The Most Brazilian Group of All

In the first of two weekend updates to come live and direct from the Latam tropics, Vinicius Jatobá kicks off our final funding push with his own unique take on last Friday's World Cup draw:


"And what the hell do you know about football, Jatobá, says Cesar Oliveira, you may well understand Machado de Assis and Graciliano Ramos, but analyse Brazil's World Cup group, come off it lad. You might fool some people, but you can't fool me. And so I tell him what I think, that Brazil's group is the most Brazilian group of the whole Word Cup, that Croatia are the Brazil of Europe, that Cameroon are the Brazil of Africa, that Mexico are the Brazil of Central American, and then Cesar Oliveria goes off on one, saying it's a good job you've a talent for writing stories, Jatobá, because football's obviously not your game, it's painful to watch.

And then he starts talking about Botafogo, and after Botafogo, he talks about Biriba, his dog, and then he says the real fun is going to be watching Série B of the Brasileirão next season, now there's rough justice for you. A poke in the eye, a slap on the cheek, a pinch of the bum, and I tell him I have to write something for the guys doing the football anthology in England, and Cesar says write this, that if Brazil can't get out of the group with their eyes closed then they may as well give up, ask for the bill and go home.

It's a cakewalk of a group, my dog Biriba could score a hatrick against Croatia, and a hatrick of headers too, says Cesar Oliveira. And then I talk a bit about the short story I'm going to write, and I say it's going to be about a match that takes place on the bow of a cargo ship called The Queen Mary, between a team of gringos and all the loonies from the Rio docks and downtown, and Cesar Oliveira says it sounds interesting, maybe you're not so dumb after all. Doing football books, Jatobá, is not a matter of business but pleasure. And then he starts philosophising and says that life here on earth can be worse than Série B, that we live in ignorance. You can learn a lot through football, but the stupidity of people, you couldn't make it up, lad, and that's the honest truth.

And I tell Cesar he ought to commission someone to write an erotic football bestseller, fifty yards of green, and Cesar excuses himself and says, I've got things to do, Jatobá, but before hanging up he says, I tell you what though, lad, the Spaniards are chomping at the bit for this World Cup to start. It'll be a tall order for anyone to keep those mad Spaniards in check. And madness is exactly where Luiz Antonio Simas kicks off, saying look lad, here's the thing, Brazil's group should be renamed the Fifa asylum: it's full of crackpots. It's got the crackpots of Africa, the crackpots of Europe, the crackpots of North America, and we ain't far behind. And so I say what I said right at the start, that Brazil's group is the most Brazilian group of the Word Cup, that Croatia are the Brazil of Europe, Cameroon are the Brazil of Africa, Mexico are the Brazil of Central American, and Simas says what the hell is this, Jatobá, you're trying to tell me they've asked you to write a story about football, you know nothing about football, buddy, you've got to be pulling my leg.

Simas then says there's no mystery to Brazil's group, we've played Mexico a shitload of times, and Croatia and Cameroon are hardly unknowns. The surprise bride always turns the most heads. Croatia are no more than a team from the Carioca suburbs, Simas says, with that red and white tablecloth shirt. What kind of a ridiculous shirt is that? And then we start talking about the book he's working on with Nei Lopes and about a list they've put together of samba schools that no longer exist. There was one called "Nobody's Children", imagine that, Jatobá. And so I ask him if any of the schools had a scientific name, because I'm writing a book where the main character is obsessed with science fiction cartoons, and Simas comes up with "GRES Voice of Orion" and I say perfect, I'll play around with that.

A samba school that comes down in a spaceship and wins carnival, but then Natal da Portela takes their leaders hostage and says he won't let them go unless they forfeit the title. Simas says his favourite school is one called "It ain't like they say", which had a reputation for being made up entirely of criminals, because you know, Jatobá, Rio de Janeiro is lovely, but it's no place for a novice. This here ain't no city for novices, lad. And then I tell him about the short story I'm going to write for the English anthology and he says he likes the plot, and I say I'm going to try and work Getúlio into the story and we agree that the 1930s was a fascinating decade. And I tell him I even know how the story ends: with Tio Balela talking about what happens when ships die, about a cemetery where all the ships in the world are buried. Silence.

Maybe you ain't so dumb after all, Simas says. And then he says put in your text that Cameroon have got a German coach, a German coach trying to indoctrinate the crazy Cameroons, what a ridiculous concept, it's like a clash of logics, lad. The Cameroons just want to run around and then they're confronted with all these rules and regulations. Always rules and regulations. They're trying to use Cartesian techniques to colonise African craziness - the guy even looks like Count Dracula, I'm telling you. Now what's really going to be good about the World Cup, Simas says, before ending the call, is when passion trumps logic, right here, in the country where those with the most reason, dance. There's more to life than this: that's the beauty of it, Jatobá, we're all of us born unto this world, warts and all. Burying those ships is a wonderful thing. Let's bury them all, every last one of them."

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