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?