Brazilian elite uses the World Cup to show their discomfort in being Brazilian

ellusmatsukawa“Down with this underdeveloped Brazil.” That is how jeans-wear Ellus decided to engage with the World Cup — by putting that message in a shirt. I suppose they have a lame PR response, saying it is against the bottlenecks, not against the country. Still all Brazilians who understand our stray dog syndrome know what people who wear that shirt actually mean. After all, Ellus stores are attended mostly by folks who don’t use the public healthcare system. They don’t study at state schools. And they rarely set foot into public transportation in Brazil’s main cities (although they gladly do it abroad).

So what are they frustrated about? Are they as selfless as the activists who protest with an end in sight, whatever that end is? Or do wealthy Brazilians voice their criticism out of sheer boredom?

My answer is that rich Brazilians are frustrated for being Brazilian. And they poison the tone about Brazil hosting the World Cup more than the mistakes and bad planning in the run-up to football’s extravaganza. I know it isn’t exactly news for anyone who has been in a Brazilian party in Jardins or Leblon. But this is probably a good moment to point that out.

Some elitists deal with that upsetting reality of being Brazilian in a proactive fashion: they get an European passport, as if they were one of those who really have a family bond abroad. Others choose to target symbols that are linked to the country they reject. That has been done before. Samba, country music, feijoada and all things Brazil are either discarded or twisted into a gourmet version that fits the elite’s allegedly better taste.

Football has somehow been in the middle of the road — one can’t disbrazilian football. But now European clubs are more and more popular here. Perhaps that shows the attention is shifting in that area too. It would be a good reason to explain why World Cup criticism, which was very irrelevant not long ago, gave the Brazilian elite an opportunity to express their annoyance.

“Dear foreigners, please, don’t come to the Brazil World Cup because we can’t protect you from the people we hate. Wait for us to visit you, please.”

The June 2013 protests changed the landscape for Brazilian elites. After transport fare protests became a national wave including very different kinds of people, rich Brazilians became very vocal for the first time in a long time. It was their time to show their presence after years and years of frustrating movements. They used the legitimacy of the initial protests to make it sound as if we were all on the same boat. The World Cup one was surely a great link.

World Cup spending only got in the equation after the movement exploded. Although preparations surely deserve criticism, it was only one year before kick off that our elite discovered this could draw more attention to all they dislike about Brazil. Suddenly they made Brazil look as undemocratic as North Korea, as poor as Paraguay, as chaotic as India, as careless about human rights as Saudi Arabia, as corrupt as Russia. Brazil has surely bits of all of those, but is very different from all of them.

Even if Brazil were like that, our elite would have to do soul searching, not finger pointing. Of course there are exceptions, but wealthy, schooled and well traveled anti-World Cup social conservatives aren’t very keen on sharing the country that got the World Cup basically because it started sharing its profits with the poor. The fact Brazil has spread some wealth in the last 20 years doesn’t sit well with rich kids who hear their rich grandparents say great things about those years of the military rule. Some say they identify with the opposition parties, but it is merely a matter of taste: in substance, the ruling Workers Party isn’t very different from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party.

Unsurprisingly, these are the same who advocate for changes that, essentially, give a harder time to anyone out of their league. They want to put under 18s in jail, to get more active policing, to make corruption a heinous crime (only for officials, not for those who bribe them) and so on. Among those people you can also find critics of measures to bring foreign doctors. Others are the very doctors who refuse to work in poor communities — they want to earn more working as dermatologists in big cities. I can’t see European, American or Asian elites being so self-absorbed. It is probably a Latin American thing.

What better symbol for the Brazilian elite to channel their frustration with Brazil not being what they want than to hammer the football World Cup, the event that makes the country stop every four years? Support for Brazil hosting the tournament has surely dropped in the last year or so, but it is the platitudes spread by the rich Brazilians (sometimes in English) that are getting time in the limelight as if these guys lived through the grievances they address. Truth is they don’t even care about them. Many are kidnapping the very social agenda they disagree with to make shallow and politically disengaged criticism.

That is a often a disguise for their discomfort for being Brazilian, unlike criticism from those who give a meaning to their antagonism.

Mainstream media has picked on that elitist rejection and amplified it. Videos like Carla Dauden’s boycott offer are used to show there is a nationwide bad vibe. But that is the feeling of the “upper middle class”, as they like to define themselves (FYI: apparently there are no rich people in Brazil. That Human Development Index map below might disagree, but who cares?).


