‘Roy Keane be damned’: how the pundit became a hate figure in Brazil | World Cup 2022

Brazilian football fans have excoriated Roy Keane after the former Manchester United star derided the country’s national team players’ dance moves during their World Cup last-16 victory over South Korea.

Brazil’s players repeatedly shook their stuff during Tuesday’s 4-1 win with the coach, Tite, even joining in after Richarlison scored the third goal, cavorting like a pigeon in reference to the Tottenham striker’s nickname.

Yet Keane took exception to the continuous dancing after Brazil’s goals. “I don’t mind the first kind of little jig – whatever they’re doing – but they’re still doing it after that, and then the manager getting involved with it,” the Irish commentator grumbled on ITV. “I’m not happy with it, I don’t think it’s very good at all.”

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In Brazil those comments went down like a 7-1 defeat by Germany and transformed Keane into an immediate hate figure for dance-loving football fanatics. “Brazilian football is the embodiment of happiness. Roy Keane be damned,” wrote the sports columnist Julio Gomes, one of many citizens who took exception to the former Ireland midfielder’s remarks.

In an article for the website UOL Esporte, Gomes said Keane’s attack was merely the latest example of arrogant and clueless Europeans getting their knickers in a twist over the delight of others. “They think they are the best at everything and have the right to judge anyone,” Gomes said. “They think they are the masters of what is right and what’s wrong, and that the entire world must follow their behavioural manual.

“Brazilian footballers like to dance when they score. Full stop. Respect it and deal with it. It’s hard to explain an authentic demonstration of happiness to someone who doesn’t know how to express happiness.”

Others offered even blunter critiques and wondered how the man behind the vicious tackle on Alf Inge Haaland in 2001 thought he was in position to lecture others on disrespect. “I think Roy Keane … should get fucked,” the screenwriter Antonio Tabet told his 3.1 million Twitter followers, before adding: “Ireland’s Roy Keane complaining about goal celebrations at a World Cup is like Ronaldinho disapproving of bobsledding at the Winter Olympics.”

There was criticism from the world of football too. Luís Castro, the Portuguese coach of Rio de Janeiro side Botafogo, told the Brazilian channel SportTV: “Roy Keane doesn’t understand Brazilian football culture. He doesn’t understand the Brazilian team.

“We all know that [the dance] isn’t disrespectful to anyone … it just shows real unity between the coach and the players. The world of football shouldn’t worry about this because we’ve become accustomed to Roy Keane’s inelegant and sometimes very arrogant statements.”

One of the Brazil players, Lucas Paquetá, denied his team’s dancing was designed to offend opponents. “We’re celebrating because it’s our moment. We scored a goal and Brazil is celebrating,” he said. “If he [Keane] doesn’t like it, there’s not a lot I can do for him. If we score another goal, we’ll carry on celebrating like this.

Tite told reporters his players were always likely to face disapproval from “ill-disposed” critics but defended their right to boogie. “It’s a show of joy,” the coach said.

Richarlison praised as ‘idol Brazilians deserve’ after Bolsonaro era | Brazil

Richarlison’s “balletic barnstormer” has been called one of the great World Cup goals; an unstoppable scissor kick that launched Brazil’s campaign in Qatar with a bang. But after his thrilling two-goal blitz against Serbia, the Tottenham forward is being celebrated as much more than just a sporting hero.

Brazilian fans, pundits and politicians lined up to hail Richarlison as a paragon of human decency, compassion and good sense after four gruelling years in which Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government divided society, wrecked the environment and mishandled a Covid outbreak that killed nearly 700,000 citizens.

“Richarlison is the idol Brazilians deserve after so much suffering,” the sports journalist Talyta Vespa wrote on Friday in one of many tributes to the player’s off-field activism and charity work.

Richarlison – or the Pigeon, as fans know him, thanks to his avian-style celebrations – is by far the most progressive member of Brazil’s seleção. In recent years, as his homeland fell under the control of Bolsonaro’s far-right administration, Richarlison has repeatedly spoken out on topics such as racism, poverty, police and gender violence, LGBTQ+ rights and environmental destruction.

He questioned how Brazil’s yellow jersey had been dragged into the country’s political dispute, and adopted a jaguar to highlight the threats to Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands.

A selection of Brazilian newspaper front pages on Friday.
A selection of Brazilian newspaper front pages on Friday.

When the British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira vanished in the Amazon in June, Richarlison was one of the first celebrities to champion the campaign to try to find them. “On top of everything, he’s sensitive and committed to Brazil,” Pereira’s widow, Beatriz Matos, tweeted at the player on Friday.

