Barack Obina: Yes he C.A.M.

24 01 2010

Watching a football (soccer) game in Brazil is a unique experience. Having watched football games in Canada, England, Spain, France and Germany, I still find the crowds in Brazil the most creative and vocal – but this is naturally a biased opinion. Going to soccer games with my brother in my native Itu is particularly amusing: the small town team has a loyal support base, and my brother’s friends are among the most fanatic I have ever seen. They watch the whole game close to the fence, screaming for the whole 90 minutes, harassing the assistant referees non-stop, and using coarse words I didn’t even know existed in Portuguese.

A particularly interesting phenomenon among Brazilian football supporters is mixing up references outside the sports world in the non-official sports merchandising. Over the last year, one player in particular has been a crowd favourite for those mashups of sorts: Obina. You’ll probably never see him in a FIFA World Cup, but his unusual nickname being somewhat close to Barack’s last name has granted him sustained popularity for the time being, despite his obvious limitations as a player. Here are some samples of what was produced during his tenure in three of the most popular football clubs in Brazil:

Obina donning the Flamengo jersey

Obina as Palmeiras’ President

And the best of all: take a look at this Obina image showing his new club colours, Clube Atlético Mineiro (C.A.M.), and a play with words (CAM in Portuguese is pronounced like “can”), briefly used as the Orkut C.A.M. community image.

Obina wearing the Atlético jersey

To conclude this post, here’s a YouTube homage to Barack Obina in the best (?!) “cult of the amateur” style:

Brazilian football: a disregard for the impossible

13 12 2009

(…) regional tournaments are not economically efficient, as small football clubs benefit from revenues without generating them, due to their lack of followers.

(…) to solve several problems in Brazilian football (…):

1. Reduce the importance of regional tournaments, which would include from now on only small clubs on a “promotion and relegation” system.

2. Integrate the national and international tournament schedules (…)

3. Solve the economic issues of football clubs, and consequently, the issues of Brazilian football as a whole.

If you thought the excerpts above were written by Juca Kfouri or some other present-day Brazilian sports writer, think again: they were taken from the first issue of the weekly news magazine Veja, published on September 11 (!), 1968:

Veja No 1 - Sep 11, 1968

Forty one years later, the administrative problems of Brazilian football are still pretty much the same. Despite of the perpetual mess that is the CBF (the national football association), or perhaps because of that, Brazil has won 3 more FIFA World Cups after that article was written, and has been a staple at the top of FIFA rankings since its inception.

As anything else in the world, the success of Brazilian football in the international arena can’t be linked to a single factor. The diversity and the size of the population, the tropical climate, and the popularity of the game across all social-economic classes, all played a significant role in the development of that sport in Brazil. That’s all nice and logical, but I would argue that chaos and uncertainty were no smaller contributors there.

Where else in the world you would find:

On the other side, football is not a conventional team sport. To win the FIFA World Cup in its current format, a team does not need to score a goal or win a single game in regulation or extra time. Chile qualified to the knock-out phase in 1978 with 3 draws, and theoretically could go all the way to the finals by the means of just winning on penalty shootouts. Furthermore, bad refereeing seems to just increase the interest of fans, to the point that football remains one of the few team sports today where modern technology is off-limits. I suspect this kind of logic is unfathomable to the typical sports fan in North America. If the sport itself is so counter-intuitive, maybe being disorganized, irrational and implausible end up being competitive advantages 🙂 .

Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Product and User Experience at Google once wrote:

Creativity loves constraints but they must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible. (…) Disregarding the bounds of what we know or accept gives rise to ideas that are non-obvious, unconventional, or unexplored. The creativity realized in this balance between constraint and disregard for the impossible is fueled by passion and leads to revolutionary change.

I can’t think of a better description for the jogo bonito. Of course, being creative and fancy is not necessarily the road to success (Netherlands in 1974 and Brazil in 1982 come to mind), but from time to time, that passion for the unconventional gets us gems like these:

Note: This post was updated after its initial publication to add the screenshot of the news magazine and for clarity purposes.