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A la izquierda, el delantero brasileño Neymar durante el juego del Grupo E contra Serbia; y, a la derecha, el delantero mexicano Javier Hernández durante el primer partido del grupo F, entre México y Alemania. Credit Patrik Stollarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

El 30 de septiembre de 1970, el estadio Maracaná fue el escenario de un partido amistoso entre Brasil y México conocido como el Juego de la Gratitud. Casi dos meses antes, la selección Verdeamarela había ganado su tercera Copa del Mundo en el estadio Azteca de Ciudad de México. Esa conquista en México fue crucial en la historia futbolística brasileña. Significó la consolidación de Pelé —quien dio una actuación magistral en la final—, conseguir el tricampeonato (en disputa con Italia, que había ganado dos Mundiales en la década de los treinta) y quedarse de manera definitiva con el trofeo Jules Rimet.…  Seguir leyendo »

Neymar, el futbolista estrella de Brasil, durante el partido contra Suiza, que terminó en empate Credit Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Neymar es tema de debate en Brasil. El mejor futbolista de la selección brasileña divide las opiniones de los aficionados, y no es por su afiliación política o su apoyo en las presidenciales de 2014 a la candidatura de Aécio Neves, quien perdió en la segunda vuelta frente a Dilma Rousseff y que ahora está en desgracia por la revelación de una serie de escándalos de corrupción.

No, Neymar está al centro de la polarizada discusión brasileña por su incesante simulación de faltas y su descontrol emocional (se veía a punto de llorar después de la victoria contra la humilde Costa Rica).…  Seguir leyendo »

Philippe Coutinho celebra su gol contra Suiza el 17 de junio de 2018, el primer partido del grupo E que terminó en un empate. Credit Marko Djurica/Reuters

La selección de Brasil debutó en el Mundial con un empate frente a Suiza. Y ese resultado ha disminuido el optimismo de la afición canariña de ganar una sexta Copa del Mundo. Pero si a partir del viernes la selección brasileña empieza a ganar partidos y el 15 de julio resulta campeona en Rusia, ¿qué consecuencias tendría en un país convulsionado políticamente y que celebra elecciones presidenciales en octubre? O, acaso más problemático, ¿qué pasará si pierde?

Aunque me atrevo a especular que ningún resultado del Mundial influirá en la elección del próximo presidente en Brasil, es inevitable ver la influencia del deporte más popular del país en su política.…  Seguir leyendo »

Varios habitantes de una favela observan desde la distancia la ceremonia de clausura de los Juegos Olímpicos de Río el 21 de agosto de 2016. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Pensé en comenzar esta columna elogiando a la gente amigable y de mente abierta de Brasil, la belleza natural de nuestro paisaje y la delicia sin igual de las galletas Globo. Pero quizá el sarcasmo no sea la mejor respuesta para aquellos que me culpan por escribir solo cosas malas de mi país, arruinando la imagen de nuestra amada tierra de la samba y las caipirinhas.

La gente me dice que he criticado abiertamente nuestros problemas. Me reclaman que “la ropa sucia nunca debe lavarse en público” y que sería mejor decir solo cosas positivas de Brasil.

Después de escribir hace poco un artículo en el que criticaba muchos aspectos de la organización de las olimpiadas, me sentí abrumada por la indignación patriótica.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Rio 2016 organising committee in Brazil has given a flagrant two-finger salute to the Paralympics, due to begin in just over two weeks’ time. The Games will, sadly, be remembered for abject failure — save for the sensational performances of the athletes, no doubt, who will be forced to compete in adversity with venues closed and service levels slashed.

Parlous planning and a lack of understanding and interest in the Paralympics has resulted in pathetic 12 per cent ticket sales, lack of sponsors and a Games fighting for its life, with many nations unable to attend through the non-payment of travel grants.…  Seguir leyendo »

People in a nearby favela watched fireworks exploding during the opening ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Mario Tama/Getty Images

I thought of beginning this column by praising Brazil’s friendly and open-minded people, the natural beauty of our landscape and the supreme delight that are Globo biscuits. But perhaps sarcasm isn’t the best response to those who blame me for writing only bad things about my country, ruining the image of our beloved land of samba and caipirinhas.

