Brazilian football turns its back on black coaches

So Paulo (AFP) – Brazil, accustomed to cheering black football stars like Pelé, has almost exclusively white coaches in its clubs, one of the consequences of the racism that continues to undermine the country, the last in America to abolish slavery.

Until Thursday, Goias was the only one of the twenty Brazilian first division players to be led this season by a black coach, Jair Ventura, son of Jairzinho, the legendary world champion attackers in 1970. Marco Aurélio de Oliveira ‘Marcao’, the one brought together on the bench of Fluminense after the resignation of Abel Braga of which he was the assistant.

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 in terms of the players on the field.

“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 America. football.

Jair Ventura, then on the Santos bench, during a match of the Copa Libertadores at Estudiantes de La Plata in Quilmes, Argentina, April 5, 2018 JAVIER GONZALEZ TOLEDO AFP/Archive

“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.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo, on Palmeiras' bench, during a Copa Libertadores match against Paraguayan club Guarani in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 10, 2020
Vanderlei Luxemburgo, on Palmeiras’ bench, during a Copa Libertadores match against Paraguayan club Guarani in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 10, 2020 Miguel SCHINCARIOL AFP/Archive

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, black people are absent from circles of power and responsibility because they don’t aspire to it, or because they do not have the necessary intellectual qualities,” emphasizes Marcelo Carvalho.

quotas

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

“The first time I was sacked it was said that I was unable to lead the team, while as a player I was often captain and was rightly praised for my qualities as a men’s leader,” he told AFP. †

Roger Machado trains with Gremio players in Porto Alegre, Brazil on April 18, 2022
Roger Machado trains with Gremio players in Porto Alegre, Brazil on April 18, 2022 Silvio AVILA 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’s still a lot of room for players and coaches to get more involved, but I don’t blame them. Players are conditioned not to speak out about things that don’t directly affect the field,” 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.

Senegal coach Aliou Cissé during the African Cup of Nations semifinal against Burkina Faso on February 2, 2022 in Yaoundé, Cameroon
Senegal coach Aliou Cissé during the African Cup of Nations semifinal against Burkina Faso on February 2, 2022 in Yaoundé, Cameroon CHARLY TRIBALLEAU AFP/Archive

“We have quotas for blacks in colleges, in civil service leagues. 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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