In This Review

Futebol: Soccer the Brazilian Way
Futebol: Soccer the Brazilian Way
By Alex Bellos
Bloomsbury USA, 2002, 352 pp.

Last summer's World Cup championship was followed with vast enthusiasm across the world. Even in the usually detached United States, many immigrants became glued to the Spanish-language TV networks that covered the games live. How the champion, Brazil, became a world power in soccer is captured in this marvelous and readable book. For Brazilians, soccer is an exercise in self-expression, reflecting the aspirations of racial harmony, skill, and mobility. But Bellos shows that the game also has murky edges; the deals, personal conflicts, commercialization, and at times corruption make it, he writes, a "vast unregulated bazaar." Emblematic is Ricardo Teixeira, president of Brazil's Soccer Confederation, who rose through the ranks thanks to a strategic marriage with the only daughter of Joao Havelange, the Brazilian who was the long-time boss of international soccer. Bellos also makes clear just how much the state-based organization of Brazilian soccer reflects the power distortions within the country's political system, which is tilted toward the less-developed states of the country's north instead of the more modern industrial power centers of the south. This tale of bankrupt clubs run by rich fixers, of Amazonian beauty queens and gamblers, of "black magic" and posturing politicians, is a must read for anyone seeking a glimpse of how Brazil really functions.