Things haven’t exactly been going swimmingly for Brazil‘s national men’s soccer team at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
In fact, despite a convincing thrashing of Denmark on Wednesday in Salvador, the seleção’s disappointing lack of scoring for an agonising 206 minutes against South Africa and Iraq prompted some fans to switch their allegiance to the women’s national team, which has been far more successful in these Olympic Games.
So much so that Brazilian football fans find themselves in a jersey battle royale. In response to the palpable lack of marketing on the women’s side – it’s far more difficult to find an official Marta jersey in Brazil than Neymar Jr. kits, which can be purchased virtually everywhere. Neymar Jr. jerseys (No. 10) could be seen across social media and in the streets of Brazil with the superstar’s name scribbled out, replaced in Magic Marker with the name of five-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Marta, the superstar of Brazil’s women’s team, who also wears No. 10.
Brazilian soccer cartoonist Junião also got in on the action, showing a young boy in the sporting goods department announcing, “I want the No. 10 national team jersey!” The clerk responds, “From Neymar?” to which the boy proclaims, “No, from Marta!”
There was also an internet meme in Portuguese making the rounds showing Marta teaching a classroom full of Neymar Jr. students with “Football Class” written across the blackboard. The Brazilian men’s teamed was booed by fans and taunted with chants of “Marta!” during the Iraq match as well. A video of one young fan named Bernardo was posted to Twitter explaining why he crossed out Neymar’s name on his jersey in favour of Marta. “The way the Brazilian women’s team is playing, the way they are winning everything, that is a symbol of feminism,” he gushed from the stands.
Of course, in one of Latin America’s most macho countries, jumping ship for the women’s team is nearly unheard of – many Brazilians pay no attention whatsoever to their accomplishments. But a lot of winning goes a long way.
Marta and her teammates won their Rio 2016 group easily with persuasive wins over China and Sweden and a scoreless draw with South Africa, earning a quarterfinal berth against Australia on Friday. The women’s matches have been sold out, while tickets remained earlier this week for the men’s gold medal game – a rarity in a country where anything short of a Brazilian championship would normally not even cross Brazilian minds. The men’s team is definitely in the doghouse with the fans.
“No one believes in the team!” says Rio native Ian Papareskos, normally a massive supporter of the men’s national team. “I have tickets to the final but I am not so sure we will make it there.”