Brazil’s black coaches speak out on racism in football

roger fluminense racism

Good morning and welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. Today, we are looking at racism in Brazilian football, as the league’s only two black coaches faced each other this weekend. There’s also a look back at Neymar’s career, as the forward wins his 100th cap for Brazil. Finally, we explore one of Brazil’s biggest export markets: professional footballers.

Brazil’s black coaches speak out on racism in football

On Saturday evening, in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium, the head coaches of Fluminense and Bahia—Marcão and Roger Machado—wore t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Enough Prejudice” and spoke at length about the structural racism in place in Brazilian football.

Why it matters. In a largely black sport in a majority black country, Marcão and Roger Machado are the only two black managers in the league. In the second tier, there is only Botafogo-SP’s Hemerson Maria.

How racism is validated. After the match, Roger Machado gave an honest, clear diagnosis of what he sees as the “structural, institutionalized prejudice” of Brazilian football. “The biggest prejudice I have felt was not through insults. I feel there is racism when I go to a restaurant and I’m the only black person. In university, I was the only black person. This is proof to me. But even so, when we say this, people try and say: ‘There is no racism, can’t you see? You made it.’ No, I am the proof there is racism because I made it.”

Closed shop. Brazilian football coaching is an old boys’ club. Teams sack their managers on a whim, yet the coaches rarely leave the league, popping up at another Série A club the next month. However, when black coaches come along, they are rarely included in this merry-go-round, lasting much less time at the top level.

Andrade. The best example of this is Jorge Luís Andrade, who came in as a caretaker coach and led Flamengo—Brazil’s biggest club—to the league title in 2009. For most other coaches, this would have set him up for an entire career of bouncing around Brazil’s elite teams, but not for Andrade, the first black manager to win the Brazilian league since 1992.

Four months after lifting the trophy and winning the manager of the year award, Andrade was sacked. His next job came five months later, at second division side Brasiliense, who play their home games to no more than a couple of thousand fans in a town outside Brasilia. His next job came in the third division, then he dropped into non-league football. In 2017, he was in charge of Petrolina, who play in the second-tier of the Pernambuco state league, before deciding to pack it in and sell fruit at a Rio de Janeiro market.

Additional stories:

Neymar hits 100: the story so far

At just 27 years old, Neymar won his 100th cap for the Brazilian national team last week, meaning he now joins a select group of 14 players to have hit this milestone, according to data from the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). 

Why it matters. Despite the impressive achievement, Neymar’s Brazil career has been a mixed bag, with the Paris Saint-Germain star rarely able to win over his home fans. Even so, it’s difficult to argue with the numbers. Besides his whopping number of caps, Neymar is already Brazil’s fourth all-time top scorer, with 61 goals.

Can he catch Pelé? According to the CBF’s records of the Brazilian national team, Neymar is currently five goals behind Zico and six behind Ronaldo in the all-time goalscoring charts. Considering that he is only 27, there is every likelihood he will surpass both of these Brazil legends on goals scored. Also, if he were to manage four or five goals a year until he reaches 35, he would overtake Pelé’s record of 95.

Debut. Neymar got his first Brazil call-up weeks after the fiasco of the 2010 World Cup. Flying at Santos, previous coach Dunga was chastised for not taking the 18-year-old Neymar to South Africa. In his bow for the Seleção, he grabbed a goal in a 2-0 friendly win over the United States.

Neymar-dependence. Ever since, Neymar has been a key part of the Brazil team, with several coaches deciding to build the team around him. His goals and assists were crucial, leading the national side to become dangerously dependent on the forward for a large part of his Brazil career. When he was playing, it felt as if he was the only player on the pitch. When he was missing, Brazil were useless.

Annus horribilis. 2019 will be a year to forget for Neymar. Starting with a metatarsal injury that kept him out for three months, he unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a move away from Paris Saint-Germain, leaving him to be despised by his own fans. There were also allegations of rape brought against him by a Brazilian model, in a case that was later dismissed. With the spotlight firmly fixed on him due to the sexual assault scandal, Neymar injured his ankle and watched from the sidelines as Brazil won the Copa América on home soil.

Special treatment. In response to criticism that he is spoiled by the national team—reports have been confirmed that his father has been allowed into the Brazil dressing room—Neymar snapped during a press conference ahead of his 100th game. “When a high-level athlete reaches a high level, being considered one of the best in the world, why not treat him differently?” he questioned. “I’ve always been one of the people who carried [the national team] on my back.”

