Football and literature in Brazil – World Cup readings


Children playing soccer in São Miguel do Gostoso, RN, Brazil (image taken from wikimedia Commons).

Although many might consider it yet more “panem et circenses”, the World Cup is kicking off today in Brazil, and it cannot be denied that soccer is an intrinsic part of that country’s culture. In the Brazilian collective imagination soccer is rooted in the country’s characteristic communitarian way of life. Even literature is permeated with tales of “futebol” (Portuguese for football). What happens at the stadium is narrated by a commentator; it is then mythologized and transformed into literature.

Between 1954 and 1983, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, one of Brazil’s most important writers, wrote pieces on football for the newspapers Correio da manhã and Jornal do Brasil. These are collected in the 2002 volume Quando é dia de futebol, currently on order* and soon to arrive to the University Library. He also dedicated many poems to the game. The following very popular poem about the universal quality of football is included in Poesia errante (on order too*):

Futebol se joga no estádio?
Futebol se joga na praia,
Futebol se joga na rua,
Futebol se joga na alma.
A bola é a mesma: forma sacra
para craques e pernas-de-pau
Mesma a volúpia de chutar
na delirante copa-mundo
ou no árido espaço do morro
São vôos de estátuas súbitas,
desenhos feéricos, bailados
de pés e troncos estrançados.
Instantes lúdicos: flutua
o jogador, gravado no ar
– afinal, o corpo triunfante
da triste lei da gravidade

Is football played in a stadium?
Football is played on the beach,
Football is played in the street,
Football is played in the soul.
The ball is the same: a sacred form
for players both brilliant and awful
The same pleasure of shooting
In the delirious World Cup
or on the arid hilltop
These are statues suddenly taking flight
Magical drawings,
Dances of twisted feet and torsos.
Playful moments:
The player floats, captured in the air
– in the end, body triumphant
over the sad laws of gravity

(Translated by Christopher Greenberg)

Another relevant figure in Brazilian literature who wrote about soccer was the playwright Nelson Rodrigues – see his A pátria em chuteiras: novas crônicas de futebol (745:34.d.95.486) and O profeta tricolor: cem anos de Fluminense; crônicas (C200.d.3918). Further pieces on the subject are found in O gol é necessário: crônicas esportivas by Paulo Mendes Campos (2003.8.1960).


The accompanying letter and the title page of Macaco branco (Morison.74.66).

Our Library also holds a little gem: Macaco branco: fortuna e penas dêste personagem no reino do futebol, (Morison.74.66), a satirical 1955 short-story by Gastão de Holanda concerning football obsession in a provincial part of Brazil. It is an autographed copy – number 65 of 100 – produced by “O Gráfico Amador”, an experimental graphic arts laboratory founded in Recife that closed its doors in 1961.

There are many other Brazilian authors who made football the subject or background of their fiction, and among those held at the Library we suggest: Água-mãe (745:34.d.95.150) by Jose Lins do Rego, O segundo tempo by Michel Laub (2008.8.5639), O paraiso e bem bacana by Andre Sant’Anna (C203.c.6100) , Na marca do pênalti (2003.8.6424) and Em campo aberto (on order*) by Claudio Lovato Filho.

Some of the non-fiction writing on the social aspects of football in Brazil (in Portuguese and Spanish) held at the UL includes:

  • O negro no futebol brasileiro. (416.c.200.79)
  • Memória social dos esportes. Volume 2, Futebol e política: a construção de uma identidade nacional (416.c.200.99)
  • Futebol, carnaval e capoeira: entre as gingas do corpo brasileiro (2003.8.5599)
  • Lance de sorte: o futebol e o jogo do bicho na Belle Epoque carioca (9001.d.6759)
  • Fútbol y sociedad: prácticas locales e imaginarios globales (C208.c.4419)
  • Peligro de gol: estudios sobre deporte y sociedad en América Latina (C201.c.1900)

*If interested please contact the Hispanic Specialist.

Clara Panozzo

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