When he led the Corinthian Democracy in the eighties and fascinated everyone with his art football in the midfield of the Brazilian team, Sócrates bought newspapers, took them to training and separated the sports section from the main body. He would put the two parts on a table and carefully observe what his companions were doing. “No one ever touched the one that wasn’t involved in sports. Nobody ever wanted to know about economics, politics, culture or anything,” he said in the documentary Mundialito, by Uruguayan directors Sebastián Bednarik and Andrés Varela.
Socrates had an idea so that this situation, which he lived day after day, could be changed. He wanted to promote a “constitutional reform,” or launch a project so that Brazilian players would be required to train. The amplifying power of football applied to pedagogy and education. “The footballer is very important for future generations in a country like mine. He is the most listened to person. He is the reference for many boys and many people,” he said. Neymar, the idol who winked at Jair Bolsonaro last year, was not even born when Sócrates thought that for the first time.
In Brazil, as in Argentina and almost all over the world, high-level footballers are becoming less and less committed. There are exceptions, of course. But what generally predominates is an atrocious silence in the face of certain events of national relevance that cannot be illustrated with photos for Instagram. The interpretations about what Diego Maradona would have said in these months are part of the lament of the time: an irreplaceable absence.
For those who do not hide their positions in the face of certain events, it is also difficult. In contexts as polarized as Argentina’s current situation, any opinion or position automatically generates discomfort – or even cancellation or hatred – from the other sector. Lionel Scaloni, the national team coach who evaded a response last week about Javier Milei’s announced intention to promote public limited companies in Argentine soccer, knows this very well. “I don’t get involved in that,” he responded when a journalist asked him at a press conference.
Far from what most believe, footballers – especially national team footballers – measure every step and every word. Before the World Cup in Qatar, the team’s leaders already knew what each journalist and TV presenter had said. Each one had a list on their phone with green and red colors. It had been put together by Jorgelina Cardozo, Ángel Dí María’s partner. The political sometimes takes other forms.
The majority of the National Team players – and soccer players in general – do not want or are interested in participating in partisan politics. Much less in election years like this one. Messi has an affinity with the president of the AFA, Claudio Tapia, who shares events with Sergio Massa, and with some officials of this government. He also maintains a dialogue and even took photos with former president Mauricio Macri. However, it would never occur to him to come out and explicitly support one or the other. If the National Team is pulled from both sides, the prevailing logic is to stay on the sidelines.
That was what Lisandro Martínez did not do when he “liked” the statement from Futbolistas Unidxs, the group of players led by Ubaldo Fillol, Jorge Olguín and Héctor Enrique, which called to vote for Massa. Why didn’t Lisandro sign? There are those who claim that it can only be explained in the tacit pact not to get involved that the team maintains, brought to a paroxysm in the celebrations of December 20 and in the refusal to celebrate on the balcony of the Casa Rosada.
Socrates, who in addition to being an exquisite midfielder was a doctor and a great reader of philosophy – “I am here to read Gramsci in his original language,” he said in 1984 when Fiorentina signed him –, died on December 4, 2011. As he had wished for thirty years Before, it was a Sunday when Corinthians emerged champion. His other wish, that of emancipated, conscious and committed players, idols of boys and girls and also teachers without a blackboard, was far from fulfilled.