I am writing to let you know about a recent “New Books in Sports” interview with Gregg Bocketti, Professor of History at Transylvania University, and author of The Invention of the Beautiful Game: Football and the Making of Modern Brazil (University Press of Florida, 2016). In our conversation, we discussed the transplantation of European sports to Brazil, the rising success of the Brazilian national team in the 1920s and 1930s, and the development of O Jogo Bonito style of play.
In The Invention of the Beautiful Game, Bocketti takes on the traditional nationalist narrative of Brazilian football, which suggests that their successful teams of the interwar and postwar era, which occurred following the shift from foot-ball to futebol in Brazil, arose from the countries specific cultural and racial heritage. Brazilian soccer’s triumphs emerged from the successes of its racial democracy. Bocketti’s unique organization illustrates the contradictions in this national myth through five thematic chapters. He analyses the grafting of European sports in Brazil, the role of elite clubs in Rio and Sao Paulo played in shaping Brazilian social classes, the internationalization of Brazilian football, the function of women and respectability in shaping the fan environment, and the rise of O Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game) style of play. He shows that the so-called beautiful game era did not inaugurate uncomplicated gender and racial relations in sports. Similarly, the elite sportsmen that founded Brazil’s most esteemed sporting clubs were neither as close-minded as previous histories assume and even as players of color made their appearance on the Brazilian National Team, white, upper class men maintained their influence throughout the Vargas era.
Bocketti’s work will appeal to readers interested in Brazilian soccer but also more broadly to people in the fields of Brazilian and Latin American history and scholars of sports during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The "New Books in Sports" network features discussions with sports scholars about their most recent books. It is a part of the "New Books Network," a consortium of podcasts exploring recent publications across a wide range of fields. The podcasts can also be accessed via iTunes where a free subscription option is available.
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Lecturer, Macquarie University