Jair Bolsonaro’s Political Game: The Controversy Surrounding Brazil’s Yellow Jersey

Jair Bolsonaro’s Political Game: The Controversy Surrounding Brazil’s Yellow Jersey

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Credit: Getty Images
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United in Love for Football, Divided by Politics

Brazil’s iconic yellow jersey, a symbol that has historically united the nation through a shared love for football and national pride, has found itself at the centre of controversy in recent years. Over the past two years, supporters of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro have adopted the yellow jersey as a political emblem, wearing it at protests and rallies to express allegiance to the controversial leader. This shift has sparked a divisive debate over the true meaning of the yellow jersey, tarnishing its image and straining its historical association with sporting success.

The 1970 national team also became embroiled in politics, most notably before the World Cup in Mexico General Medici, president of a nation under military dictatorship, was instrumental in removing the coach – João Saldanha – who had overseen a perfect merit campaign.

Looking ahead to 2020 Bolsonaro’s critics say the iconic yellow jersey is now tainted by his close ties with Brazil’s president.

 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro celebrated with the trophy and Brazilian players after winning the Copa America final against Peru.
Credit: CNN

Walter Casagrande, a former footballer of the Brazilian national team and São Paulo club

From Glory on the Pitch to Political Division

The yellow jersey gained global fame during the 1970 World Cup, inspired by the stellar performance of legendary player Pele. For decades, it symbolized Brazil’s prowess on the football field and contributed to a positive international image. However, the political entanglements of the 1970 national team hinted at the jersey’s potential to become a pawn in political games.

Fast forward to 2020, and critics of Bolsonaro argue that the yellow jersey is now tainted by its association with the president. Former Brazilian national team footballer Walter Casagrande, who once found the jersey enchanting, now believes it has been hijacked by the right wing, making it challenging for others to wear it without being associated with Bolsonaro’s politics.

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro pray during a convoy against the National Congress and Supreme Court over lockdown measures amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in front of the National Congress in Brasilia on May 9, 2020.
Credit: CNN
A protester holds a sign that reads
Credit: CNN

The Political Battlefield: Left vs. Right

The polarisation extends to the public, with left-wing critics viewing the jersey as a manipulation tool by Bolsonaro’s supporters. On the other side, Bolsonaro loyalists, like fighter Cosmo Alexandre, dismiss these accusations, asserting that the yellow T-shirts are worn simply because everyone in Brazil has one. According to Alexandre, the jersey’s use is not about politics but a universal recognition of Brazil and its football prowess.

Despite attempts to separate football and politics, the divisive nature of Brazilian politics has seeped into the realm of football, creating a clash over the symbolic yellow jersey. The intense rivalry between football clubs in cities like São Paulo has spilt onto the streets, with protests reflecting the broader political landscape.

Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro staged a protest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 31, 2020.Werner Wilson rallied against Witzel.
Credit: CNN
Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro gathered in support of him and to protest the racism and death of blacks in the slums of Brazil during the Black Lives Matter protests on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on June 7, 2020.
Credit: CNN

Campaign for Change: White and Blue Kits

In response to the growing divide, there is a call to abandon the yellow jersey altogether. João Carlos Assumpko, a Brazilian journalist and football enthusiast, is leading a campaign for the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to return to the classic white and blue kit from 1914. This campaign aims to signify a desire for change in the country, distinct from the changes associated with Bolsonaro’s government.

The debate over the yellow jersey reflects the broader political turmoil in Brazil, where football and politics have historically been intertwined. The clash of ideologies within football clubs and the use of football symbols in political protests highlight the need for unity in the face of a political crisis.

A supporter of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cries during a demonstration in favor of his government amid the coronavirus pandemic in front of Planalto Palace on May 24, 2020 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Credit: CNN
Protesters wearing face masks raise their fists on Paulista Avenue during a protest amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on June 14, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Credit: CNN


Soccer, Politics, and Democracy: Finding Common Ground

Historically, football in Brazil has played a role in political movements, such as the pro-democracy movements in the 1980s. The iconic yellow jersey, once a symbol of democracy and freedom for former player Casagrande, now symbolizes division and political discord.

The battle for the yellow jersey’s meaning reflects the larger struggle for the soul of Brazil, with different factions seeking to reclaim or redefine its significance. Whether the yellow jersey can be restored to its former glory as a symbol of unity and sporting excellence remains uncertain, but its current role in Brazil’s political landscape marks a turbulent chapter in the nation’s history.

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrated in Brasilia on May 31, 2020, to show their support during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.
Credit: CNN

In a country where football is more than a sport—it’s a way of life—the controversy surrounding the yellow jersey is a reminder of the deep-seated connections between sports and politics, a knot that may take years to untangle.

Sao Paulo, Brazil - June 10: A person passes a multi-color frescoHands supporting the planet marked with the Brazilian flag on June 10, 2014, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2014 will be played between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) Photo by Getty Images)
Credit: CNN

“When Bolsonaro started running, his supporters used yellow to show that I am Brazilian and I do not want communism in my country,” Alexandre said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro presented the Brazilian national team jersey to US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2019.
Credit: CNN

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Published on: 2020-08-06 15:59:50


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