The Apostasy of Dunga

by Franklin Foer | June 8, 2010

Alex has launched a wonderfully entertaining all-out assault on Brazil. I had planned on issuing a rebuttal and intend to return to the subject soon. In the meantime, I want to recommend this insightful (if somewhat meandering) post from the blogger santapelota. No country's game has been as sentimentalized as Brazil's--and santapelota does a nice job of parsing the reality of joga bonito from its hype.  

To be fair, the fatuous Nikeisation of Brazil's footballing image in recent years has done much to support his argument against ball-juggling, irresponsible street entertainers. In return this has only ilicited a firey reaction from the more 'macho, football-as-war' segments of the footballing public in direct proportion to such frivolity. But both views are mistaken, in my opinion. The strength of Brazilian football as demonstrated 1958, 1870 and 1982 was the ability to play convincing, pro-active football, garnished with individual virtuosity and fused with a sense of synchronisation and tactical solidity; this is the country, after all, which orginated the back-four system.

Sanatpelota also has a study of Dunga’s motivational style and rhetorical crutches. I am especially fascinated by Dunga's evocation of Brazil's history of slavery.

The squad list as a whole is basically the 2009 Confederations Cup team in its entirety, which itself was the culmination of three years' solid work. It also serves as a boiler plate statement for Dunga's raison d'etre; with us or against us, we're all in this together, love us or hate us, we don't care. Now, even the most disheartened critics have had to concede to Dunga the valid point that to turn around at the last moment, to abandon his convictions and cede to popular and media-led demand by including such and such a player would have been a betrayal of his project, and perhaps have risked his hard-won authority in the eyes of his existing recruits. This last word here is apt in its military connotations because Dunga used the podium to evoke, not so convincingly, turbulent periods of Brazilian history, going so far as to appeal to the Brazilian's capacity to withstand suffering given that "we Brazilians are all, to some degree, descended from slaves", patent nonsense that overlooks how large swathes of the crypto-feudal governing elite, especially in the northernmost regions, and who blight the country with their dubious practices are commonly descended from white slave owners! Such allegories were immediately called out and refuted by esteemed journalists such as Juca Kfouri, who went on to denounce the thub-thumping patriotism as "the refuge of scoundrels" in allusion to George Bernard Shaw's famous quote.

This all points to a larger dissonance: The popular conception of Brazil (the country, as well as the national soccer team)  is at odds with its history. After all, the country's motto is "order and progress," a slogan borrowed from the French positivist philosopher Auguste Comte that long informed the ethic of the country's military elite and military dictators.  It is also clearly the motto by which Dunga lives.  

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/world-cup/75383/the-apostasy-dunga