Becoming Brazilian: The Making of National Identity through Football

By Felipe Tobar and Luana Gusso.

Published by The International Journal of Sport and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 25, 2017 $US5.00

Football started to play an important role in Brazilian society in the early 1900s, being considered a metaphor par excellence for life in society. At first dominated by a powerful elite that wanted to copy modern European standards, football eventually became popular with the general public. Despite conflicts, it became common ground, consequently becoming a key factor in the nation-building process exploited by the Brazilian government. Analyzing the first half of the twentieth century, this article discusses the role of football as a crucial instrument for forging Brazilian national identity from four points of view. First, this article will focus on the social class system, which was used to segregate the population. Second, the focus will be on the issue of race and the fact that Brazilian society was still heavily influenced by slave culture. Then, the focus will be on the crucial debate about different spaces and cultures, more specifically, the idea of creating a “national unity” around the national team after the emergence of a regional rivalry between Brazil and Argentina. The fourth focus will be on the government of former President Getúlio Vargas (1930–45), who led a process that officialized football as part of Brazilian culture and made it a symbol of patriotism and civic duty. In conclusion, this article problematizes how the role of football in shaping Brazilian national identity has evolved in more recent times and its influence after the 2014 World Cup and the disclosure of corruption cases involving football officials in 2015. Finally, we list public and private actions in order to prevent what could mean the “decline of the idea of Brazil as country of football.”

Keywords: National Identity, Football, Brazil

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.37-49. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 25, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 354.279KB)).

Felipe Tobar

Master’s Candidate, Cultural Heritage and Society Programme, Univille University, Joinville, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Luana Gusso

Professor, Cultural Heritage and Society Programme, Univille University, Joinville, Santa Catarina, Brazil