Brazil is often in the news and quite often it is not positive. Over the last number of years, the future of the country’s Amazon rainforest has been topical as climate change dominated many conversations.

Aligned with that is the confusion felt by farmers when beef from cleared rainforest is imported into the EU while countries such as the Netherlands are threatening to buy up and shut down farms in a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This week, however, it is an entirely different issue being reported from Brazil. Two years and a few days after the storming of the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021 – an effort to keep Donald Trump in power – a similar sight was seen in the capital city of Brazil. Supporters of the country’s right-wing former president, Jair Bolsonaro, stormed the congress buildings, supreme courts and presidential offices in Brasília.

The authorities said that within a few hours, the military police had retaken control of the site but the attack has been called an assault on democracy. Looking at the protests, one could easily have thought that the protesters were attending a soccer match.

The image was of thousands of protesters, clad in yellow Brazil football shirts and carrying the country’s flags, overrunning police and ransacking buildings.

Not a fan

I am not a fan of soccer, and while the choice of dress of rioters didn’t influence that either way, the reasons are multitude. It’s not a sport I grew up watching or playing. In fact I have only ever attended one pro game – a Merseyside derby – and I found the atmosphere less than appealing. The World Cup last year in Qatar with its reported human rights violations, ill treatment of migrant workers, women and the position the country takes on LGBT rights did little to change my feelings towards the sport.

That said, I will always remember the joy Jack Charlton and his team brought to Ireland in the 1990s, and the high esteem that Irish soccer fans are held in, at home and abroad.

A few weeks before the riots, news from Brazil was wall-to-wall Pelé. I was curious as to why the death of an elderly sports star would garner so much coverage. This curiosity could well be due to my lack of love for the game but also with a war raging in Ukraine, and pictures appearing daily of dead men, women and children lying where they fell – unremarked upon – I found a three-day funeral for a soccer star disconcerting.

Pelé was not the only notable person to die in 2022. The names that come to my mind are those that instantly evoke a memory or one of my senses – sadness, a song, a style, a smell, or a time in my life. Just a few of those names RIP – Vicky Phelan, Queen Elizabeth II, Mikhail S Gorbachev, Loretta Lynn, Pope Benedict XVI, Madeleine Albright, Ivana Trump, Vivienne Westwood, Christine McVie, Coolio, Issey Miyake, Olivia Newton John and Barbara Walters. Over the course of COVID-19, I, like most, attended far fewer funerals than any year preceding it.

Since COVID-19 ended I am not sure if I have re-embraced fully the importance of that act of respect, making an effort to support people when they lose someone. A reminder of this was brought home to me over Christmas. This is a poor habit I intend to break in 2023. The Pelé celebration may have been outlandish but funerals big or small are important.

As for the soccer itself, with the Irish women’s team world cup bound in the summer of 2023, perhaps I will finally find that love for the beautiful game.

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