For years, Brazilian football has been the hallmark of professional football across the globe. The world’s most renowned talented footballers have Brazilian descent. However, there is a story behind the success of the sport in Brazil. This work explores the relationship between the themes of sports, sovereignty, class and racial struggles, and the Italo-Brazilian footballers.
As espoused in the text, we see pieces of evidence of racial and class struggles. The football clubs were being formed based on the foreign communes and for locals to be incorporated, they had to satisfy some level of affluence. It was, therefore, unusual to find the people of color, and women actively participating in soccer. Germania (for the Germans), Portuguesa de Desportos, and Sports Club Syrio are some of the elite sports clubs formed in Sao Paulo. The elitist vision of an exclusivist sporting practice shows how the less affluent communities were disadvantaged.
Since the footballing instructions were also in English, there was a language barrier that further drove a wedge between the elite (and middle-class communities) and the poor communities. Financial barriers, brought about by poverty. As a result, talented soccer players from poor backgrounds were denied the chance to play first-class football and access to their facilities. Italian community was among the affected party. As much as Europhilia was deep-rooted, Northern European players were swiftly accommodated over the Southerners like Italians.
With the tough conditions and other harsh ordeals suffered by the Italians, they devoted themselves to working their ways up to the top through soccer. Unlike their fellow European counterparts, Italians had to first endure the low-income jobs, insecurity, besides other arduous conditions when they immigrated to Brazil. They formed the Palestra Italia Club that struggled for 7 years (between 1910 and 1917) before finding its way into the Sao Paulo League. Despite the tough tides, they established a significant economic presence in Sao Paulo owning the largest quantities of agricultural assets.
By 1930, the Italian influence was more than just a club business. They helped establish prominent names in the Brazilian national team squad. Fabrini, Grimaldi, Rico, Fabio, Barbuy, and Luciano are among the players who made Palestra Italia more than just a name. The use of Portuguese for footballing instructions created room for the inclusion of the disadvantaged players, albeit grudgingly, and fostered national unity in Brazil. The Italians also made sure that it was not just an ‘Italian Affair’ but an Italo-Brazilian unity.
With the rise of professionalism, most Brazilian-born Italians emigrated to Italy and other European nations. Their accommodation was not swift as they took most positions that the native Italians assumed were rightfully theirs. Migrants and their children are considered as consumers, politically affiliated, or even soldiers in their fatherland. On the flip side, it appeared to the Brazilians as if the Italians had an anterior motive when nurturing players in Brazil. The dilemma arises as we cannot categorize where the loyalties of these Italo-Brazilian players lie.