Brazilian football's race problem
10 December 2009 ~ The remarkable thing about Flamengo's Brazilian national championship success last weekend is not the 17-year wait nor the indian summer enjoyed by 37-year-old Serbian midfielder Dejan Petkovic. The real surprise is that, in Jorge Luís Andrade, the club has a black coach. SporTV pundit Telmo Zanini called it a "landmark" and stated: "Hopefully this will become a symbolic day for Brazilian football and help to open doors for black coaches." As Andrade was acclaimed as the first black coach to win Brazil's national championship some Flamengo fans pointed out that Carlinhos, the manager for their last title in 1992, got there first. But Carlinhos is generally seen as being of mixed race.
The issue of racial identity – and who is classified as black – in Brazil reflects the more general prejudice confronted by black coaches. This was Andrade's sixth period in charge of Flamengo who appointed him a third of the way through the championship. But it was his first permanent appointment. Voted Brazil's manager of the year, he won plaudits for piecing together Flamengo's improbable championship tilt by harnessing the maverick talents of Adriano, Petkovic and Zé Roberto. At the time Andrade's appointment was criticised, with many expecting that Flamengo would appoint a bigger name. This is shorthand for bigger salary, expensive entourage and – almost invariably – being white. None of Brazil's other Serie A clubs is coached by, what the Brazilian media at least would consider, a black man.
Andrade himself recognised the problem. "Many thought I was not capable of doing a good job, And then there's the question of colour. In Brazil we have few black coaches." This has even applied at clubs like Flamengo and Vasco who were at the forefront of breaking down barriers to black players over 70 years ago.
Brazil's debt-ridden clubs seem more willing to throw money at the country's white managerial elite than taking on a less expensive coach who happens to be black. Well-known players turned coaches such as Lula Pereira and Claudio Adao have enjoyed fewer opportunities than similarly qualified white colleagues over the last 20 years. Andrade won four league titles as a player with Flamengo – more than any of the other current Serie A coaches. But his personal modesty has limited his participation in off-the-field activities such as lectures and media appearances that have attracted many of his white contemporaries. In Brazil, self-promotion appears to have become as important as team preparation.
A glance at Brazil's World Cup teams reinforces the impression. None of the black players from the 1970 World Cup carved out a career as a leading coach, despite the forays of that team's captain Carlos Alberto Torres into management. The bar to black coaches in Brazil is also a reflection of the attitudes of country's overwhelmingly white football club directors.
Unsurprisingly one of the most successful black Brazilian coaches had to leave the country to enjoy success. Didi, star of Botafogo and the Brazilian national teams of 1958 and 1962, guided Peru to the 1970 World Cup quarter-final as a coach. In reality little seems to have changed since the days of Gentil Cardoso half a century ago. As well as being the first black coach of a major club, Cardoso was the coach who signed Garrincha for Botafogo. His success meant that he enjoyed a spell in charge of the national team in 1959.
Fifty years on, Brazil has a white national coach, Dunga, appointed without any previous experience. The Brazilian in charge of South Africa's 2010 World Cup team is Carlos Alberto Parreira, one of the elite of white coaches. Despite Andrade's success it could be some time before black coaches break down Brazilian football's own apartheid. Robert Shaw
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