Brazil’s dances are moments of relief and celebrations of culture – nobody should dilute it

The Athletic has live coverage of Brazil vs. Croatia in quarterfinal play at the 2022 World Cup.

When you think about the greatest footballers Brazil has ever produced, many had one thing in common: they were superb dribblers, but their movement encapsulated so much more than that.

Ronaldinho’s body feints and step-overs made people feel like they were watching a samba dancer. The endless shimmies and subtle shifts in body movement combined with lightning-quick feet allowed him to operate at a unique tempo on the pitch.

Dancing is baked into Brazil’s culture and it clearly influences the way its people play football.

Luka Modric, who is preparing to face Brazil in the quarter-finals of the World Cup with Croatia today (Friday), put it best when he said “it’s a pure pleasure watching them” and other South American sides.

The freedom they play with has been, and always will be, a part of their appeal. So why are people now getting so upset about Brazil dancing after they score?

Raphinha gave everybody a friendly warning about what to expect before their opening match at this World Cup, against Serbia.

“We have some 10 dances prepared for each match,” the Barcelona winger told reporters. “One for the first (goal), one for the second, one for the third. If we score more than 10, we’ll have to start innovating.”

The squad kept their promise and performed a variety of moves during the 4-1 victory over South Korea on Tuesday which sealed their place in the last eight.

Vinicius Jr scored the opening goal and danced with Raphinha, Neymar and Lucas Paqueta, the idea coming from the song ‘Pagodao do Birimbola’ by Os Quebradeiras, Mousik and Machadez which has gone viral on TikTok.

The quartet got together again after Neymar scored from the penalty spot to give Brazil a 2-0 lead and shuffled to ‘Oz Crias da Selecao’ by Oz Crias and DJ Lc da Roca.

Paqueta celebrated his half-volley with a little shimmy, too. The 25-year-old has performed different routines throughout his career. After he scored in the Copa America in July last year, Paqueta and Neymar copied a move which had been made popular by the music group Bonde Dos Havaianos in their hit ‘Dancinha de Cria.’

It was Richarlison’s goal and celebration which drew the most attention against South Korea.

The forward did the ‘Pombo (Pigeon) Dance’ which has been seen before during his spells at Fluminense, Watford, Everton and now Tottenham Hotspur. It is inspired by the song ‘Danca Do Pombo’ from Os Perseguidores and MC Faisca which was popular in Brazil during Richarlison’s childhood.

What made it stand out on this occasion though was the involvement of Tite.

Brazil’s 61-year-old head coach was on his way to pray at their training base when he bumped into the players and they taught him the move. Richarlison has shown legendary Brazil striker Ronaldo how to do it as well.

The team’s captain Thiago Silva insisted “it was not at all a lack of respect for South Korea” that Tite joined in.

However, Roy Keane, the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain, watched the match for UK broadcaster ITV as an analyst and was “not happy about it”.

“I can’t believe what I’m watching, it’s like watching Strictly (Come Dancing — a UK celebrity dance competition),” Keane said. “I don’t like this. People say it’s their culture, but I think that’s really disrespecting the opposition.

“It’s four goals, and they are doing it every time. I don’t mind so much the first gig, it’s the one after that — and the manager getting involved.”

We have seen this narrative before.

In February 2017, ex-England international Rio Ferdinand was unimpressed after Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard, who were both playing for Manchester United at the time, shared a video on Instagram of them dancing in the changing room. Ferdinand said: “When you go out and start winning, that’s when you go out and do stuff like that.” Yet, almost six years later, Brazil are winning and people are still trying to police their celebrations.

Richarlison says it is about showing the team’s togetherness.

“If the coach and all the staff are happy, the team is happy on the pitch, it is very important to feel this joy while playing,” the forward said. “We rehearsed that celebration together with the coach, and he was very happy he had the chance to use it.”

Even Zlatko Dalic, Croatia’s head coach, was reluctant to agree with Keane that the celebrations were disrespectful.

“They have their own way,” Dalic said. “They celebrate how they know. They are actually festive, they are so in unity, demonstrating their character and tradition and it’s their right. Is that a respect or a disrespect to the opponent? I cannot say.”

Tite explained how he felt about such celebrations on the eve of the World Cup.

“It’s a characteristic we have, and we are natural about it wherever we are,” he said. “Just as we respect Arab culture and that of other countries, we have to respect our own. We respect our way of being.

“Is it happiness? Yes. It is a moment of concentration and seriousness, and there are some other moments. Goals are the greatest moment of celebration and each person can translate that in their own way. And our way is to dance. While respecting the opponent, but it is. It is also self-respect.”

Even Brazil manager Tite got in on the dancing act during the last-16 win against South Korea (Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The comments of Pedro Bravo, president of the Spanish Football Agents Association, in September should not be forgotten. Bravo was a guest on Spanish football talk-show El Chiringuito and criticized Vinicius for dancing after scoring for Real Madrid.

“If you want to dance samba, you go to the sambadrome in Brazil,” Bravo said. “Here, what you have to do is to respect your colleagues and stop playing the monkey.”

Bravo apologized on Twitter and said he misused a metaphor. He has not faced any punishment for his comments.

Vinicius responded on Instagram by saying his dances, and others by Paqueta, France’s Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix of Portugal and Ronaldinho during his career, are from Brazilian funk and samba, reggaeton and African-American artists that “celebrate the cultural diversity of the world “.

The 22-year-old was then subjected to racist abuse before and during Madrid’s 2-1 derby victory away to city rivals Atletico on September 18. The Spanish Department of Justice confirmed last week that Atletico and their fans would not be punished for their “ disrespectful” and “unpleasant” chants towards Vinicius.

If the winger’s dances are about being happy, then they have now become powerful statements of defiance too.

There was a vocal minority complaining about Brazil, but people across the world may have been inspired by Vinicius celebrating his first-ever goal at a major international tournament by dancing despite the abuse he has received.

Some of the World Cup’s most iconic moments have involved dancing too — it is woven into the fabric of the competition. Cameroon striker Roger Milla scored four times at the 1990 World Cup in Italy and celebrated by dancing around the corner flag. He told Soccer Bible in 2017: “It was totally spontaneous, like an explosion of joy.”

Siphiwe Tshabalala’s goal for hosts South Africa against Mexico in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup will be remembered forever — he celebrated by dancing with his team-mates too. Over the past three weeks in Qatar, we have seen the Ghana and Senegal players come off their team buses dancing and playing instruments before matches.

Major international tournaments are intense environments and if dancing gives Brazil’s squad, and others, a moment of relief from that pressure, then why does it matter?

One of the best things about a World Cup is being exposed to cultures people may not have experienced before. Nobody should attempt to dilute that.

(Main graphic — photo: Getty Images/design: Eamonn Dalton)


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