Ask anybody with a minimum of knowledge about either the sport or the country, and they'll tell you that soccer in Brazil is like a religion. This truism becomes all the more true every four years, at the FIFA World Cup. But some of us also know that Brazil is a very religious country as well. So what happens when the nation's obsession with soccer meets its religious zeal?
Writing in Brazilian daily Correio Braziliense, journalists Augusto Fernandes and Pedro Grigori look across of the country at fans' assorted superstitions, as the national team — the Seleção — aim to avoid a humiliating defeat like the 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals four years ago, in the World Cup it was hosting. For instance, Marilza, a 67-year-old who describes herself as Brazil's "number one" fan, lights a candle before every game and prays to Our Lady of Aparecida (a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
Thankfully, God is Brazilian.
Her "World Cup Prayer," which she recites in her green-and-yellow-painted home filled with all the Brazilian fan props you can imagine — from pictures and shoes to coffee mugs and teddy bears — goes like this: "Save all saints and patrons. And God, Who is Brazilian. Look after us, fans. And inspire our strikers."
"I play together with the players," she told the reporters. "During the game against Costa Rica which the Seleção won 2-0 thanks to two late goals, I stood up the whole game and got down on my knees for the final minutes. Fortunately, it worked. Thankfully, God is Brazilian."
Other, perhaps less devout, fans have opted for simpler lucky charms. Tairo Gomes, a 26-year-old law student who is also quoted in the Correio Braziliense piece says he always wears the same Brazil shirt when the team are playing. "It's the only one I have, and whenever I've used it, the Seleção hasn't lost a game yet," he said. "I'm sure it will continue to bring them luck for a long time."
But in Tairo's defense, the journalists explain that the last time he gave in to superstition was 16 years ago, when Brazil won its fifth, and last world title. "If it worked then, it will work now too. The sixth World Cup title is a reality."
Wish Brazil, Marilza and Tairo "boa sorte" ... unless that's bad luck?
Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.
These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."
In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."
The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.
Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.
NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.
"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.
The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."
Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."
The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.
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