Brasília – an idea that did not conquer football – GAME OF THE PEOPLE
NATION capitals are very often not the seat of power in football – London, for example, has had periods of dominance, but for the past 50 years Manchester and Liverpool have been England’s dominant cities in this concerning the beautiful game. .
Across Europe a similar story is being told – Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Austria, to name but a few, have had their capitals contested and usurped by other cities.
Brasilia, the capital of Brazil since April 1960, is different from so many other major cities, mainly because it was a metropolis specially designed to administer a somewhat fragmented country. There are no long established football clubs as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have the game firmly embedded in their psyche, culture and history.
Today, Brasilia has no representatives in the highest levels of Brazilian football. It has a remarkable stadium which hosted matches during the 2014 World Cup, but the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha remains a somewhat ghostly location which has been used for a number of different events, but rarely for major football .
Tattoo conventions and culinary events have taken place at the stadium and it is also used as a bus depot by local authorities, but it is in an arid landscape and has become shabby. The general consensus tells us that there is not a strong appetite to bring top-flight football back to Brasilia even though, like in all Brazilian cities, there are thousands and thousands of passionate fans.
The original stadium dated back to 1974, but the reconstruction was designed to make a big statement for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. With a total cost of US$900 million, three times the proposed bill , it is the third most expensive stadium ever built. As far as white elephants go, this is one of the biggest. State officials suggested it was a mistake to build such a structure in a city like Brasilia and calculated that it would take 100 years to recoup just 12% of the overall cost.
Brasilia, of course, is a city renowned for its ambitious and striking architecture. When the city was built in the late 1950s – it only took four years – Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, together with structural engineer Joaquim Cardozo, created a number of breathtaking buildings that launched the movement of Brazilian modernism. Brasília, which we saw trying to create a utopian city, was at the heart of the Federal District, a new capital for the nation in a largely underdeveloped region. In 1960 the population was around 136,000 but today Brasilia has over 2.5 million inhabitants. It is considered a relatively affluent place, especially around Plano Pilato, the center of the city, but elsewhere there are slums and poverty.
In 1960, Brazil was considered one of the hotbeds of the modern game, its national team won the 1958 World Cup and retained it in 1962, and its football was admired around the world.
It takes time to create a football team, but in a country with legendary names like Flamengo, Corinthians, Santos, Botafogo and Fluminense, all hailing from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, it’s not just about creating something attractively, there’s also a lot to do with changing mindsets. Top clubs from Rio and São Paulo have more fans in Brasilia than any local team has ever had. The people who settled in the new capital, largely civil servants and construction workers, brought with them their club allegiances.
These cities have dominated a Brazilian football culture that incorporates beaches, favelas and street football. Brasilia’s problem is that many considered it “un-Brazilian” in that it lacked the dynamic of the rich living alongside the poor. While this involves extreme suffering and high crime rates, it also cultivates a form of creative tension and yearning in young people determined to escape deprivation through football. But that could change as Brasilia grapples with classic Brazilian problems of inequality, congestion and urban sprawl.
Many footballers come from poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods, but the Federal District has produced some excellent players, like Kaká, who was born in Gama, near Brasília.
Creating new local clubs with a credible following has always been difficult, some were formed by entrepreneurs who fell by the wayside. The city’s oldest professional club is Brasília Futebol Clube, founded in June 1975. Playing in a kit that resembles Arsenal’s famous red and white, their home ground is the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, but that’s it simply too expensive for small clubs. games there. Although they have won the state league (one of the weakest) eight times, they are not even part of the Campeonato Brasilense first division.
Brasília played in Serie A in 2000 when an expanded league (116 clubs) honored former FIFA President João Havelange. In 2014 they won the inaugural Copa Verde, a regional competition designed to promote football outside the main hubs, earning entry to the Copa Sudamericana.
Legião is another club supposed to play their matches at the Estádio Nacional. They were founded in 2006. They played in Série C, although very briefly. Real Brasília was formed in 1994 and plays in Vila Planalto. They are simply known as Real Football Club today. Teams like Gama and Brasilense tried to represent Brasilia, but the distance between the city and the club is 30 km and 20 km respectively.
If there can be any comparison with the struggle to make Brasilia a footballing stronghold, it is in the new towns of Britain, where the migration of people has been accompanied by their clubs, in other words, in places like Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Basildon and Harlow, setting up a local club had to overcome many hurdles.
That is unlikely to change, the best hope for the unloved National Stadium is commercial development that will surround the structure. It may pay off, even if it’s not what was intended. But if a World Cup can’t inspire a city, what hope is there? The old adage says, “build it and they will come”. It didn’t really happen, did it?