During Brazil’s devastating coronavirus emergency – which Bolsonaro called a “little flu” – Richarlison publicly backed vaccination efforts that the science-denying president had actively undermined.

“He’s not only a star on the pitch, he’s a star off it too,” said the favela activist Rene Silva, remembering how Richarlison donated oxygen cylinders to the Amazon city of Manaus when its healthcare system buckled during the pandemic.

Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil’s top football writers, said the outpouring of adoration for Richarlison, while perhaps slightly excessive, reflected how millions of progressive fans were desperate to fall back in love with a team that many had grown profoundly disillusioned with.

Particularly to blame for that estrangement was Neymar, who alienated millions of progressive Brazilians by supporting Bolsonaro’s failed re-election bid and then promising to dedicate his first World Cup goal to him. Other players, including the defender Dani Alves, have also backed Bolsonaro, who lost October’s election to the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“Richarlison represents a more loving, more affectionate side to the Brazilian seleção,” said Kfouri. “He’s seen as being a citizen who actually cares about Brazil.”

Bolsonaro has fallen silent since losing last month’s election and has said nothing of Brazil’s triumph in Qatar. Leftwing politicians, in contrast, were united in their commemoration of Richarlison and his teammate Vinícius Júnior, who helped create Thursday’s sensational goal and has also been outspoken on issues such as racism.

“Much more than a great player, Richarlison is a model citizen,” tweeted the Worker’s party politician Paulo Pimenta.

Writing in the black website Alma Preta, the journalist Pedro Borges described the state of ecstasy he had found himself in after watching Richarlison and Vinícius shine. He wrote: “Not just because of Brazil’s victory … [but] because the standout players were black athletes who respect our history, who didn’t ignore the suffering of the people and who understand the role they have in our country.”

Rene Silva said Richarlison’s off-field endeavours, which also include helping cancer patients, made him an inspiration to children and teens. “He is a Brazilian idol,” Silva said. “After everything we have been through, this was a moment of hope.”

World Cup gives Brazil fans chance to reclaim yellow jersey from far right | World Cup 2022

Football, once Brazil’s great unifier, has in recent years fallen victim to the country’s polarised politics. The yellow and green football shirt, emblematic of a national team that has won a record five World Cups, is now shunned by many Brazilians who associate it with the outgoing far-right president Jair Bolsonaro and his authoritarian brand of nationalism.

“I used to feel proud of wearing the Brazilian football shirt. Not any more. Now I feel dread,” said Regina Valadares, a copywriter from the southern city of Florianópolis. The shirt evokes “shame” and “disgust” for the 43-year-old as “it represents everything bad about this government.”

Now however, Brazilians distressed by such associations hope that the World Cup, coming hard on the heels of Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last month, will provide an opportunity to reclaim the colours and reconcile the country with the amarelinha, as the world-famous shirt is affectionately known.

“There is a struggle over the shirt, which fits into a bigger struggle, a fight for Brazil and its national symbols,” said Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian and author of a book about Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium.

Left-leaning pop stars and politicians wore the canary yellow shirt during the election campaign in an attempt to recover it from the far right. More recently, the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) launched a campaign that seeks to depoliticise the football jersey.

Amauri Bevilacqua, 29, said he will wear the amarelinha when Brazil plays in the World Cup. To do otherwise would be “to let the other side take possession of a symbol that has always united all Brazilians, which is football”. But the Rio-based environmental engineer does not yet feel comfortable wearing the shirt outside of match days, for fear of being mistaken for a Bolsonaro supporter.

The broad appropriation of Brazil’s national colours by the right began in 2015 during protests against the government of Lula’s ally Dilma Rousseff, and have since become symbols of bolsonarismo.

Bolsonaro surrounded by men in yellow football shirts
The colours’ political overtones have been reinforced by Bolsonaro supporters who reject the election results. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

More recently, the colours’ political overtones have been reinforced by radical Bolsonaro supporters who reject the election results and have blocked roads and camped outside army headquarters demanding a military intervention.

To avoid confusion progressive Brazilians are embracing alternative versions of the amarelinha such as those sold by Thainá Pinho, a 27-year-old business graduate from Rio’s working-class suburbs. Her line of yellow and green T-shirts, modelled on the retro version of the football jersey first worn by the Seleção in 1954, features progressive symbols like the red star of Lula’s Workers’ party or the LGBTQ+ flag.

“I hope that during the World Cup, everyone unites and wears the shirt, whether with a red star or not,” said Pinho, who sees her Revolta Canária brand as part of a movement of resistance against the far right’s appropriation of Brazil’s national symbols.

