In the land of football, a small match for women, a big step for equality
Sports commentator Renata Silveira.

On Wednesday April 20, at nightfall, Brazilian football fans should have their eyes glued to their small screen. For many, it is to attend a historic meeting. Not so much by his poster (a modest third round of the Brazilian Cup between Ceilândia and Botafogo) but rather by his “voice”. To the surprise of some and to the delight of others, it is not a man but a woman who should commentate the game live. A first for a men’s football match broadcast in free access on TV Globo, the country’s main channel.

“I suffer from machismo every day. Because we are breaking down and circumventing barriers. » Renata Silveira

The lucky winner is Renata Silveira, 32, a former dancer born in Rio who, helmet on her head and microphone in hand, quickly rose to the top of local sports journalism. “I am going to realize an unimaginable dream, which until now seemed inaccessible to me”, confided the young woman by e-mail, a few days before the match. In an oh so misogynistic environment, performance has the value of an exploit. “I suffer every day from machismo, says the commentator. Because we are breaking down and circumventing barriers. »

A masculine square meadow

In the land of the king ball, women have long been excluded from this national passion. From 1941 to 1979, the practice of football was simply forbidden to Brazilian women, as women’s encounters usually took place on vacant lots on the outskirts of cities, out of sight of fathers, brothers and husbands. Even today, female players are victims of social prejudice, deplorable playing conditions and, of course, have only derisory means. According to a 2019 FIFA study, Brazil and its 212 million inhabitants have only 2,900 professional female footballers, fewer than South Africa or Papua New Guinea.

The profession of sports commentator was for a long time a male preserve. In Brazil, the narrator is a living god. A popular hero, endowed with an ultra-fast speech rate, with an extraordinary evocative power based on the mastery of a very flowery football glossary (“chicken”, “popcorn seller”, “cow dribble” , “small fish goal”…) and capable at the time of the goals of shouting in interminable “GOOOOOOOOOOL”.

Very structured, the profession comes in several distinct profiles: the narrator, the commentator (responsible for analyzing the live game) and the field reporter (posted near the field). It has attracted, over the decades, many intellectuals, such as the playwright Nélson Rodrigues or the composer Ary Barroso, author of the hit Aquarela do Brasil. “The commentator is much more than a journalist. It transmits a vision of the world. It is the bearer of a very deep philosophical process,” ignites Carlos Guimaraes commentator at Rádio Guaíba, in Porto Alegre.

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