Nigeria. In fact, Neymar now has 101 caps, after starting Brazil’s 1-1 draw with Nigeria on Sunday. However, after feeling a thigh complaint, he was substituted in the 12th minute.

Brazil’s footballing expats

A report from research group CIES Football Observatory tabulates 1,330 Brazilian footballers playing abroad in some 147 leagues around the world, making them the largest contingent of expats in global football by a significant distance.

Why it matters. For decades, Brazilian clubs and their South American neighbors have become export organizations, producing young players and selling them to Europe and Asia. Even among Brazil’s biggest and most traditional football teams, it is revenue from player sales that keeps them afloat.

The study covers 98 football associations around the world, of which Brazilian footballers are present in 85. The biggest migration route for these players is to Portugal, a natural choice due to the lack of a language barrier and less strict visa requirements. Japan and Italy, other countries with a vast diaspora in Brazil, are also popular destinations.

Players per capita. It is worth noting that while Brazil exports more footballers than any other country, neighbors Uruguay and Argentina sell far more in relation to their overall population. In Argentina, there is one footballer playing abroad for every 49,670 inhabitants. In Uruguay this goes even deeper: out of every 10,409 Uruguayans, one is a professional footballer playing abroad.

Exports high, imports low. While Brazilian players pop up in all sorts of countries around the world, the number of expats in the national championship is incredibly small. Brazil’s second, third and fourth-tiers have the smallest amount of foreigners of any football leagues on the planet, while there are only 63 expat players in the top division—around half coming from Argentina and Colombia.

Each Série A side has an average of 3.15 foreigners in their squad, which pales in comparison to England’s Premier League (15.2 per club), Italy’s Serie A (16.1) and the German Bundesliga (13.1). There are a few explanations for this: foreign players, even from neighboring companies, usually come at a premium. With a never-ending pool of Brazilian footballers coming through the ranks, spending on a foreigner can get in the way of clubs’ export models. Furthermore, the CBF has a limit of five foreigners which a team may field at any one time.

What else you should know

Série A. With Palmeiras and Santos dropping points in midweek and at the weekend, Flamengo took another step towards the Brazilian title. Eight points clear with 13 games to go, the Rio de Janeiro giants are within touching distance of the trophy, which would be their first league win in ten years. The season is not wrapped up yet, however, and Flamengo have some tricky fixtures remaining between now and December, still having to go away to Grêmio, Palmeiras and Santos.

Volleyball. Brazil are one victory away from winning the Men’s Volleyball World Cup. At the time of writing, Brazil are one set to the good against hosts Japan, and a positive result would guarantee them the trophy. Unbeaten after winning nine on the spin, Brazil went into this match after a hard-fought triumph over rivals and second-placed Poland.

Olympic sports 1. In a successful week for Brazilian athletes, Arthur Nory won the high bar gold medal at the Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart. The 26-year-old came out of nowhere to win bronze in the floor event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and has now been made favorite for gold in Tokyo next year.

Olympic sports 2. At the World Boxing Championships in Russia, Brazil’s Bia Ferreira won gold in the women’s 60kg weight class. The Panamerican Games champion defeated Chinese opponent Cong Wang in the final by a unanimous 5-0 decision. 

Women’s football. Brazil remain undefeated under Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, winning two friendlies last week against England and Poland. Neither performance was stellar, but the results remain good and spirits are high among the squad.

UFC. In his sixth pro-MMA bout, Kron Gracie was defeated by Cub Swanson in the co-main event at UFC Tampa on Saturday night. As some consolation, the pair were awarded the Fight of the Night bonus for what was a highly entertaining encounter. Gracie—grandson of the legendary Hélio Gracie—managed to go the distance but lost on a judges’ decision.

Saint Dulce of the Poor. Sister Dulce Pontes was canonized in the Vatican City on Sunday, making her the first female saint born in Brazil. Known all over the country for her life devoted to charity and helping the less fortunate, what is less known is that the Good Angel of Bahia was a massive football fan. Her love for the poor was only matched by her adoration of Ypiranga, one of the most traditional clubs in the north-eastern city of Salvador. Other famous Ypiranga fans include musician Gilberto Gil and author Jorge Amado.

Goal of the Week

We had to dig deep for this one, but it was worth it. In the U-20 Brazilian championship, Coritiba destroyed Internacional, winning 4-1 and treating their fans to this spectacular overhead kick from youngster Pedro Thomaz. Absolutely filthy stuff.

Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall. Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”