Today, Roger The Dodger greets the beginning of the Copa do Mundo (World Cup) with a graceful essay about the jogo bonito (beautiful game) and its host country. This post is offered in honor of the memory of Professor Robert ("Bullet Bob") Hayes and his kindness to this blogger during a qualifying oral exam over Latin America (including Brazil). If this is a (fair & balanced) disclosure of a falta de magia em seus pés (a lack of magic in this blogger's feet or other low parts), so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
World Cup Survival Guide
By Roger Cohen
Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing
Here is your essential survival guide to the World Cup in Brazil. You need it whether or not you are going there. For the next month nothing much else around the globe matters.
First off, nothing works in Brazil. Or rather, everything works but in a different way. The essential word, or concept, is “jeitinho.” There’s a “jeitinho” for your every need, from getting hold of a ticket to the semifinal to getting out of a speeding fine. A “jeitinho” is the means to bend the rules, display ingenuity and conjure solutions from impossible situations.
It is a core part of the nation’s “jogo de cintura,” literally its ability to adjust its belt, more loosely its endless flexibility. The poor North American “gringo,” by contrast, is literal-minded and rules-bound. Loosen up or lose.
Second, slow down. Everything is late, and even later in Bahia. So is everyone. For a dinner, usually 90 minutes late, and don’t expect anyone before the “telenovela” (TV soap opera) is over. The Rio metro is several years late, ahead of schedule by Brazilian standards. “Atrasado” — delayed — is a state of mind.
The nation tends to “empurrar com a barriga,” literally push with the (soft) stomach, or put things off through artful procrastination. The only place you find twinkling speed is on the soccer field, where Brazilians have “samba no pé,” or roughly magic in their feet.
Third, relax. That is essential. “Tudo bem,” everything’s fine, there’s sun, there’s “chopp” (ice-cold draught beer) and miles of “praia” (beach). Brazil is a can-do nation of immigrants on the make. “Bola pra frente!” — keep your head up and keep the spirit (literally “ball forward!”). There is always the “jogo bonito” — the beautiful game.
Which is sacred, this game of soccer, this passion, lived more intensely in Brazil than anywhere else, with Italy a close second. Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool football club, once remarked that, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Shankly, for Brazilians, was guilty of a gross understatement.
For the next month the most important sound across a vast nation will be: “Gooooooool do ... BRASIL!” No translation required. The second most important will be “Golaço!” (“Awesome goal”). If Neymar — latest in a long line of prodigious Brazilian talents with “samba no pé” — shines, then more than 200 million Brazilians will be happy.
But if the title holders, Spain, with their “tiki-taka” high-speed precision passing, or the always menacing German “Mannschaft,” or the hated Argentines with the genius Messi up front, should steal the show, Brazilian mourning will know no end. President Dilma Rousseff’s chances of re-election later this year will suffer. Heads will roll.
Few things are more certain than that. Except perhaps that the United States and England will not get beyond the quarter-finals.
Drink the caipirinhas. But with cachaça (local rum-like liquor), not vodka. Sprinkle most food with farofa (a toasted manioc flour mixture). Farofa is essential with moqueqa (a fish stew made with coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and palm oil), which in my view is best eaten (very slowly) in Bahia. Try the bacalhau (dry, salted cod) prepared in a thousand forms. Hit a churrascaria or two to consume quantities of barbecued meat speared on skewers and cut at the table. Accompany with deep-fried “aipim,” (manioc), and a salad of tomato and heart of palm. Emerge fuller than you imagined possible. Drink more caipirinha.
The next day run along the ridged firm sand at water’s edge to feel better about your body in a body-conscious culture and gaze at the majesty of the forested mountains. Go for a stroll. Watch out for Tom Jobim’s “Garota de Ipanema.” She is still around. Do not be cowed by alarmist tales of thievery and thugs. “Pagar para ver,” the Brazilians say, or very roughly don’t curb your curiosity in the name of caution.
Most Brazilians, in my experience of living there and being married to one, have a natural optimism, goodness and humility — the latter captured in the extraordinary and widespread expression “desculpa qualquer coisa,” or please excuse anything that may somehow, for some reason, due to some mischance, not have been pleasing. They are deeply linked to their land. No single word is more evocative for a Brazilian than “saudade”— the longing combined with nostalgia that often informs the lyrics and rhythms of Brazilian music. In no other country do gentleness and violence reside in such proximity to each other. If you read one book, choose Peter Robb’s A Death in Brazil (2004).
It is important to win. But that is not quite everything. Brazil, five times World Cup champions, has (nearly) always played beautiful soccer — creative, liquid, improvised, unpredictable and at times outrageous. It’s a land of magic and love (amor). Ω
[Roger Cohen joined The New York Times in 1990. He was a foreign correspondent for more than a decade before becoming Foreign Editor in 2001. Since 2004 he has written a column for the Times-owned International Herald Tribune, first for the news pages and then, since 2007, for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of three books: Soldiers and Slaves (2005); Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo (1998); and (with Claudio Gatti) In the Eye of the Storm (1991). His family memoir, The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family, is forthcoming in January 2015. Born in London, Cohen received an M.A. degree in History and French from Oxford University in 1977.]
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