National sport, national passion

December 21, 2012

Sao Paulo, Brazil

By Paulo Whitaker

Soccer is the passion of Brazilians, whether they play it themselves or fervently root for a club in the national league’s annual tournament dubbed the Brasileirão, or big Brazilian championship. The 2014 World Cup will certainly cause a frenzy in the country, and if Brazil were to win then we can expect a week-long national holiday.

The World Cup’s opening match will take place in Sao Paulo’s brand new Arena Corinthians, still under construction but over 50% completed. Brazil is in a hurry to finish its stadiums, so in the case of Arena Corinthans there are 2,000 workers employed around the clock.

Those workers are being pressed to work hard and fast, so like any worker under pressure, they need a stress outlet.Some 500 of them have formed 40 teams to play their own soccer tournament in a small court-sized field next to the stadium, organized by the team of engineers.

They’ve named their tournament the “Brasileirinho,” or little Brazilian championship, in contrast to the Brasileirao. The names of the teams are also taken from names of world class clubs. For example, there is the Ruim Madrid team, as a play on the name of Real Madrid, but meaning “Bad Madrid.” Then there is Barcelama, combining the name of club Barcelona with the word “lama,” or mud. I was actually hoping the final would be between these two, Bad Madrid and Barce-Mud.

The matches were held in intervals between the day and night shifts, without stopping the progress of the construction. At the start I thought they would be aggressive matches with a lot of fighting, but I was surprised from the start that they weren’t at all.

The rules were the same as professional soccer except that they invented a new disciplinary card between the yellow and the red; this one was blue. The blue card is used as punishment for serious misconduct that doesn’t merit expulsion. Whoever receives the blue card sits out of the match for a few minutes, and then has to promise to donate three kilograms of non-perishable food to a charity.

Another interesting detail is the color of the synthetic grass. Instead of the usual green, they used a disconcerting gray. Green is the color of the Palmeiras soccer club, the archenemy of Corinthians club, the owner of this new World Cup stadium. I was told that all things green are prohibited there.

In fact, a company that provides services to the stadium once sent workers with green safety helmets. They were strongly recommended to change them for another color, or face the risk of having their contract cancelled.

All things of the national passion.

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