Brazil is suddenly keen on its football heritage – but with the emphasis on the Ricardo Teixeira years Robert Shaw reports

“The Maracaña has to be blown up. It is impossible to remake it, or even to adapt it to host a World Cup.” “This venue is simply fantastic for the history of Brazilian football.” Spot the difference. In 2004, Ricardo Teixeira president of the Brazilian football federation (CBF) was talking down his country’s most famous stadium as well as the game’s history before 1994, but by this September Teixeira could barely contain his enthusiasm for the past at the inauguration of São ­Paulo’s Museu do Futebol. Teixeira now expects a revamped Maracaña to host the 2014 World Cup final.

While Rio’s football museum has been inexplicably closed since the 2007 Pan American Games, the São Paulo facility – costing around £10 million – is located in Corinthians’ Estádio do Pacaembu and has plenty to ­satisfy those who want to delve into ­futebol history. There are 1,442 photos and six hours of video footage in various galleries, while a mission statement pledges “exhibitions, courses, workshops, events, publications and educational initiatives”.

The museum struggled to pull in the star names for its opening, however. Pelé popped in to check out a temporary exhibition associated with his career, but Cafu, Mauro Silva and Rivelino were the only other famous faces to show up. The lukewarm response was understandable. For some, recognition has come far too late. Didi, Vavá and Garrincha from the 1958 side all died in relative poverty or obscurity a while before the CBF launched a health scheme for ex-players, while Mário Zagallo, a World Cup winner as a player and as a coach, auctioned his memorabilia last November, as many others have done. That part of Brazil’s footballing history has been scattered to the wind.

Brazil’s World Cup winners were all recently presented with free passes to watch football at any stadium in the ­country, but many of the 1958 and 1962 teams are unlikely to be regular attenders at games due to age or infirmity. While hundreds of B-list celebrities were being admitted to a lavish Maracaña party at last month’s World Cup qualifier against Ecuador, Amarildo, who scored Brazil’s first goal in the 1962 World Cup final, found his way into the stadium barred because the stewards did not recognise him. Aside from Pelé, none of the players from Brazil’s first three World Cup-winning teams has been assigned a role on the organising committee for 2014, although a place has been found for Joana Havelange, who is both the granddaughter of the former president of FIFA and daughter of Ricardo Teixeira.

Some argue that as the CBF is concerned history starts in 1994, which was the first World Cup to be won under the Teixeira presidency. Most of the Brazilian public and media regard that World Cup-winning team as mediocre and inhibited by the conservative approach of coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who was unwilling to use the squad’s most creative player, Rai, and the 17-year-old Ronaldo. Yet several players from that team have since held key coaching posts with little prior experience, notably the current national coach Dunga and Branco, who was in charge of Brazil’s youth squads until last year. Nothing akin to that happened to the 1970 team.

The year 1994 is also a dividing line between an era in which the majority of national-team players featured in domestic football and one in which most have secured lucrative contracts overseas. There is also a tendency to exaggerate contemporary achievements. Kaká had his footprints set in the stadium’s “Pavement of Fame”, while an admittedly brilliant Robinho dribble from 2007 has also been honoured with a series of photos in the stadium’s entrance hall. But these are still whippersnappers in relation to Garrincha, whose footprints only made it on to the Pavement last month, courtesy of the family of a Botafogo supporter who had made his own cast.

Authorities in Rio are hoping a museum that honours the exploits of Garrincha will get off the drawing board, while Botafogo are among several clubs aiming to develop heritage centres to capitalise on their history, although the hefty debts of such clubs in addition to the international financial crisis mean no one is holding their breath. A suspicion has developed that the new-found interest in history is cosmetic – a temporary theme park aimed to impress tourists in 2014, after which Brazil’s football heritage will be mothballed. 

From WSC 262 December 2008

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