As protests simmer, Brazil's national anthem soars at World Cup

Fri Jun 20, 2014 2:05pm EDT
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Few people know the words. Fewer still can faithfully carry its bouncy melody.

But a resurgent national anthem in Brazil is transforming each World Cup appearance by its national team into a collective expression of the country's frustrations – both on and off the soccer field.

A spectacular tournament so far has temporarily quelled the economic and political unease that for the past year led over a million Brazilians into the streets to protest a long list of grievances, including $11 billion in spending to host the Cup.

An anthem by definition is a rallying cry, particularly at big competitions. Rather than just expressing historic national pride, however, the anthem has recently come to embody what Brazilians hope their country can be.

Compared with their perfunctory mumbling of the anthem at sports events past, Brazilians are now elevating the song by flouting time limits of tournament organizers and extending the truncated game version, long after the music officially stops, with a raucous, a cappella rendering of the whole thing.

So spirited is their insistence that many players, including 22-year-old star striker Neymar, wept before Brazil's 0-0 draw with Mexico on Tuesday. Fans are feting the anthem, a convoluted pastoral that celebrates Brazil as a "colossus," almost more than the games themselves, especially considering a tepid Brazilian team so far.

"It was the highlight," says Juliana Evangelista, who was at the match against Mexico in Fortaleza. "I cried at the stadium and I cried again when I watched it on video."

The anthem, whose music dates back nearly two centuries, has always enjoyed respect in a country whose size and cohesion stand out in an otherwise fragmented Latin America. Even during a two-decade military dictatorship, when ruling generals appropriated Brazil's national symbols, students used to sing it at protests because police were too reluctant to beat them until they stopped.   Continued...

Team Brazil pose before the 2014 World Cup Group A soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza June 17, 2014.  REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo