Who can think of Brazil and not immediately think of football? And little wonder. Brazil’s national team is simply the best in the history of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association: it has won the World Cup a record five times and is the only nation to have played in all nineteen World Cup tournaments since play began in 1930. The country has given rise to so many icons of the sport: among them, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romario, and, of course, the incomparable Pelé, perhaps the single individual who did the most to spread the game’s popularity around the globe. Neymar, one of the most electrifying players of our day, graces the cover of this issue of the Cairo Review.
This year, Brazil hosts the twentieth edition of the FIFA World Cup finals. Two years from now, Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic Games. The country’s sporting spotlight is not the only reason our editorial team was driven to produce Special Report: Viva Brasil! Brazil’s impressive political, economic, and social strides have made it a formidable emerging nation. Jerry Dávila leads our lineup with “Brazilian Triumphs,” exploring the country’s successful transition from dictatorship to democracy in the last thirty years. In “Boom or Bust,” João Augusto de Castro Neves examines the need for economic reform after years of notable growth; Guilherme Casarões parses the growing pains of Brazilian foreign policy in “Itamaraty’s Mission;” and João Marcelo Ehlert Maia and Lia de Mattos Rocha tell the inside story of Brazil’s social movements in “Protests, Protests, Everywhere.”
It may surprise non-Brazilians to learn that some of the current discontent is directed at the World Cup—or government spending on it, at the perceived expense of social programs. In “FIFA Rules,” Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda and Jimmy Medeiros take a look at how the World Cup is changing football culture in Brazil. In “How to Host a World Cup,” Scarlett Cornelissen takes us back to the 2010 games in South Africa, and asks if the tournament really contributed to socioeconomic advancement.
Why is football so important, not only to Brazilians, but to the entire world? We put that question to Kanishk Tharoor, who delved into the long history of the sport for some answers. His essay is titled, appropriately enough, “The Beautiful Game.” Long may it live.