Hosting the World Cup, which was meant to be a pinnacle of social inclusion, is being twisted into a mere “we spend too much, get too little” event.  The tone used by the wealthy Brazilians isn’t “this needs fixing” — most of them know too little of politics to actually engage with substance. Their message is “screw all this” (as Carla Dauden’s boycott video suggests). It seems the underdeveloped Brazil deserves to be embarrassed by the perpetrators, not by the victims. The latter are critics, but not ashamed of their country.

Elites who criticize the World Cup in Brazil have used well a great chance to show they don’t relate to football as everyone else — they sold the idea that those engaged with the World Cup are actually disengaged with Brazil. They show themselves as agents for real change, when they are quite the opposite — just look at their other suggestions and you will see Brazilian elites couldn’t care any less about people being evicted because of new stadia, for example.

I am no Marxist. But it is difficult to defend one of the most narrow-minded elites in the world. Many foreign journalists who spent long enough here will second me on that. Brazil’s favelas somehow remind our tiny, white and sometimes religion-crazy rich people that they had the keys to slavery. So they slam the World Cup being played not far from those. On the hills of Rio and São Paulo suburbs, there are hundreds of thousands whose great grandparents couldn’t be hired because master wouldn’t buy his property again by giving him a contract.

These Brazilians don’t blame only the organizing committee for World Cup construction delays: they pin it on builders for being slow and ineffective. That’s how they satisfy their fetich with poor being responsible for their poverty. Brazilian elites very often see a black person as a potential maid or a driver. If they don’t get that glass of orange juice at 8 am, it is probably because these poor folks are just a bunch of lazy ungrateful people. “Typical Brazil,” one of those told me once at an interview in a hotel.

(Not very different from what The Economist recently suggested in a very poor comprehension of Brazil’s complexity.)

Congressman Romário voiced many elitist perceptions in the run up to the World Cup. Now he profits doing World Cup ads. 

Large chunks of the media revolve around that tiny elite for their stories. Although there are activists with reasonable concern for human rights and better services for everyone, most of the message has to do with what wealthy Brazilians can express in English. That’s how they got known: by whining about things they don’t understand in Brazil. (See the case of Arena Corinthians. It sits in a poor region. Many elitists say they won’t go because it is “an ugly part of the city”.)

That shirt by Ellus is a great example of an old standard of the wealthiest Brazilians: they pretend everything that is wrong with Brazil has nothing to do with them.  Corruption doesn’t start with their companies. Inequality doesn’t come from they paying less taxes than everyone else (and they still dodge fiscal laws). Crooks have never been elected or financed by them. The underdeveloped parts of Brazil are not to be dealt by engaging with politics and putting solutions forward — their idea is to prove their success comes exclusively through their effort. Everyone else’s failure is not theirs.

It is difficult to predict whether they will have success in shaming Brazil till the end. Protests are more measurable than their dissing. Whatever is the legacy of the World Cup, I just hope that the underdeveloped Brazil beats their haters. I come from the underdeveloped Brazil. If the World Cup were our biggest problem, it would be great. If the World Cup isn’t a success, I will be here to report it as it is. But I am hoping it will. Not only because of previous experiences in big sporting events. It is because I want to see people who wore that shirt eat their words very soon.

Down with Ellus!

About Mauricio Savarese

I am a Brazilian journalist who got tired of reporting only in Portuguese. Politics and football, these are my turfs. Twitter: @msavarese. Email:

Posted on 08/05/2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 122 Comments.

  1. Concordo em algumas coisas e discordo em outras. Concordo que o brasil é atrasado por inúmeros fatores e a copa apenas é mais um deles; porém, a copa é um GRANDE atraso em alguns setores, não pode ser simplesmente levado junto com a pilha. E alguns doutores se negam a trabalhar em cidades pequenas não apenas para receberem mais, mas também porque cidades pequenas tem menor infraestrutura, equipamentos, etc. A maioria dos formandos mora em capitais, obviamente porque é na capitais que estão a maioria das capitais de medicina, então é natural que queiram morar perto da família e dos amigos, ao invés de se mudarem para o outro lado do país pra trabalhar e morar numa cidade estranha e completamente diferente do ambiente em que nasceram. Vale lembrar, também, que o governo tem um carinho imenso por esses valentes que trabalham em cidades do interior, tanto que pagam altos salários, mas esquecem que salário se paga mensalmente. É absurdamente comum o salário atrasar ou simplesmente desaparecer em certos casos.

