Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

San Diego Brazilian immigrants fanatical over World Cup

In World Cup soccer, perennial powerhouse Brazil plays France Saturday in the quarterfinals. Brazil's fans expect a sixth championship. Thousands of Brazilian immigrants in San Diego County will be watching - not only to see how the team scores, but that they look good doing it. Gil Griffin has the story.

You can feel it pulsating in the rhythms of the drums. You can hear it in the bursts of the blowing whistles and in the high-pitched, staccato sounds of the cuica.

The joyful noise is Brazilians being, well, Brazilian. The occasion is the World Cup. The place is Samba Grill, a restaurant atop Horton Plaza, in downtown San Diego. Brazilian immigrants like Claudia Wang and about 100 others cheer on their national team - and indulge in their national obsession.

Wang: SOCCER'S SUCH A BIG PART OF BRAZIL BECAUSE THAT IS A REFUGE FOR ALL THE PROBLEMS THAT WE ACTUALLY HAVE. BUT IT'S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL TO BE ABLE TO GET AWAY FROM ALL THE POVERTY AND THE PROBLEMS THAT WE HAVE THERE.

But the escape the gifted players provide isn't enough. Insatiable Brazilian fans and media expect jogo bonito - beautiful play.

That's why Wang isn't completely satisfied about Brazil's win over Australia.

Wang: IT WAS DEFINITELY BEAUTIFUL, BUT THEY COULD'VE SCORED A COUPLE MORE GOALS. THEY HAD PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES. IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL GAME, DEFINITELY.

But other fans like Norival Santos, a Rio de Janeiro transplant, aren't as diplomatic. After Brazil's 1-0 win over Croatia, he offered the team advice - and pointed criticism:

Santos: PLAY BEAUTIFUL, PUT THE BALL IN THE NET AND PLAY SERIOUS. BECAUSE THE LAST TIME, SEEMS LIKE THE BRAZILIAN TEAM WAS PLAYING WITH HIGH HEELS.

Anani Dzidienyo is a professor of Portuguese and Brazilian studies at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. He says Brazilian fans demand players display their country's flair.

Dzidienyo: THE BRAZILIAN SUPPORTERS EXPECT FOOTBALL TO BE BONITO - TO BE NICE, TO BE ENTERTAINING. THE WAY THAT THEY WERE ABLE TO TAKE THIS KIND OF GAME AND APPLY A LOT OF IMAGINATION TO IT, JUST AS BRAZILIANS HAVE APPLIED A LOT OF IMAGINATION TO THEIR MUSIC, TO THEIR FILMMAKING - THESE ARE THE THINGS WHICH MAKE BRAZIL A WONDERFUL PLACE TO BE.

Two-hundred thousand Brazilians are registered professional soccer players. Some experts say Brazil could, if it wanted to, field three different World Cup teams. Brazilians in San Diego agree that the magic ingredient in their soccer team's supremacy is something called ginga.

Sergio Damasceno knows. He's president of the Brazilian Club of San Diego.

Damasceno: IT'S A WAY OF MOVING. IT'S A WAY OF BEING. AND IT'S EXPRESSED IN SOCCER, IT'S EXPRESSED IN DANCE, IT'S EXPRESSED IN MUSIC AND IT'S JUST A WAY THAT YOUR BODY GETS ALL IN TUNE.

His Pacific Beach neighbors know Damasceno's a big fan. They easily spot his car - a 1973 yellow Volkswagen bug. It's decorated with decals of the Brazilian national team's logo. The name of Brazil's marquee player, Ronaldinho, is spelled out in block letters across the back and his number 10 is painted on the trunk. Damasceno skipped work to watch the team play.

Ronaldo, once Brazil's brightest star, scores. Damasceno realizes the impact. That goal surpasses an all-time World Cup total set by Brazil's most famous soccer icon - Pele.

A few miles away, in Ocean Beach, another Brazilian crowd goes crazy. They're at Portugalia, a restaurant whose walls are painted with colorful murals of Brazil's countryside.

After Ronaldo strikes again, many fans, like Fabio Rosero, show their ginga, doing the samba, the national dance.

Rosero: BASICALLY, IT'S IN OUR BLOOD. SO, EVERYBODY WHO WAS BORN THERE HAS SOME GINGA - FOR DANCE, FOR SOCCER, FOR EVERYTHING.YEAH, IT'S THE BRAZILIAN WAY.

The passion. The music. The samba. The ginga. The jogo bonito.

Dzidzienyo, the professor, says soccer and Brazilian society - both there and in San Diego - are inseparable.

Dzidzienyo: THERE IS NO SINGLE EVENT WHICH BRINGS OUT - IF ONE COULD MAKE UP THE WORD - BRAZLIANALITY - MORE THAN FOOTBALL. IT IS ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. FOOTBALL IS BRAZIL. IT IS THE BRAZILIAN GAME AND THE BRAZILIAN WAY OF LIFE.

And as the players march - no, make that samba - toward their ultimate goal, their passionate fans here are behind them. They hope the ginga they channel across the Atlantic will energize the team into showing the world jogo bonito. If not, what good is another world title? That's just Brazilians being, well, Brazilian.

Gil Griffin, KPBS News.

Forgot your password?