Book Review: Brazil’s Dance with the Devil

I recently read the book by Dave Zirin, a political sports writer, “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics and the Fight for Democracy.”


I would argue that the points that the author makes truly reflect what is going on the country. This summer, Brazil of course was in the news as they were the host of one of the world’s largest sporting events, the World Cup, and are now preparing for the next sporting event, the Olympics. I was in Brazil for half of the games and I wanted to experience the political and social climate. I believe Zirin describes exactly what it is like with his book. There has been, and continues to be, a rough political climate in Brazil because of the discrepancy between the have and have-nots in the country. Because the country is hosting the world’s largest sporting events, it puts their issues front and center. Many people were protesting the games because the country was spending its time, money and resources to destroy the homes of the poor and displace them, rather than building them up. It was very evident, especially in Rio, how the city tried to cover up its “ugly parts” and make everything well polished for the influx of tourists. Unfortunately, this will not cease anytime soon since Brazil is also hosting the Olympics, in which they are projected to have more tourists than for the World Cup. The author makes a point that although the issues may seem to be in another country, they really do affect the world, especially because of sports. Their news becomes our news and it is our duty to recognize that.

I believe Zirin does a good job explaining to the reader where Brazil is coming from and where they are projected on going, as he makes parallels between controversies in sports throughout the last century. Zirin explains how throughout history, from Jesse Owens winning in Germany during the reign of Hitler to the golden years of Pele in the World Cup, athletes can play the part of a pawn in the political climate. They can be seen as role models, advocates or distractions in the eyes of the media to show the public what they want them to see. By reading this book, one will be able to think critically about how the media can be used to display or conceal what is happening in a country. If you are interesting in learning more about Brazil, its history with the World Cup, history of sports or current sociopolitical issues, I suggest you read this book.

It is crucial to note that Brazil, as of today, has completed their elections and they have re-elected their president, Dilma Rousseff. I hope this will result in a positive future for the country and the fight for democracy for all. Brazil is a beautiful country with exquisite people and although it is sports that has brought the issues of injustice to the forefront, it is important for us to be educated about what is happening on our world.


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