Brazilians abroad always come up with some way to keep up with their soccer team. I remember how a friend of mine one time, when traveling in Japan, had his wife narrate a championship final to him over the phone. Something these days, with the advent of the internet, no one needs to resort to anymore.
Soccer is, and always will be, the Brazilian people’s great passion. But no one lives life with just one passion. Those already into it always knew how sooner or later MMA would become a national passion.
This new passion the Brazilian people have been showing is overwhelming, as one could plainly see during the heavyweight title fight between Cigano and Velasquez last Saturday.
Being Brazilian but living abroad, I didn’t get to watch the fight live, as it was 4 am in Jordan when the fight took place. Not one to invite myself to watch at someone else’s house at odd hours during winter in the northern hemisphere, I had to content myself with the reports going around on the biggest social networking site on the planet via my smart phone. All without leaving the comfort of bed, of course.
So it was there, in the chilling Jordanian morning, that I could attest to the proportions of Brazil’s new great passion is. The posts going around on the networking site, where I have nearly 3,000 friends, were about nothing but the fight.
And these weren’t people who had anything to do with fighting: There was a withdrawn old aunt saying, “We’re with you, Junior Cigano!” The director of a law school posting, “It’s Brazil in the UFC.” And so on and so forth. In a way, even 11,000 kilometers away, I could feel how the soccer-crazed country was at the edge of their seats in anxious anticipation. And as swift as a kick on goal, the young and talented Junior Cigano caused an entire nation to burst in emotion. It was like a World Cup goal getting everyone out onto the streets, or Ayrton Senna winning the race with a broken car, brightening up the start of a new week for the Brazilian people.
Even without getting to see it, I was overcome with emotion. It made me remember all the sweat spilt since the days of the brothers Carlos, Helio, Gastão and George; the lack of recognition and support; the indifference and prejudice; the two heroes practically unknown to the public at large; the shattered dreams, the injuries and hardships causing brilliant careers to crash to an end.
And all that thanks to the former waiter Junior Cigano, who served us the well-earned redemption on a silver platter. These stories will surely fuel this new national passion. And the way passions are, you don’t explain them; you just feel them.