Swag? Success? Why Brazilian football is loved across the world

Brazil’s opening World Cup win saw an enormous crowd cheer the men in yellow. And most of them were not even Brazilians.

Laeth and friends Brazil fans
You do not need to be Brazilian to admire what the team has given to football [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Doha, Qatar – There are low-flying F-16s and there are more than 60,000 Brazil fans celebrating a World Cup goal. Which is louder?

I got my answer after Richarlison scored Brazil’s second goal against Serbia in the teams’ opening World Cup match at Lusail Stadium on Thursday. And there were no F-16s present.

In between roughing up the opposition and inviting fouls, Brazil continued to mesmerise the 89,000-something present at the stadium. For either of those two goals, the noise levels would have far exceeded what Lusail Stadium has witnessed during a handful of football matches and concerts that have taken place there.

Brazilians love their football. By the show of hands on Sunday, so does the rest of the world. And this is no secret.

When Kozhikode in India and Lyari in Pakistan bring out murals, flags and replica t-shirts bearing the names of Brazilian greats past and present, you know it’s the World Cup.

And now, Doha has been added to that list.

Ashid and his son Brazil fan
Ashiq and his son at Lusail Stadium cheering for Brazil [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Most of the Brazil supporters inside Lusail Stadium on Thursday evening were not from Brazil. They have been labelled “fake fans” by some segments of Western media, but there was no fakeness about the authenticity and integrity of this group that knew, and lauded, what Brazilian players have given football for decades.

Brazil has won the World Cup five times, more than any other team. They lost two finals, and also finished third twice. It’s definitely the success that brings the fans to the yard … but it’s also the swag and the skills.

“The way they play, oh my God, it’s beyond fantastic, the pace, the attack, the style, it’s breathtaking,” Ashiq, who hails from Kerala state in India, told Al Jazeera after the scintillating show on Thursday.

He trembled while thinking of the most apt adjective to describe the performance before carrying on.

“I don’t remember when I started supporting Brazil but I’m glad I did. It’s astonishing how they keep producing the class of players.”

Carina and Merari Brazil fans
Karina (left) and Merari were two Mexicans rooting for Brazil [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Laeth from Jordan did remember when he started following the men in yellow and also why.

“We’ve been watching them play since we were young. It’s just fascinating to watch them play: the ability, the skills,” he told Al Jazeera.

“You see the second goal [Richarlison with a scissor kick after a deft show of pure control] and you’ll know what I’m talking about. No other team can score a goal like that. Only Brazil.”

Karina and Merari are two Mexican friends visiting Qatar for the World Cup. While their national team remains their true footballing love, on Thursday Carina donned the yellow of Brazil with both turning up to support Brazil.

“It’s because they are part of the Americas but also because of the football,” said Carina.

“I like them because of the players, the star quality they have. We’re Mexicans but we love football. That’s the main reason we came to watch this match,” replied Merari.

To see all this love pouring in from across the world has surprised Brazilians, including Juliana.

“It’s amazing to see how popular the team is across the world,” she said. “The impact it has, it’s amazing. We saw a lot of non-Brazilians support Brazil. Words can’t describe how we feel when our team is being supported like this. To see other people supporting Brazil, it’s beautiful.”

Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002. The closest they came was at home in 2014.

However, memories of that semi-final will not bring much joy to the fans. They are instead hoping that the samba will bring joy to the desert this year.

Abdul Aziz and friend Brazil fan
Abdul Aziz (left) has come from Saudi Arabia for the World Cup with his friends [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera