Left-wing Brazilians are hoping to use their country’s first World Cup game to reclaim the iconic yellow-and-green football kit of Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right movement.
That Kanarinho The (little canary) shirt has become the strongest symbol of support for Brazil’s nationalist leader, who came to power in 2018 but dashed his hopes of a second term last month after left-leaning former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential election had won.
Lula, who will take power on January 1, is leading efforts to regain control of the soccer jersey, as well as other Brazilian symbols such as the national anthem and flag.
The 77-year-old has announced he will watch Thursday’s game against Serbia in a Canarinho with the number 13 – representing his Workers’ Party (PT) – on his back. Left-wing football fanatics can download the design from Lula’s official website and make their own jersey.
“We have no shame in wearing our green and yellow shirt,” Lula recently told reporters. “[It] does not belong to a specific candidate. She does not belong to any particular party. Green and yellow are the colors of 213 million citizens who love this country.”
Marcelo Freixo, another prominent left-wing politician and football fan, said he will watch Brazil’s Qatar debut in a yellow and green shirt to pay tribute to his local side Flamengo as well as the legendary Seleção.
“Fascist movements have always expropriated national symbols, [but] … we won the election and it is now time to reclaim all our national symbols that belong to all of us,” Freixo said. “The Brazilian flag, the Brazilian team and the national anthem never belonged to the extreme right.”
Reginaldo Lopes, a PT congressman and Lula ally, sported the Canarinho during a recent interview with the Guardian – a look that once would have instantly identified him as a Bolsonarista.
“It’s meant to send the message that we’re taking back democracy and that symbols like our flag and jersey belong to everyone and not just one political faction,” Lopes said. “It is wrong when a … political faction tries to appropriate something that is a symbol for all Brazilians.”
Not all left-wing Brazilians are finding it easy to reassume a jersey representing an extremist president who has ravaged the Amazon and whose catastrophic Covid response has resulted in the deaths of nearly 700,000 citizens.
The reconciliation was further complicated by the fact that several of Brazil’s top players – including star striker Neymar – are Bolsonaro supporters.
“I’m not ready to wear the jersey yet,” said Priscila Motta, a 43-year-old publicist, as she walked her son to school in Brazil’s blue away kit on Thursday. “I don’t want to be mistaken for a Bolsonarista.”
André Porcaro, a 41-year-old engineer from the city of Eugenópolis, said he plans to don his yellow jersey on Thursday for the first time since the 2018 World Cup.
“I think that the yellow shirt today – especially today – has nothing to do with politics. If someone sees me in the street with the shirt today, they won’t automatically assume I’m a Bolsominion,” Porcaro said, using one of the derogatory names for supporters of the outgoing president.
But would Porcaro still wear yellow on Friday? “I don’t think so,” he said. “Maybe I’ll just wear it during the World Cup… I think it’s almost impossible to separate the yellow shirt from this political movement.”
Freixo believed the time had come to launch a counterattack against Bolsonaro’s authoritarian attempt to hijack the Canarinho. “We need to reclaim and democratize these symbols,” he said as Brazil’s players prepared to begin their quest for a sixth World Cup.