Monday 16 June 2014

"Brazil is not for Beginners" Tom Jobim

So far I have to say I'm loving this World Cup.

The games have been great, even England entertained me against Italy, but what I love is that this World Cup isn't just about the football.

It's about getting to know Brazil as a country. This was something I had a chance to do last year when I spent two weeks in Brazil, firstly in Rio before heading north to Salvador.

Brazil's always intrigued and fascinated me. Before I went, I felt like I knew a bit about country. It's history, the people, of course its football and music.

For some reason I naively thought Brazil would be like a South American version of Spain or Italy, perhaps just a bit more exotic. When I look back I couldn't have been more wrong.

Brazil wasn't quite what I expected. Yes in Rio I experienced the popular images of sun, beaches, football and samba, but I slowly began to realise that I didn't know Brazil at all. That actually when you go beyond the cliches, Brazil is a real unknown quantity to many people.

I've come to the conclusion that Brazil is unique; you can't compare it to anywhere else in the world. That uniqueness comes from many different sources. Firstly the language - they speak Portuguese while the rest of Latin America speaks Spanish. The ethnic mix is incredible. It's not a white country, a black country or a mixed race country it's just Brazil.

It's the size of a continent and as much as Rio represents the face of Brazil to the rest of the world. One city can never truly represent the whole country. For all my previous interest and knowledge about Brazil it's more complex and contradictory than I imagined.

This World Cup is giving people a chance to rethink all the stereotypes and preconceptions about what Brazil and Brazilians are all about.

Things started to change during last year's Confederations Cup competition. The world saw thousands of Brazilians take to the streets to protest about the cost of hosting the World Cup.

It came as a surprise to many. We're told Brazil is the spiritual home of football but suddenly we were confronted by Brazilians who were more concerned about government corruption, poor healthcare and education and a failing transport infrastructure. These things were far more important than a football tournament.

What happened to he happy go lucky party people we like to imagine Brazilians to be?

I've heard a lot about how many Brazilians would like their country to be known for more than just football, samba and a great place to party. I can understand that frustration of a vast and complex nation being defined by a few tired cliches.

The Famous Brazilian Bossa Nova composer Tom Jobim once said about Brazil:

'Brazil is not for beginners'

I heard this quote twice in the space of two days last week. Firstly by the BBC's South American football correspondent Tim Vickery and again in an article in last weekend's Sunday Times.

What does this quote mean? Brazil isn't what you think it is. It's more complex, more confusing, more contradictory, more challenging than a few basic assumptions.

Perhaps by the end of this World Cup, none us will be beginners anymore when it comes to Brazil.