Today's World Cup post is by Jeffrey Lesser. Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History at Emory University, is the author of Negotiating National Identity, and A Discontented Diaspora and editor of Searching for Home Abroad.
The Brazilian nature of multiculturalism is particularly apparent during World Cup years. This international soccer championship has more viewers than any other single sporting event and in 2006, sixty million people watched Brazil defeat Croatia in the opening week of the championship. More than ten times that number watched the final game in 2010. In Brazil numerous channels broadcast the national team games simultaneously. Yet another phenomenon also takes place in Brazil, a country which has received immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa from the late nineteenth until today.
Some Brazilian fans root for the teams of their ancestors while others take a nationalist position. Ethnic restaurants are often filled with cheering fans, many who root against the team of the country whose food they are ostensibly eating. In São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul you might go to a cantina (a Brazilian version of a trattoria) to root against Italy. When the World Cup was held in Japan in 2002, some Japanese-Brazilians began wearing a t-shirt with an image of the rising sun and the phrase “I will never visit you.” A significant number of fans of the Rio de Janeiro futebol team Flamengo, however, took a different position. Their allegiance was to the team’s greatest player, Zico, who in 2002 was coach of the Japanese national team. As Japanese-Brazilians roared for Brazil, Flamengo’s die-hards screamed for Japan led by their beloved player.