HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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03 March 2011

Craques, Carnaval, Câmeras, John Carioca?

Ah, summer in Rio. There's been plenty of interesting football going on in the Campeonato Carioca, if you're interested in teams you've never heard of playing against teams you might have heard of that are filling up with players you have definitely heard of. The return of the Brazilian expats is happening at an ever increasing pace. Last year, Fred went to Fluminense from Lyon, Deco dropped from Chelsea into the Fluminense doctor's office from where he has yet to emerge in 2011, and this year, Traffic and Flamengo put together tens of millions to bring Ronaldinho Gaúcho back to the homeland. So important was this move that Alexi Barrionuevo at the New York Times felt motivated enough to write a stunningly vapid piece about the current president of Flamengo (I'm not gong to dignify the piece with a link). Of course, when the NYT speaks about Brazil, someone listens, even though they never learn much.
Do like Dunga, don't use crack.

Flamengo won the first turn of the tournament (Taça Guanabara)with a lovely free kick by the buck-toothed wonder, who has already paid back the investment through shirt sales.  This brings me to the first of the C-words that start off this post: Craque. In Brazilian Portuguese, Craque refers to someone who is really, really good at something, usually football.  The stars of the Brazilian national team are, obviously, Craques. However, the drug crack is pronounced in exactly the same way. In the lead up to the World Cup a group of friends in Matto Grosso do Sul were displeased with then-coach Dunga's team selection. They pooled their money, rented the above bilboard, making a wholesome statement while at the same time crticizing Dunga.

The surprise of the tournament was that Gaucho's was that his free kick hit the back of the Boavista net. Not Vasco, not Fluminense, but Boavista F.C. from Saquarema, about 200 km East of Rio. Four years ago Boavista did not exist. It was bought by businessmen who are very open about their plans for their team: they want to develop and sell players to larger clubs all over the world. This is the same logic behind Traffic's investment in the Nova Iguaçu team, which did not have a single player over the age of 23 (and whose uniforms are suspiciously like the Carolina RailHawks). The surprise development in this year's tournament is that the traditionally smaller teams are having more success than usual. This is attibutable in part to Vasco's horrible start to the year but also to the changing economy of football in Brazil.

Beth Santos
John Carioca, keeping it real
So while there is a wee break before the second turn of the Campeonato Carioca, we have Carnaval to keep us occupied. This is a useful link to see when and where all of the parades are happening. In an era where the city and state governments are increasing their attention to controlling everything (except for skyrocketing rents and inflation), Carnaval must give them more of a headache than five days of drinking SKOL. In order to help with their anxieties and desperate need for Benthamite social controls, the city government is putting spy cameras all over the city, with a centralized command center.

In addition to the 30 new cameras installed this week, we got a look at the new Carnaval mascot today: John Carioca. He will apparently be handing out pamphlets in English, getting robbed on Copacabana Beach, and getting arrested for peeing on buildings in Lapa. I'm not sure where to begin dissecting John Carioca as an anthropological subject (must all tourists must be pasty white men with big ears with smiling gostozinhas at their side?) and am hoping that some comments will be forthcoming.

There should be a new look website coming soon. You have hopefully noticed the jump to www.geostadia.com so reset your favorites. I've got John Caroica working overtime on this, so stay tuned for some marvelous photos!

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