I feel a separate write up must be included here for the national soccer team of Brazil. Yellow jersey, blue shorts, white socks. For some of us who spent the best part of our childhood attempting to kick a bit of pigskin between two markers, the word "Brazil" instantly conjures up an ineffable mixture of meaning and emotion. The national side is emblematic of beauty, truth, all that good stuff. It is skill. It is Art. It is impossibly gifted young men - too cool to even have surnames - making oranges dance in the air for infinity on slum streetcorners with the merest flicks of foot, heel, instep, outstep, so that the fruit seems to become the great globe itself, and the footballer the ultimate conjurer and artist, the laughing God, making it all happen. These same young men were to don the famous yellow and strut their stuff against the best the rest of the word could offer.
Dance, feign, create!

Consider Barnsley FC. This small club representing the windswept, rainy town of Barnsley spent a historic, solitary season (1997/1998) at the bottom of England's Premiership league before being duly booted back down to a lower division. The euphoria of their fans, however, was inextinguishable throughout. And what did they sing at matches? "It's just like watching Brazil! BRAA-ZIL!"

For some of us, Brazil expresses something about our yearning for the higher things, like oneness with God, or Final Cut Pro. They give the lie to the grinding efficiency of a team like West Germany, whose successes only served to poison us with begrudgery. The Brazilians are exotic. The Brazilians are from South America. In a word, the Brazilians are about flair.

'Brazil' is a rolecall of the Impossibly Cool. They were called Zico and Garrincha. They were called Socrates. (Socrates!) They were called Jairzinho. And, of course, they were simply called Pelé, like a bell ringing inside your soul.

The 1970 World Cup encapsulates all that mythos. I wasn't born in 1970; I know the tournament only through television footage after the fact, which is itself electrifying enough. This was the first World Cup in colour: for those watching on TV at the time, it must have seemed like footballing aliens from the planet Genius had landed among them. Watch the yellow and blue blazing across the green as the sun empathetically blazes down like God's own spotlight. See the haze surrounding pitch enfog the opposition. Observe the Brazilian team themselves shimmering brilliantly, doing things with a ball that should be impossible at the highest level of the game. Certainly, those things were impossible in the Green beside where I lived, as numerous attempts at lobbing the 'keeper, dummying the 'keeper, and pushing the ball into empty space in the anticipation of a blistering strike at goal, will all attest.

That last one... ah, yes. The Alberto Goal.

The television pictures show Pelé moving towards the opposition's box. The defenders back away and back away. In the parlance, they stand off him. They know how good he his. You know how good he is. The man born Edson Arantes do Nascimento is moving now more and more towards the centre of the pitch. He'll take them on! He'll beat them! He'll shoot from where he's standing! The backs can stand off no longer, they begin to try to hold their ground, tense. The tackle it is their profession to time will surely come soon.

Still, Pelé is under no real pressure when suddenly, inexplicably, and (I swear it!) without even a glance, Pelé pushes the ball out to his right with the outside of his right boot. Into. Completely. Empty. Space. There is no one there. Time slows down, as if to account for the befuddled workings of your own brain. What?? Why did?? The attack is going to fizzle out like this? Alberto. Fast. Like a bullet. He comes from nowhere: screams gloriously into the frame and with his first touch sends the ball like death and taxes into the net.

You'll never see anything like it. Brazil.


In the aftermath, you'll laugh, because we always laugh at recognition of supertruth, that sneaks up and blindsides us beautifully.


Shots of football magic from '70. On the soundtrack, Primal Scream play Slip Inside This House.
Deranged samba. Individual instruments groove and mesh around each other; once a bar, on a loop, is an exclamation and a laugh. The last shot is in slow-mo, the last sample says, "We blew their minds." True? Or did I dream it?


Of course, everything changes. Brazil don't always play like poets of the game. They are capable of cynicism; they have, for instance, played for penalties on occasion. Unthinkably, they may not even qualify for Japan/Korea 2002. In any case, there is a move afoot to have the club game surpass the national in importance, where the teams are assembled not by accident of birth, but rather purchased with big money, and sent out to make it back. Even my idolatry was already something of an inheritance, but kids today are more likely to follow the individual footballers at the top of the money market: Rivaldo, the uni-monikered Brazilian, yes - but also Del Piero, Figo, Beckham, and (the admittedly cool) Zinedine Zidane. Still, it is hard to envisage a club competition ever inducing the same mass mania in its supporters as does the World Cup.

I have a friend... Bill. Bill and I talk about football: identity, class, childhood, social shortcuts, the relationship of son and father, even. Sometimes just football. We both love Brazil. During Italia '90, Bill announced that he had discovered why Brazil played the best football. It was because they had the whitest socks. But why, Bill, do they have the whitest socks? Because beautiful Brazilian girls wash them for them. And why, Bill, (thisdayandageGoddamn&etc.) would these girls do such a thing? Simple. Because Brazil play the best football.

It does not always pay to argue with Bill. Besides, when the camera pans to the crowd when Brazil are playing, there are indeed always women of surpassing beauty, minimally decked out in those colours of which I am already so fond.

Just call me Haru.

UPDATE: Brazil won the World Cup in 2002, beating Germany in the final and playing insanely attacking football.

Multiple Winners of The World Cup:

Brazil             5          (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Italy              4          (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) 
W. Germany         3          (1954, 1974, 1990)
Argentina          2          (1978, 1986)
Uruguay            2          (1930, 1950)