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Why Brazilian fans no longer wear the Seleção jersey

What was once the symbol of a country has been politicised by Bolsonaro's right-wingers

Why Brazilian fans no longer wear the Seleção jersey  What was once the symbol of a country has been politicised by Bolsonaro's right-wingers

First adopted in 1952 to unite a country torn apart by the Maracanazo drama, now the verdeoro that has become synonymous with Brazil's national selection has become so divisive that fans are refusing to wear the jerseys. For many, in fact, they now represent a symbol of the far-right of Jair Bolsonaro, the outgoing president now that national elections scheduled for Oct. 2 are approaching, with former President Lula holding a strong lead. 

Moreover, in just over a month it will also be World Cup time in Qatar, where Tite's national team arrives among the odds-on favorites riding a seven-win open streak and an unbeaten streak that has lasted more than a year. The federation's intention, then, is to depoliticize the Selecao's jersey to avoid repercussions precisely during the most anticipated football event of the season, but despite its efforts it will not be an easy task. In fact, the rift between the two political factions shows no signs of healing, aided by the election. 

In August Nike, the historical supplier of jerseys for the verdeoro selection, had suspended its service of printing politicians' names on the shoulders of the uniforms to avoid creating further politicization. Other terms such as "socialism," "communism," and "myth" have been banned by the U.S. company. Along these lines, Nike recently launched the Brazilian national team's jersey collection with a campaign entitled "Veste a Garra," featuring sports stars and pop culture idols belonging to opposing political poles. In recent days, however, it has been proposed that poll workers should not be allowed to wear national team jerseys during operations at polling stations because of the danger of chaos.

The problem, however, runs deeper than just the upcoming round of elections. As we recently wrote recounting the appeal of the Brasilian Core, the style that for years has brought the exuberance and color of the Brazilian nation to the world, including through the extensive use of Selecao symbols. Football iconography has always been more than just a passion for a widely played sport; it has been the lintel of national identity for a vast and multi-ethnic country. It is no coincidence that the relationship between sports and power, and between soccer and politics has always been very close-especially in South America but not only-ending up creating distortions on the basic values of this. 

The election that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power in 2018 was, moreover, marked by the support of numerous sports figures, who lent their credibility and fame to the Liberal Party representative's campaign. Bolsonaro himself chose to use yellow as the color of his party, and later far-right militias began to use Brazilian national team jerseys as their representative uniform, misappropriating a common symbol through a mechanism very common to other parafascist factions. 

At the same time, left-wing associations have reclaimed the Brazilian national team jersey, to restore it to its original dimension as a synonym for the unity of the country. However, not everyone is convinced that there is still room to recover the relationship between the verdeoro jersey and the Brazilian people. In a recent interview for CNN, Walter Casagrande, Socrates' companion at Corinthians and seen in Italy with the jerseys of Ascoli and Torino, spoke harshly on the subject, stating that today the national team's yellow is now hostage to the right, and consequently no longer wearable without adhering to that political party: "Brazil in front of the whole world is making a bad impression. For the first time in my life the national team jersey is being exploited against the meanings of democracy and freedom."