Sport and Culture

27 06 2010

My visit to Brazil has been a full immersion baptism to futbol as a national sport. In the States, soccer is the king of youth sports with the greatest participation, both male and female, over all other sports. It also draws a greater participation than all other youth activities (scouting etc.). However, it has not been able to break through to mainstream sports for the U.S. In the States, baseball, basketball and American Football rule. Hockey has also seen tremendous growth over the past 10 years. However, soccer remains the domain of youth participation.

We are now in the middle of the 2010 World Cup and this contrast of the popularity of soccer in the U.S. and Brazil is amazing. We arrived in Sao Paulo almost two weeks ago and while on our way to Campinas, we were shown several famous futbol stadiums including one of the oldest and most famous in Brazil.

Soccer was brought to Brazil from England by Miller in the late 1800’s. It rapidly became a national passion that would be hard to rival. I would even go so far as to say that futbol is an integral part of the culture of the Brazilians. When we watched the first game that Brazil played in the 2010 World Cup, schools closed early, businesses closed for several hours and I heard that even public transportation in some places came to a halt as all gathered in seas of yellow and green to watch their team take on North Korea.

As Cup play continued, futbol was found on virtually every TV we saw throughout our travels. Later, we saw more futbol stadiums as Fabio, a graduate student at Unicamp in Campinas, took us on a city tour of Campinas.

Whenever we entered a restraint, airport, store or open market, the World Cup was on and Brazil was watching. When we arrived in Rio, we were able to watch Brazil’s second match on the pitch as they secured their place in the knockout rounds that start today. As you walk the famous beaches of Rio (Impanema, Copacabana, Leblon), you pass little juice bars every 500 meters or so. A bike/running path follows the beach where there is a constant flow of folks keeping in shape.

However, the Cup seems to provide a workout tempo that I suspect is different than most other times along this path. Frequently, you would see people running along the path stop to jog in place in front of one of the juice bars to catch the latest Cup action before then progress to the next juice bar. It did not seem to matter who was playing. If it was World Cup futbol, it was on and Brazil was watching.

Now I sit in the Dallas airport waiting for my flight to Denver for the ISTE conference and I am felling World Cup withdrawals. I was able to catch part of the second half of the first knockout round on satellite radio while driving but now find myself in the Dallas airport where CNN drones on with all the latest news that is of interest to those in the U.S. Today’s headlines: Gulf oil spill, first tropical storm in the Caribbean and projected to enter the Gulf, Michael Jackson wrongful death suit, Massachusetts school district condom distribution program that includes 1st graders, shortage of Tylenol, Kellogg recall of some types of cereal and of course the fall of McCrystal in Afghanistan.  But what is the score for the Uruguay South Korea game? The USA team is about to play but few around me appear to be aware of this approaching event.

So while Brazil (and much of the world) has World Cup fever, I will have to seek other sources for futbol news. You see, I was one of those who usually took little notice of the World Cup until I experienced the culture of futbol in Brazil. Thank you for the gift and allowing me to “catch the fever”.




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