Leftwing Brazilians are hoping to use their country’s first World Cup match to reclaim its well-known yellow and green football jersey from Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right movement.
The canarinho (little canary) shirt has become the most potent symbol of support for Brazil’s nationalist leader, who won power in 2018 but had his hopes of a second term dashed last month after leftwing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential election.
Lula, who will take power on 1 January, is spearheading efforts to wrest back control of the football shirt, as well as other Brazilian symbols such as the national anthem and flag.
The 77-year-old has announced that he will watch Thursday’s match against Serbia wearing a canarinho with the number 13 – which represents his Workers’ party (PT) – emblazoned on the back. Leftwing football fanatics can download the design from Lula’s official website and make a shirt of their own.
“We can’t be ashamed of wearing our green and yellow shirt,” Lula told reporters recently. “[It] doesn’t belong to one particular candidate. It doesn’t belong to one particular party. Green and yellow are the colours of 213 million citizens who love this country.”
Marcelo Freixo, another prominent leftwing politician and football aficionado, said he would watch Brazil’s Qatar debut wearing a yellow and green shirt paying tribute to his local team, Flamengo, as well as the storied Seleção.
“Fascist movements have always expropriated national symbols, [but] … we won the election and it’s now time to reclaim all of our national symbols, which belong to all of us,” Freixo said. “The Brazilian flag, the Brazilian team and the national anthem have never belonged to the far right.”
“I think that today – specifically today – the yellow shirt isn’t linked to politics. Today, if someone sees me wearing the shirt on the street, they won’t automatically assume I’m a Bolsominion,” Porcaro said, using one of the derogatory names for followers of the outgoing president.
But would Porcaro still be wearing yellow on Friday? “I don’t think so,” he said. “Perhaps I’ll just wear it during the World Cup … I think it’s almost impossible to dissociate the yellow shirt from this political movement.”
Freixo believed the time had come to mount a counterattack against Bolsonaro’s authoritarian bid to kidnap the canarinho. “We must reclaim these symbols and democratise them,” he said, as Brazil’s players prepared to launch their quest for a sixth World Cup title.