Racism hits Brazilian football ahead of World Cup13 March 2014

AseriesofracistincidentshavehitBrazilianfootballandraisedconcernsondiscriminationinthegame,aheadofthe2014FIFAWorldCup,tobeheldinJune.

The latest incident took place on Thursday (06 March) during a match of the São Paulo state championship, Campeonato Paulista, between Mogi Mirim and Santos.

Santos midfielder, Arouca, was on the field talking to reporters when some fans in the stands called him ‘monkey’.

The insults came a day after the Brazilian referee, Márcio Chagas da Silva, said he was targeted by racist fans, before and after the game he supervised.

Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, promptly condemned both incidents through a post on her Twitter account:

“The Brazilian football has been marred by racist incidents against the referee, Márcio Chagas, and the football player, Arouca. Márcio and Arouca and have all my support, as well as all Brazilians.”

“It is unacceptable that Brazil, the largest black nation outside of Africa, coexists with scenes of racism. I invite all religious leaders across the world to send their messages against racism, and for peace to be read during the #CopaDasCopas (Cup of Cups)”, she added.

Dilma had previously said that she wanted this year’s World Cup to be known as the Cup of Peace and Anti-Racism.

Sporting bodies condemn racism 
Following the incident in the Campeonato Paulista, the state’s Football Federation (FPF) opened an investigation.

The FPF also closed the Mirim stadium, where the incident took place, to the public, as a preventive measure until the disciplinary proceedings decide upon the case.

The player himself said racist behaviour is ‘inadmissible’, and called on the country’s authorities to act.

“It is very sad for me to talk about racism. I could be talking about the great victory the team achieved, especially after the goal I scored, but I left the pitch very sad with the demonstrations of racism.” said Arouca in an interview to Santos TV.

“It is lamentable that it still happens in our days and even more frequently, it seems. I thought that after what happened to Tinga, people would change, but I was wrong.” he added.

The Brazilian footballer Tinga, who plays for the Belo Horizonte based team Cruzeiro, was also subjected to racism in a recent Copa Libertadores match, in Peru. On the incidents he said:

“Everybody considered terrible what happened to me. They will think the same about what happened to Márcio and then what? The sanctions are not severe enough, nothing happens. It will all remain the same.”

The country’s Sports Minister, Aldo Rebelo, and the President of the São Paulo union of professional football players (Sapesp), Rinaldo Martorelli, also criticised the fans’ improper behaviour and pledged more action to avoid similar happenings.

Sapesp’s President mentioned that the union will launch a campaign along with the state’s players against racism.

Anti-racism initiatives react to incidents
The racism row that has marred Brazil’s football also boosted a number of anti-racism initiatives, led by fans and football bodies, across Brazil to counter discrimination and improper behaviour in the stands.

During São Paulo’s derby between Corinthians and São Paulo, over the weekend (09 March), the Gaviões da Fiel, a fan group of Corinthians, displayed a giant jersey with the message “No to Racism and Social Exclusion”.

Similarly, the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) announced that from Wednesday onwards (12 March), in all matches of the Brazilian Cup, the referees’ jersey will feature a message against discrimination: We are all equal (Somos iguais).

Earlier in February, the fans of Grêmio Recreativo and Atlético-MG and the players of Fluminense also stood up against discrimination in football and in support of Tinga.

Following the latest incidents, a national campaign to tackle racism in sport was also suggested by the Federal Deputy Valmir Assunção.

“We can’t accept racism. If there’s racism in football, that means that the Brazilian society is also racist, and we can’t accept that. I am going suggest a big anti-racism campaign to tackle discrimination in sport.”

Brazlian ‘rolezinhos’
The discussion around discrimination and social exclusion in the Brazilian society has increased over the last year when the media spotlight turned to the Portuguese speaking country for the 2013 Confederations Cup.

The period has been marked by riots, demonstrations and strikes led by social movements, that also targeted the sporting mega events of 2014 and 2016.

Last January, several shopping centres across the country were hit by the ‘rolezinhos’ – gatherings of predominantly poor, black youths who party in shopping centres usually occupied by mostly wealthy, white consumers – bringing the topic back to the agenda.

The primary aim of the protesters was to challenge racial and economic discrimination.