People tell me I’ve been overly critical about our problems. They claim you should “never wash your dirty linen in public,” and that it would be better just to say positive things about Brazil.

After I wrote a recent article criticizing many aspects of the preparation for the Olympics, I was overwhelmed by patriotic outrage.…  Seguir leyendo »

There have been few moments in my life as memorable as competing in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The chance to represent my country was a distinct honor, as was being part of the community of the Olympics — an event with the rare power to unite the world in the common spirit of competition and athletic excellence.

The attention, hopes and energies of the global community uniquely fall into sync during the 17 days every two years when the best athletes in the world gather to compete. It’s what makes the Olympic Games so special to so many.…  Seguir leyendo »

"Y así, por ambas partes, la verdad es acallada". Me sirven de excusa los versos de Shakespeare para hablar de Cervantes. Para dejarme guiar por las sabias reflexiones de un Quijote visionario -al que dicen loco- que comparte con tantos deportistas el anhelo de justicia allá donde estuviere. Y a pesar de que seamos nosotros quienes tengamos que decirnos al cuello de la camisa, no muy alto, para no enrojecer de vergüenza, "largo nos lo fiáis, amigo Sancho".

Se acaban de inaugurar unos Juegos Olímpicos que nos hacen a todos, a los que no competimos, citius, altius, fortius; porque somos nosotros, los ciudadanos de a pie, los que cosechamos en albardas propias el esfuerzo ajeno.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every Olympics seems to bring with it a doping scandal, and the Rio games are no different. Well before Friday’s opening ceremonies, state-sponsored doping in Russia, widespread doping on the Chinese swim team, and questions about a Rio drug-testing lab have renewed worries about whether a “clean” Olympics will ever be possible.

It might be tempting to throw up one’s hands and see these revelations as nothing more than the latest in a series of sordid stories about athletes seeking an edge. After all, pro sports from cycling to baseball are rife with similar tales of performance-enhancing substances. But the recent Olympic doping scandals are symptomatic of something more significant: the return of semi-rogue countries determined to bypass international norms and conventions in a systematic way not seen since the cold war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Olympians Shouldn’t Swim Through Sewage

This summer, when the Olympic Games are held in Rio de Janeiro, marathon swimmers, sailors and triathletes will be asked to compete in the highly polluted waters of Guanabara Bay and off nearby Copacabana Beach. Any athlete coming into contact with these waters has a high probability of becoming ill. Members of the United States junior national rowing team and competitive sailors have become sick with diarrhea, vomiting and flulike symptoms after training and competing around Rio, and they experience only “incidental contact” with the water. Marathon swimmers and triathletes will ingest this water — and the consequences could be deadly.…  Seguir leyendo »

When is it time to panic about the Olympics?

It's true, things are not pretty in Rio de Janeiro, even as the Olympic torch arrived Tuesday in Brazil, with three months until the opening ceremony of the Games.

There's the raw sewage in Guanabara Bay, slated for sailing events. The doubts over whether the subway line connecting the Olympic venues will be finished in time. The horror of the collapse of a recently built $12 million seaside bike path (two dead, three injured), calling into question the integrity of the other structures the city has built for the Games -- for which, by the way, ticket sales are still hovering at only about 62%.…  Seguir leyendo »

What Explains Brazil’s Surfing Boom

Brazil has gone surf crazy.

In December, when a 20-year-old Brazilian named Gabriel Medina won the world’s premier surfing title, becoming the first South American man to do so, the country erupted in celebration. Mr. Medina’s path to the championship had been followed closely in Brazil throughout 2014, each victory celebrated in typically boisterous Brazilian fashion by flag-waving, often teary, always emotional fans. His arrival at the airport in São Paulo after winning the title was a mob scene and a media frenzy.

But Mr. Medina is only the most visible exponent of a rising generation of surfers known by the collective moniker “the Brazilian Storm.”…  Seguir leyendo »

For England fans, last week was all about the traditional World Cup Groundhog Day. Same old story, then? For England maybe. But for the World Cup and Fifa, the competition in Brazil is beginning to look like a turning point where popular discontent at the profligacy with state funds and avarice could have far-reaching consequences.

