Football. Brazil turns its back on black coaches.

Brazil, accustomed to cheering black stars like Pelé, has almost only white coaches in its clubs. This is one of the consequences of the racism that continues to undermine the country, the last in America to abolish slavery.

Jair Ventura the only black coach in the Brazilian first division


Goias is the only one of the twenty Brazilian first division teams to be led this season by a black coach, Jair Ventura, son of Jairzinho, the legendary 1970 world champion striker.

More often than not, entire seasons are spent with only white technicians at the helm of elite clubs, in a country where the black population is the majority – and the ultra-majority as far as players on the field are concerned.

“What worries me is not so much the fact that there are no black coaches (…). The real problem is that this debate does not exist within Brazilian football,” said Marcelo Carvalho, director of the Observatory on Racial Discrimination in Football.

“Brazilian society is not shocked by the absence of black people in positions of responsibility. Football reflects our racist society,” he told AFP.

According to the Institute of Statistics of the IBGE, blacks and mestizos represent 55.8% of the Brazilian population, but only 24.4% of the MPs and 29.9% of the labor market executives.

‘Lack of opportunities’

In the last American country to abolish slavery in 1888, the black coaches who have led elite clubs in recent years can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Andrade, Cristovao Borges, Marcao, Roger Machado and Jair Ventura.

Even if Brazil is considered the world champion of the coaching waltz, very few black technicians are hired during the multiple changes at the head of the teams throughout the season.

Some have disappeared from circulation once they proved themselves, such as Andrade, champion of Brazil at the head of Flamengo in 2009.

Five-time world champion, De Seleçao had only two black coaches, Gentil Cardoso (1959) and Vanderlei Luxemburgo (1998-2000), who is a mixed race but did not readily recognize himself as a black man.

“There is a prejudice, very entrenched, structural, (…) against black coaches, and we have to fight against this prejudice,” current coach Tite said in October.

Unlike most players, coaches have real power within clubs, which experts say explains slavery-inherited biases that question their ability to lead men.

“At the time of the abolition of slavery, black people were left to their own devices, with no policies to give them opportunities. In the collective imagination, blacks are absent from power circles and positions of responsibility because they do not strive for it, or because they do not have the necessary intellectual qualities,” emphasizes Marcelo Carvalho.


Coach of Gremio, a historic club in southern Brazil that was recently relegated to the second division, Roger Machado, 47, says he was regularly the victim of racism, and was sometimes seen as a bodyguard for his Métis daughter.

“The first times I was fired, people said I was unable to lead the squad, while as a player I was often captain and was rightly praised for my qualities as a men’s leader,” he told AFP.

If the fight against racism has progressed in Brazil in recent years, Machado doesn’t see the same momentum on the football side.

“There is still a lot of room for players and coaches to get more involved, but I don’t blame them. Players are conditioned not to comment on topics that don’t directly affect the pitch,” he continues.

Sociologist Danielle Cireno, of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, believes change will come through anti-racist education and strong public policies in the football world.

“We have quotas for blacks in universities, in civil service competitions. Why not for coaches?” she said.

Brazil is no exception: at the last World Cup, in 2018, only one of the 32 countries in the running, Senegal, had a black coach, Aliou Cissé.


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