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Swept up in World Cup fever, the Folio magazine of the Neue Zürchner Zeitung commissioned a whole string of authors to elucidate on their respective teams' chances of victory. Read Rodrigo Fresan on Argentina, Andrew Anthony on England Herve Le Teiller on France, Robert Gernhardt on Germany and Leon de Winter on the Netherlands. More to follow as the championship approaches...


Flushing the toilet for Brazil

Understanding the Brazilian fan base means delving into a tangled mess of pride, reverse psychology, politics and superstition. By Juao Ubaldo Ribeiro

My God, how should I explain why I think Brazil will win the World Cup? There's an easy answer that even non-Brazilians (assuming they're not Argentinians) will know already. We have the best players in pretty much every position. We have an excess of talented players; almost every selection is controversial. This makes us the obvious favourite in the betting offices and the expert prognoses – other than in Argentina, of course.

As a result, many seem to doubt our ambition. Being a favourite can mean feeling overly confident, or even pity for the opponent. Irreparable national tragedies loom over us, such as at the end of the 1950 World Cup, when we were the clear favourite at home and needed nothing more than a tie. We began the game ahead and then lost to Uruguay. It should be said that some Brazilians – not many, but enough – don't believe or don't want Brazil to become world champion. A foreigner would need a semester to understand all the nuances of the problem that this poses for a people whose national pride is most clearly expressed through football. There are people who don't want Brazil to win in order to prove the ineptitude of our president. The connection may be hard for a European to understand, but in Brazil everyone does. Then there are people who don't like the trainer. In short, there are a whole bunch of strange connections that turn this question into an incredibly complex problem. One should not forget the obscure demi-monde of people who claim not to believe in a victory but who in fact do believe in it but don't want to admit it in case that brings bad luck.

And last but not least there are legions of Brazilians who contribute to the success of our national team with unconventional means. When we were still listening the World Cup on the radio, for instance, my father always used to wear the same clothes and drink the same whisky – the bottle and the ice bucket in exactly the same place each time. When the national anthem rang out, he stood up straight and every time our team went on the offensive, he made me flush the toilet. Because once, in 1958, Brazil had scored a goal in its first game against Austria as I happened to have been flushing the toilet. After that he believed that we had made a significant contribution to the victory – not just in 1958, also in 1962. And so, millions of Brazilians are willing to give whatever they have and most cherish in order to help win the trophy. And if we don't get it, it's only because someone didn't fulfil his duty.


Brazilian team profile

Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro is a writer currently living in Rio de Janeiro.

This article forms part of compilation of writings originally published in the Neue Zürchner Zeitung magazine Folio on May 2, 2006.

Translation: nb - let's talk european