Lula himself has urged Brazilians to embrace the tarnished colours. “We do not need to feel ashamed of wearing the green and yellow shirt. The shirt does not belong to a political party, it belongs to the Brazilian people,” the president-elect recently tweeted, adding that during the World Cup he would wear a yellow shirt emblazoned with the number 13 – his Workers’ party’s electoral number.

But this process of reappropriating Brazil’s national symbols from the far right will not happen overnight, warned Simas. “Even with Bolsonaro’s defeat, lots of people who do not identify with this bolsonarista far right do not feel comfortable using the national team’s shirt again,” he said, adding that he was leaning towards wearing Brazil’s blue away shirt during the World Cup games.

Football-mad Bevilacqua clings on to a more optimistic view. He hopes Brazil will win its sixth World Cup and that a sporting victory might go some way towards healing the country’s divisions.

Brazil is the bookies’ favourite to win this year’s tournament, a title it last secured in 2002 – the year Lula won his first presidential election. “It’s a good sign,” said Bevilacqua. “Maybe 20 years later, history will repeat itself.”

Shortages, fury and the hunt for Messi: Argentina’s Panini sticker mania forces government to step in | Argentina

The Via Manzanares shopping centre in the northern suburb of Pilar outside Buenos Aires is an old-style ring of stores around a modest parking lot that usually services a countryside area dotted with gated communities and polo clubs, in a country that boasts the best polo players in the world.

There’s a small supermarket, a bicycle shop, a sushi delivery store, a coffee shop and not much more, except for a sleepy mutt named Canela who’ll amble up for a pat on the head from the shoppers stopping by for a pack of beer, a quick espresso or to order a tray of nigiri.

But in recent days its peace has been disturbed by fans not of polo, but of football. A large quantity of kids and adults stood patiently waiting in line outside its sweet shop, desperate to buy “figuritas”, football player stickers similar to US baseball cards.

The object is to fill the traditional Panini World Cup album that is a ritual of almost religious significance that repeats itself every four years in Argentina when the World Cup tournament rolls around. The stickers come in sealed packs and there is no assurance collectors will find the players they need to complete the album. Sold in countries around the world, an English-language version in the UK will cost fans an average of about £870 to fill.

With the Qatar games fast approaching, Argentina has gone into a dizzy whirl that is outdoing by a wide stride any previous sticker furore in a country that breathes, dreams and lives football.

“I can’t handle the amount of people wanting stickers,” said the attendant at the Via Manzanares sweet shop early in the week, before having to inform her distraught customers that she had run out of packs on Thursday.

Sticker mania has swept over Argentina like a tsunami this year, creating a scarcity on the sticker market that has quite literally become an affair of state.

Sweet shops, known here as “quioscos”, have been the traditional outlet for sticker packs, but this year Panini began supplying the stickers to other outlets such as supermarkets and gas stations, provoking howls of protest from sweet shop owners.

Trade secretary Matías Tombolini was forced to call a meeting with Panini executives and sweet shop representatives to try to solve a scarcity that has led to media-reported threats from some parents to sue Panini because of the anguish the scarcity has been causing their children.

“The meeting has begun to assess the situation of the World Cup figuritas market,” the trade secretary tweeted, offering to “make our legal and technical teams available to collaborate in the search for possible solutions.”

But with inflation out of control and poverty snapping at the heels of an ever-widening segment of society, the government’s intervention backfired badly. There was a social media uproar against the authorities distracting state resources to solve the stickers problem and the government abruptly suspended its intervention.

The hardest sticker to find is that of Argentina’s ace player Lionel Messi, who will reportedly be playing his last World Cup at the Qatar games.

A close up of an album, showing Lionel Messi stickers.
Lionel Messi stickers are particularly in demand. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Marc R Stanley, the US ambassador to Argentina, posted an ecstatic Twitter video of himself opening up his sticker packages. “Oh holy crap, I got Messi, I can’t believe it. That’s unbelievable. I got Messi! All right, Messi, you’re mine!”

Apart from Italian-owned Panini allowing the stickers to be sold at other venues than just sweet shops, the scarcity is being blamed on distributors who are reportedly bypassing traditional outlets to sell directly in wholesale amounts to individual buyers, sometimes online.

This seems to have led to hoarding by mass buyers who then hawk the stickers on the online shopping site Mercado Libre for up to 10 times their suggested retail price of slightly under one dollar a pack.

With inflation heading for 100% this year and the recent assassination attempt on vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, which failed when the assailant’s gun failed to fire, perhaps Argentina was in need of some light distraction, and the sticker scarcity seems to fit the bill.