Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The beautiful language: On the Technicolour poetry of Brazilian football

Come June, the world’s gaze will be firmly focused on Brazil. The country is hosting the World Cup for the first time in 64 years. The attendant stories – the Seleção’s quest to cast the 1950 Maracanazo defeat to Uruguay into relief; Brazil’s stuttering preparations for the tournament; the social protests that are likely to roar back to life during the competition’s four-week span – are numerous and compelling.

But amid the FIFA-approved images of soccer stars in sun-drenched stadiums, much of what truly defines Brazilian football will be concealed, lost in translation. For while Neymar, Thiago Silva et al represent one aspect of this nation’s continuing clout in the sport, there is another sphere in which it excels.

No other nation can match the verve with which Brazil talks and writes about o jogo bonito. This is a country in which the game and the words that describe it are engaged in permanent dialogue – jostling for position, conceding ground, stretching before snapping back in reconciliation.

This is an excerpt from a long piece on the Technicolour poetry of the Brazilian game, for the beautiful Roads and Kingdoms travel site. Please have a read; it took absolutely ages to write and probably even longer to edit.

The article is part of a series called The Far Post, which is also being published by Sports Illustrated. I can recommend each and every one of the other articles published to date. Click here to dive in.


  1. I just clicked over to your blog from this article on Roads and Kingdoms. I'm American but have been immersed in Brazilian culture (and, of course, soccer) for the last 14 years after marrying a Paulista. Your depiction of the role of soccer in Brazilian culture and the interesting details of nicknames, language, etc., are fantastic. I loved it.

  2. Hi Jack great piece. Would you be good enough to drop me an email: