Amongst 20 Serie A clubs, the top division of football in Brazil, only five women are in leadership roles, men hold the remaining 198 roles.
The four clubs with women in their most senior positions include Chapecoense, where Claudia Piazza is the Director of the club’s social department, Atlético-MG, where Adriana Branco is the Executive Director, Cruzeiro, where Deis E. Chaves Fonseca leads the club’s projects, São Paulo, where Angelina Juvêncio heads the department of social assistance, and Sport, in which Melina Amorim and Júlia Kacowicz are the marketing and communications directors, respectively.
In November 2016, the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) named the former player Emily Lima as the first female coach to lead the Brazilian women’s national team, commenting on the appointment she said “our country is very prejudiced about women leading in any sphere of society”.
Ethnic minorities also take too few jobs in Brazilian football. According to research by the news blog Journalismo Especializado, in 2016 amongst 40 clubs in Serie A and B only three were managed by ethnic minorities.
In Serie A, Jair Ventura managed Botafogo and Marcos Aurélio (Marcão) Fluminense. Both started in their clubs as assistant coaches, meaning that they were promoted rather than being new appointments. In Serie B, Givanildo Oliveira managed Náutico, but was sacked after the end of the season.
To the Brazilian researcher Denaldo Alchorne de Souza, one reason behind the lack of black coaches in football management are enduring stereotypes about Afro- Brazilians.
“There continues to be the perception that there is a lack of education or that black coaches or directors have no leadership skills. People need to look at history” he said.
The stereotyping of women and ethnic minorities as ‘risky’, ‘unsuitable’ and ‘not competent’ had been previously identified by researchers as one of the explanations for the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in football leadership and coaching positions in Europe.
The idea of Brazilian ‘racial democracy’
But in Brazil, unlike in Europe and the US, during the twentieth century a society emerged which had at its core the objective of racial equality between indigenous Brazilians, Europeans, and Africans. Brazil was said to have achieved ‘racial democracy’ or a post- racial society. In actual fact the ideal masked a society where racial opportunity became deeply connected to class, this also visible in sport.
“Football used to be the perfect example of Brazil’s racial democracy, but this idea has been torn down,” Marcelo Carvalho, founder of the Brazilian observatory on racism in football, told Fare.
“In 2014 we registered 18 racist incidents in football and to help put an end to the idea that Brazil is a democracy a UN report recently described Us as a country in which racism is institutionalised“.
According to the observatory’s most recent report, in 2015 there were 35 incidents of racism registered in Brazilian football, 24 inside stadia and 11 on the internet.
Amongst the examples they record is the high profile incident involving former Santos goalkeeper Aranha, who in August 2014 saw Grêmio fans call him a monkey during a match between the two sides. At the end of the game, he said: “The worst of all was that when I reported the incident the referee told me I was provoking the home fans”.
In his research Denaldo also highlights the racism endured by ethnic minority players in the early beginnings of Brazilian football, who had to hide their ‘blackness’ before a society that valued ‘whiteness’ and ‘whitening’ as physical and cultural characteristics.
“The athletes that played in the 1950 World Cup were seen as the living proof of the end of racism and the consolidation of so called ‘racial democracy’. After the legendary match against Uruguay which holds the status of being a national trauma, Barbosa and Bigode, two black players, were scapegoated for losing the match and Brazil the World Cup” he explained.
‘Sorry, you are black’
In an interview with the Observatório da Discriminação Racial no Futebol, Lula Pereira, former player and coach, was vocal about his struggle in finding a coaching job: “I have heard businessmen say, ‘The club liked you, but sorry, you are black’.”
A similar claim was made 50 years before by Gentil Cardoso, Brazil’s national team coach during the 1959 South American Championship.
In 2017, Roger Machado and Cristóvão Borges, who were sacked by Grêmio and Corinthians, respectively, will lead Atlético Miner and Vasco in the upcoming season. The demotion of Marcos Aurelio to assistant coach at Fluminense will bring the numbers down.
In the end the data is almost irrelevant in a country that is beginning to understand that it has an issue at the heart of its football structure that tells painful realities about Brazilian society and the way it regards both the female population and Afro-Brazilians.