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The Cultural Heritage discourse inside the Brazilian National Team Museum

Special post by Felipe Tobar, doctoral student at Clemson University. For Part One about this topic, please see here.

As previously stated in my first contribution in this space, the second post of a two-post series focusing on heritage analysis of the “Museu da Seleçāo Brasileira” (Brazilian National Team Museum – BNTM), would be concentrated on how CBF is managing the discourse of the practice of football and the National Team as Brazil’s Cultural Heritage through its museum displays. The purpose of this debate derives from the results of my master’s thesis in which I revealed a well-structured patrol at the National Congress by the `bench-ball` (approximately 40 politicians supported directly or indirectly by CBF) participating in discussions of draft bills which intended to recognize football and the Brazilian national team as part of the Brazilian Cultural Heritage realm.

In that post, I concluded that such mobilization derived from CBF’s knowledge and concern of session 5 (III) of the Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office Law (Law No 75 of 1993), which states, among others functions and duties that the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office shall protect the Brazilian Cultural Heritage. As such, whether both were declared part of Brazil’s Cultural Heritage, first the hegemonic discourse of complete autonomy against any state interference would be put into jeopardy; second and more critical, the CBF’s economical transactions could immediately be placed under investigation as the entity would fall under the radar of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The international context of football directors’ arrests as a result of the disclosure of FIFA Gate case in 2015, which forced CBF to increase its vigilance in the backstage of the political field towards any attempts against its interests has led me to expect a lack of displays linking the Brazilian National Team or the practice of football to the discourse of Cultural Heritage.  As I anticipated in my first post, since the beginning of the tour CBF introduces a nostalgic video which highlights historical moments demonstrating the social importance of football and the National squad to the Brazilian population. By engaging in a sociological interpretation, it was a representation of the social construction of the Brazilian identity through football initiated during the presidential term of Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945 / 1951-1954).

Despite the fact that the second exhibition (“Origins”) also reinforced how football become an influential element of the Brazilian culture, traditions, and habits of its population, I ultimately could find answers regarding the use of the cultural heritage discourse by CBF after entering into the seventh exhibition entitled “Brazil: 27 States, only one DNA.” Almost at the end of the tour, CBF displays 27 balls that were randomly collected by its employees along 26 states and at the Federal District from kids who were playing the game on the streets in exchange for new and official balls.

Brazil 27 states

Photo: Brazil: 27 States, only one DNA.

According to the guide, the intention of organizing and displaying those balls into acrylic boxes decorated with particular symbols of the respective state cultures that can be visited and experienced in Brazil, was to reinforce that although the existence of multiple football cultures – different styles of play – coexisted within the country, at the end football was perceived as an unfragmented tradition of its people. Perhaps the most symbolic proof of this interpretation is the creation of the famous slogan “the jogo bonito” (the beautiful game), which is a representation of the unique Brazilian football style often remembered, explored and commented every four years as a result of the World Cup.

photo representative of rj

Photo: “Rio de Janeiro State Football Box” – The pavement promenade from Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro is featured in the company of samba houses and the ‘favelas’ (shanty towns), another particular characteristic of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Immediately after listening such explanation, I asked the guide if that display was planned to show visitors that football and by extension its National Team were part of Brazil’s Cultural Heritage. For my surprise, the guide answered that both were already nominated as part of the Brazilian Cultural Heritage as a result of the bill n. 1429/2007 presented by Deputy Silvio Torres, which object stated: “The Brazilian football team, in its various categories, compose the Brazilian Cultural Heritage and is considered of high social interest, for the Public Prosecutor Act 1993 Section 5 (I and III)”. Contrary to what the guide believed, the legislation proposal although approved at the Commission of Culture in December 2015, was later rejected after majority decision (9 votes against 5) at the Commission of Sport in November 2016. Currently, the bill is waiting for new analysis at the Commission of Constitution and Justice since April 2017. In this sense, rather than correcting the wrong information provided by the guide, I choose to ask him if the confirmation of both as Brazil’s Cultural Heritage was part of the official script of the BNTM. His answer provided in a sad tone revealed that it was only his personal opinion based on what both represented to him and that he was not allowed to introduce his views into the official script of the tour.

Therefore, we can conclude that CBF is well aware of the risks of potential explicit use of the heritage discourse inside its museum in the same extent that its directors with the support of the “bench ball” denied several heritage claims at the National Congress in the past decade. Finally, and perhaps most important, this case study constitutes a clear example of the political nature of heritage which according to Smith (2011) even though can be accepted from a symbolic and subjective perspective shared by thousands of people, still can be neglected, and not entered into the official national record.


Smith, L. (2011). All Heritage is Intangible: Critical Heritage Studies and Museums. The development of Anglophone heritage studies, 6-36

FELIPE BERTAZZO TOBAR is a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department at Clemson University.  His interests lie in critical studies of heritage, with a particular interest in sport heritage. He received his bachelor’s degree in Law (2014) and obtained a Master’s degree in Cultural Heritage and Society (2017) from the Univille University, in the city of Joinville, Brazil. He can be reached on Twitter at @felipebtobar

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