  2. Ola, nao gostei do texto. Voce generaliza a elite, ela esta sim no mesmo braco que todos. Para mim esse eh o diferencial, voce pode ser Rico, mas no fundo vai esta usufrindo da mesma infraestrutura. Tudo Bem, frequentei a melhor escola de Brasilia, mas fiz a unb onde nao tinha papel higienico. Minha familia eh classe media mas estamos sujeitos a assaults assim como o resto da populacao, pagamos impostos, mas n temos trem para se locomover. Pagamos todos pelo custo brasil, e sim, nao temos servicos de qualidade! Isso nao eh culpa dos Rico! Discordo dessa sindrome do vira Lata, pois as pessoas no fundo querem a melhora do pais ( seria isso vira Lata?) se tem uma campanha p melhorar de alguma forma o pais pq critica-la? Se voce fosse medico vc iria p o interior? A questao do Medico eh Mais do que economica! Existe alguma infraestrutura no interior? Existe curso de medicina nas cidadoes do interior?Para algumas pessoas eh crime o outro ser Rico! O problema cultural do brasil nao se expressa so no Rico, o pobre tb! Esse Apelo a estetica extrema, Apelo a lei do jerson, Apelo ao racismo.. Nao eh de agora. E a mudanca nao vai ser repentina. Essa copa pode ser uma oportunidade de mudanca, se ok Rico foi para rua nao eh um sinal ruim, e um grito de Socorro, pois Estes querem continuar a morar no brasil, mas em um brasil melhor! Nao vou falar q epoca da ditadura foi boa, mas o brasil esta tendo uma faze Bem ruim de seguranca publica. Nao eh pq a tv mostra, pois isso ela sempre monstrou. Minha rua a 5 anos atras era Bem segura, n tinhamos casos de roubos, esse ano a maioria das Casas foram roubadas..

  3. Andre Gares


  4. Alysson Torquato

    i think my (brazilian) people should start complaining about the world cup to be realized in our country, BEFORE brazil begin to move foward with this ideia.

  5. Belo texto! Esta virando ‘moda’ falar mal do Brasil ou a elite egoista, burra e traira ,lesa-patria que sempre gozou do bom e do melhor e nao suporta ver que o pais esta mudando! Chupa Direita-medieval ! Atrasados sao voces!

  6. Brazil will keep changing to the dismay of the national and world bourgeoisie!

  7. Terrible article, extremely narrow-minded and full of prejudice. It is sad to see that you actually have readers. Please rethink your ideas! You have no idea of what reality is.

    • Agree. I can’t even say if the article was ‘bad’, ‘horrible’, or simply ‘narrow-minded’, cause I couldn’t grasp the author’s idea! And I went thru it twice, trying to understand its stand, the writer’s point-of-view [and please, I’d really appreciate some light here…!] I agree with the idea of the Brasil-corrupto, Brasil-burguês, chame como quiser… Brasil da desolação… da Elite “descontente”… cresci no Brasil, vivi os 70, 80, 90… Brazil has its challenges, like any large country with an extremely mixed population, and a very [diplomatically-speaking] ‘challenging government’, but, please, do not extend/repeat what a very limited group [‘a elite brasileira’] says… They [the elite] are in the lookout for social media points, for hits on their Twitter and FB accounts… Minha simples sugestão, caso o autor resolva algum outro dia, escrever novamente a esse respeito – busque um ponto de vista, e invista nele! Try to have a stand, an idea, and go with that… present your remarks, your justification, your opinion… It would make the reading/discussing experience way richer. but, in any event, thanks for sharing this quasi-op-piece; at least it got people thinking… 😮

  8. Yes – as a gringo living here, I dont agree with this at all, the rich for me are more likely to shrug their shoulders when I talk about the delays. Its is the Taxi drivers, the guards, the waiters who are super pissed off about it

  9. Reblogged this on silentflames92 and commented:
    I guess its not only in Nigeria that have disgruntled masses who are angry with the state of things

  10. aqilaqamar

    Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    The white skin-fetish is something that is very problematic and many others too. Brazil and its problems eloquently pointed out in a sport.

  11. Reblogged this on New World Observations and commented:
    Great article. And people here in the U.S. complain about the elites! Though you will not see elites in the U.S. saying they hate America. Quite the contrary. Probably what makes the U.S. great is the pride that its citizens take in the country.

    Sure, many elites in the U.S. do thumb their noses at those who are not as well off as they are. But in America you have the chance to make something of yourself and then possibly have the chance to give those same stuck-up elites the finger back.

    It is a shame that more Brazilians do not take pride in their country. My wife is Brazilian and she expresses many of the frustrations that are mentioned in this piece. So, I get the frustration part but the elites in Brazil need to look at themselves as well and not just blame the poor.

  12. I’ve been concerned about Brazil ever since I saw the documentary, Manda Bala, like ten years ago, about the rampant poverty and kidnappings in Sao Paulo. Hopefully the Cup will be a healing and fruitful experience for your country. With that beautiful statue of Jesus embracing the capital, you know there’s hope for awesome change and improvement.

