The Brazilian Way

brazil 2006.jpgIt’s one thing to pull against the Brazilian National Team in this year’s World Cup (they are the New York Yankees of international soccer after all). It’s quite another to disrespect their style–something that no self-respecting and knowledgeable soccer fan would ever do.

With 5 World Cup titles to their credit and a roster full of stars, including the “world’s best player” in Ronaldinho, who play for top clubs throughout the world, The Little Canaries back up their braggadocio with perhaps the most fluid and creative style of play ever to grace “The Beautiful Game.”

Many Americans naturally assume that these positive results must flow from a well-organized system that, like any successfull American enterprise, spits out world-class football players like an well-oiled assembly line spits out widgets. But as The New York Times points out in their piece, In Brazil, Unpaved Path to Soccer Excellence, the Brazilian success has evolved in a culture where football is ingrained in the national psyche and where the humble life of the average citizen is characterized by unpredictability and chaos. These hardscrabble conditions, however, are also the progenitor of the creativity and innovation which make for survival in the jungles, slums, back alleys–and the pitch.

It is a telling fact that only 3 of the 23 players on the Brazilian National team come from a “middle class background,” while in the United States soccer remains largely an upper-middle class sport characterized by the typical American obsession with hyper-organization and hierarchy. Until soccer is played in the same improvisational manner that basketball is played in large, urban centers–as long as it remains comfortably ensconced in the suburbs and away from the streets–the United States will continue to send second-rate squads to international competitions. What U.S. soccer needs more than anything else right now is its own Dwyane Wade–a player who can singlehandedly take a game by the scruff of the neck and shake it until it produces the desired result.

Until then, expect more early exits and unfufilled promises. But all is not lost, for there is still beautiful football to be played, done the right way–the Brazilian Way.