For me, the most striking image of the tournament so far has been the shot of Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, celebrating one of the Seleção's goals against Croatia during the opening game in São Paulo's Itaquerão stadium. She was not in pride of place halfway up the middle of the stadium, but almost hidden at the back of an executive box.…  Seguir leyendo »

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, the ambitious president of FIFA, must be pulling his few remaining hairs out of his head because his dreams of taking the so-called Beautiful Game to world sports domination are turning to nightmares. New squalid facts, claims and rumors are emerging every week suggesting that the game may be beautiful but some of its leading figures are too close to dark and shadowy criminal forces.

In Brazil, you might think there would be general rejoicing. Brazil is described as the spiritual home of soccer because of the exhilarating talent of its players. Brazil is the host of the World Cup that kicked off Thursday, and most pundits predict that Brazil will pick up its sixth World Cup championship when the final is played on July 13.…  Seguir leyendo »

Transformar o Jogo Bonito em Vida Bonita. Sobre la frase que se ha convertido en inmortal en la mitología del fútbol, uno de los más grandes entrenadores de la historia de O Jogo Bonito (el “juego bonito”, como los brasileños lo llaman), un escocés llamado Bill Shankly, del Liverpool FC, resume la importancia de este deporte para los obsesionados con el fútbol: “Algunas personas creen que el fútbol es un asunto de vida o muerte... Te puedo asegurar que es mucho, mucho más importante que eso”.

Quizá sea ir demasiado lejos, pero cientos de millones de personas están ya celebrando el mundial como cada cuatro años.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the World Cup ends a month from now — I hope with a sixth star shining on the golden jerseys of the home team — the problems that plagued Brazil's hosting effort will remain. With or without a trophy, Brazil will face major challenges in its transformation from one of the world's most unequal societies into a thriving democracy..

Brazilians have been in a sour mood since June 2013, when massive street demonstrations erupted against lavish World Cup spending in a country lacking good basic education, healthcare and public transportation. The protesters' underlying message was simple: their love of soccer should not be taken for granted by the government and the country's self-serving politicians.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Brazil faces off against Croatia in São Paulo to open the World Cup on Thursday, “futebol” returns home.

Not soccer, which everyone knows was born in England. No, futebol — the distinctly Brazilian variation of soccer, played with trademark Brazilian panache, guile and joy.

It’s the same game as soccer anywhere else — except racier, more flamboyant, artfully graceful.

More than anything, what defines it is its dribbling, a spectacle of speed, evasion, rhythm and trickery passed on by generations of Brazil’s giants — Garrincha, Pelé (the acknowledged king), Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and the star of this year’s Team Brazil, Neymar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Likely to Hoist World Cup

Whenever the World Cup approaches, my thoughts run back to 1954, the year when Germany, a country still in postwar ruins, won the title against all the odds. The surprise was even greater as the German team had lost its first encounter, against Hungary, in the qualification rounds. Hungary had been unbeaten for years, and the "Magical Magyars" had even bested England at its own holy ground of Wembley, making them one of the clearest favorites ever in the history of football.

My hero was Fritz Walter, the captain of the German national team. I will never forget the day of the 1954 final in Bern.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Diego Maradona was asked in 1998 who would win that year’s soccer World Cup being played in France, he said, “Countries organize the World Cup to win it,” thus suggesting that France would be the winner. And it was.

The same thing could be said for this year’s World Cup in Brazil. For most people, Brazil is favored to win the competition. History, however, may foreshadow a different outcome.

The year is 1950, when the fourth FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup was held in Brazil from June 24 to July 16.

Before qualifying for the final game Brazil had extraordinary performances: it beat Mexico 4-0, thrashed Sweden 7-1, and defeated Spain 6-1, to become finalist for its group.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week sports fans around the globe will turn their attention to the most watched athletic event in the world — the soccer World Cup. In remote villages and urban centers, close to 1 billion fans will stop what they are doing and find the nearest accessible television set. Except in the United States. While the enthusiasm for soccer here has grown, its fan base pales in comparison to the Super Bowl, for instance.

The philosopher Paul Woodruff suggests that, to be a good spectator, you need to know how to care about what you are watching. Here are some suggestions for developing a deeper appreciation of this monthlong competition.…  Seguir leyendo »