  13. World Cup is a best canavan to addvertise your country.

  14. do any elites/rich in any country behave differently?

  15. I wish for a safe World cup for all those in Brazil.

  16. Try Iraq…. for years Iraqi’s have often wondered who they really are/were.

    Constantly moving and more often than not having a brother in Canada, Sister in Lebanon and the parents in the UK…

    I think there are deep divisions in Brazil but I sincerely hope the World Cup will go ahead without trouble. Of course this is the perfect time while the media spotlight is on Brazil for those who are dissatisfied to reach for the attention.

    Hope everyone can get what they want.

  17. Jaime Silk - Mental Health & Wellness Therapist

    Having been in Brazil last year for a number of weeks and working with individuals in with building, shaping and creating identity in my work as a Therapist, this post was a very interesting read! Thank-you.

  18. Ellus ! Eu concordo com você !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Reblogged this on Vanessa Murillo Vargas and commented:
    Check this out, this is a very interesting read for anyone interested in football politics in Brazil at the moment.

  20. Thank you for presenting a side I never get to hear….. and I hear the other side plenty. You have given me a lot to think about. Keep reporting, keep writing, keep speaking.

  21. Malu Baumgarten

    Finally somebody tells the truth about Brazil, its elite and the World Cup in good and sound English! Thank you! I’ll share your text and pay attention to stuff you post from now on.

  22. I agree with a lot of things in this article.

    But I disagree with the translation “underdeveloped country” for “país atrasado”. Backward country would be more accurate, and it is a different connocation. I don’t agree at all with the message from Ellus either way, but what you wrote isn’t what they meant.

    And I don’t get the hype around Carla Dauden. Here is one thing no one (including herself) ever mentioned: does she even like soccer? It doesn’t seem like that. What is the significance of boycotting a single-sport event for a sport you’re not interested in?

    Finally, many Brazilians I know go to the protests, but complain about having to pay their maids too much (when they definately could easily afford to pay three times as much, if they think it is so indispensable to have a maid), or that the maids don’t want to work Sundays anymore, or just want to clean and not cook like they used to. Going out on the street singing and shouting is a lot easier than changing old habits.

  23. What an excellent article. This anti World Cup sentiment is like the anti-moon landing sentiment in the early 1970’s in the US. The argument was why are we spending all of this money on astronauts and the moon when we have so many poor people? Brasilians see poverty and suffering and say to themselves: “Why are we spending billions to entertain the affluent when we have so many social problems.

  24. We are sick and tired of telling to foreigners that we are not miserable, we don´t live above the trees, we are not criminals, our wives are not prostitutes, we don´t speak spanish, we have electricity, and no, brazil is not a communist island nor a cuban dictatorship.

  25. The general division among classes, as expressed in this blog, could EASILY apply here in the U.S. The “haves” seem to do more griping than the “have nots”. Their detached view of reality is highlighted with every word, almost to the point of being comical. Somehow everything that is wrong with the country is the fault of those with the least amount of power.

  26. Excellent article! Perfect description of the plague of coxinhas- the class of privileged, racist, out of touch, ignorant elite arrogant scum who are the real shame of our country. The ones who behaved like the lowlifes they are when they hurled obscenities at the president at the opening game of the world cup – there they were enjoying an event that SHE helped make possible.

    Your reader Matheus repeats this pathetic excuse about Brazilian doctors who have no social conscience:

    “E alguns doutores se negam a trabalhar em cidades pequenas não apenas para receberem mais, mas também porque cidades pequenas tem menor infraestrutura, equipamentos, etc. ”


    If Brazilian doctors are GENUINELY concerned about helping their fellow Brazilians who live in areas that have no infrastructure, then they would organize a program or campaign to help build an infrastructure themselves. That’s what doctors with a social conscience do in other countries-they organize, seek out donations, fundraise. Something Brazilian doctors are too lazy and indifferent to do. Everything has to come from the govt. They can’t act for themselves to make the country better.

    Cuban doctors and doctors from many other countries ROUTINELY go into very poor areas around the world with no infrastructure doing volunteer work all the time — including groups like Doctors Without Borders — and do very valuable work there. They don’t say “oh no, I’m not going to serve the poor with my medical skills because there’s no infrastructure there.”

    What a pathetic excuse for being selfish, egotistical parasites who are totally indifferent to the lives of the majority of their fellow countrymen and women who desperately need their skills.

  27. Perfect!! You said it all!! And the comments against the text just prove it once they come from people who has a good English level – elite.

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