In an interview for Spotify Brasil, Gilberto Gil takes the very Taoist viewpoint that nothing is all bad, not even this year’s complicated and controversial World Cup hosted in Brazil.
Brazilians have always had a love/hate affair with the Cup, from what I understand from my visit there in 2002, which coincided with that year’s Cup held in Korea, and resulted in Brazil’s 5th championship. One of my friends there described to me the mixed feelings that the focus on futbol inspires. What is a source of national pride, she said, is also a huge distraction from the real issues facing the country. This has become even more pointed in the last couple years with Brazil being the host country. Efforts to raise the money needed and ready infrastructure for the games has drawn criticism which ranges from attempts to raise funds from those who can afford it least, to complaints about half-finished (or poorly done) construction projects, to charges of serious abuse of human rights.
In the interview, Gil speaks with affection about his relationship with soccer. As a boy he played the goalie position (“I was pretty bad…my feet weren’t coordinated”) and his first memory about the Cup is hearing the 1950 broadcast on the radio. The announcer was composer Ary Barroso, and Brazil lost. (“I still lived in the interior of (the state of) Bahia, and there was a sense of inexplicable collective sadness.”)
About this year’s Cup :
Spotify: Many have criticized this World Cup in Brazil. Do you think that things could have been conducted differently?
Gil: Yes, but in Brazil we’ve traditionally had difficulties in the relationship between the government and society, in the provision of basic services, in public spending. These are classic things. We’re not just discovering them on the eve of the Cup. I don’t demonize the Cup. It’s a moment of relief and affirmation, a mimimally postive moment of expression of our collective possibilities. It is also a way to renew, to innovate, to move Brazil toward the contemporary. Some positive aspects of the Cup are undeniable. We need to talk about these as well. And we have to discuss the negatives. But not everything in life is solely bad. Everything that’s good is bad, and everything bad has some good. We need to acknowledge the extent of human suffering. Human life is tragic and terrible. It’s joyful and sad. It’s beautiful and ugly. So’s the World Cup (laughter.)
Although I didn’t expect it (because my main goal was to practice the language) my visit to Brazil in 2002 revolved around the World Cup. Everyone watched the games, no matter the hour. In Curitiba, friends invited me to a brunch given for a large extended family, and one person’s style of screaming at goals (and missed goals) prompted a discussion of “Psycho.” In Cascavel, 4 of us got up at 3 in the morning and watched the game in our jammies. And in São Paulo, I watched the last game of the cup in a fancy Sports Club, with the same friend who had expressed her concerns about the how the emphasis on soccer drew attention from social reform. When Brazil won, we joined thousands of other partiers on the Avenida Paulista for a spontaneous celebration parade, and I got to walk behind a woman who did an amazing samba. Everyone was chanting “Pentacampeão.”
You know I’ll be rooting for a sixth championship. Tomorrow afternoon Brazil plays Croatia…can’t wait!