07 June 2010

Kaká – the unholy warrior

The key to Brazilian success in the World Cup is Kaká. Dunga’s system is predicated on absorbing pressure and counter-attacking. I’ve been making the metaphorical connection between Dunga’s tactical scheme (destructive creativity) and Lula’s embrace of free-market capitalism with its waves of creative destruction.  Kaká, as the team’s major star, is an embodiment of Brasil, the seleção, and just about everything that is wrong with modern football.

Kaká is the perfect embodiment of capital, religion, and patriotism. His naked and shameless commercialism was on display during a press conference the other day when he started kissing the Adidas Jabulani world cup ball. The ball has come under fierce criticism from nearly everyone except those who Adidas is paying to make out with it for the international press corps. Real Madrid is sponsored by Adidas, Kaká wears Adidas boots, Kaká makes money for Adidas, Adidas loves Kaká, and Kaká loves Adidas so much that for his next trick he is going to inflate the Jabulani without a needle.

Hands in the air, lips moving, eyes rolled back in the head? A crack addict getting arrested? No, Kaká in his pregame ritual. Kaká is so pentacostal he’s hexacostal, wants to be a pastor after playing. I’ve got no problem with that, but the Igreja Renascer em Cristo to which Kaká belongs is much more than a church, it is a money making machine that has turned into a political party, hiding its naked worldly ambitions behind a veil of sanctimonious righteousness that keeps bringing me back to the idea of throwing a basket full of snakes in the locker room.

It’s difficult to imagine a country where national identity is more involved with the fate of the national team than Brasil. The streets are decorated green and yellow, the stores are running out of televisions, people are planning weeks in advance for the first round games, nearly every conversation I overhear on the street, metro, bus, small gatherings, parties, is about the Seleção. Kaká is the most well-known Brazilian player (outside of Brazil) and as the fate of Dunga’s team depends on the former world player of the year he has become an ever more important figure in the national consciousness. Unfortunately for Brazil, this pretty boy from São Paulo doesn’t know how to dance (and is out of form and a bit injured besides) and that is going to mean a quarterfinal exit for the Seleção Brasileira.

The World Cup in Brazil is a strange mix of popular festival, nationalistic chest pounding, nostalgia, hopeful anticipation, and resignation. I have yet to meet a Brazilian that does not have an opinion about the World Cup, or that is planning on doing something other than watch Brazil play. There is not much love lost for Dunga’s side here and even though they are ranked number one in the world and a heavy favorite to make it through to the final, many people are secretly hoping that they will lose with dignity, so as to not valorize the futebol de resultados that defines the modern game (political and financial gain at the expense of popular culture and spaces, increase in social discipline via blind devotion to god and economies of scale, the cold abandonment of a perceived national style).

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