The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

July 9, 2014

Our View: Soccer fans undercut growing popularity

Why it matters: While the World Cup is gaining in stature with new fans everywhere, unsportsmanlike fan behavior detracts from the game's status on the world stage

As much as World Cup soccer has gained in popularity over the past few years, it will remain a rung below other professional sports world contests not because of the players, but mostly because of the fans.

Casual observers of soccer in the United States and elsewhere almost expect unruly and violent fan behavior. The 7-1 shellacking the Brazil team took at the hands of Germany Tuesday only reinforced and highlighted the idea that the sport has a ways to go yet to be considered a professional event with fans who know how to respect that players and the game.

Some Brazilians even blamed the loss on Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger for simply showing up. Time.com reported Brazilians referring to the legendary rock star as Pe Frio or “cold foot” as someone with bad luck. The report goes on to point out that every time Jagger favors a team after his own team loses, that team loses.

But the rioting and mayhem created by the Brazilian fans cast a shadow on what was otherwise becoming a sport that has been growing in popularity. People burned an estimated 20 vehicles at a Sao Paulo transit station after the game. An electronics store was looted and Brazilian flags were burned.

Many Brazilians in news stories suggest that the national soccer team transcends anything else of importance in Brazil, including politics, government and business. Brazilians identify with their soccer and at least some appear to take it very seriously as one fan quoted after the loss screamed he wanted to kill himself. Other observers suggested Brazil’s president would be in trouble – not only for spending billions on the event while the country’s people suffer in poverty, but mostly because spending those billions somehow didn’t produce a victory.

To her credit, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff acknowledged the disappointment of the defeat but encouraged people to shake it off. She is campaigning for a re-election bid in October that many think could be made tougher by the soccer team’s poor showing.

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