Raí, former captain of Paris Saint-Germain, spoke to the daily L’Equipe after the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential election in Brazil on Sunday, October 28. The winner of the 1994 World Cup says all his bitterness and sadness after the arrival of the far right in power in Brazil.
Raí, one of the legends of Brazilian Football, spoke to the daily L’Equipe after Jair Bolsonaro came to power on Sunday 28 October with 55.13% of the vote against Fernando Haddad of Lula’s Workers Party. Bolsonaro’s sexist, hateful, racist and homophobic speech shocked the current sports director of Sao Paulo FC.
“I felt sad”
“After the results, I felt sad and I was even very afraid when I saw the reactions of people who were celebrating the victory of a candidate who has already manifested absurd and repulsive values,” confides Raí.
But the former Botafogo player is aware that his country is going through an unprecedented political crisis. Two years ago, just before the opening of the Rio Olympics, he said that Brazil had to make a revolution, like France in 1789. But the man who says he is concerned about the economic crisis in Brazil did not imagine that this would involve some form of populism coming to power.
“On average, 25% of the world’s population is moving in this direction. This is an impressive and worrying figure that is also explained by the failures of the democratic left and social democracy, which I include myself in,” Raí analyzes. The left cannot spare itself a self-criticism, it must reinvent itself. What is happening in Brazil is much more than the victory of the right, it is the defeat of the left. And this is something that must be analyzed in a deeper way. Maybe we need to reinvent the new humanist revolution, without losing the essence of its ideology.”
“We need a firm resistance from civil society and the opposition”
In this interview, Raí explains that millions of Brazilians felt betrayed. “This feeling has provoked a terrible desire for change, sometimes guided by hatred. It even disturbed the essential values of democracy and the noble values of the human being… I have no doubt that many Brazilians do not believe that the new president will put into practice the terrible and unacceptable prejudices he has spoken about in public. I hope they are right…” he says.
But the former football player, who has tried unsuccessfully to convince undecided voters, knows that he will have to remain vigilant. “We need a firm resistance from civil society and the opposition, which will have to be attentive, which will have to act intelligently and, if possible, will have to act with love for their fellow man… This is an essential notion”. He adds: “I am not advocating communism, but rather a new democratic, inclusive and sustainable humanism. We need to look for a new model of the left that is effective and that represents us. We also need new leaders.”
Where is the legacy of Socrates?
Asked why so few active or retired Brazilian footballers have not taken a stand against Bolsonaro, Raí says: “I think it’s because of a lack of culture, of political culture too. They don’t express themselves out of skepticism, they are afraid of the aggressiveness of the public and because they feel like a minority among the footballers.” With him, only Juninho and Paulo André expressed their disagreement with Bolsonaro.
And what does he think of those who have shown their support for Bolsonaro, such as Ronaldinho, Rivaldo or Felipe Melo? “They support him because they believe in a better country with him. Soccer is a reflection of society. Especially its conservative and distrustful side.
Where is the legacy of your brother, Socrates*? How would he have reacted to this wave of right-wing extremism? asks the French sports daily. “I don’t know how he would have reacted, but he would have done it with strength, with vigor. He was and will always be a myth, an inspiration for democracy and freedom,” said the Ribeirão Preto native about his older brother.
Raí, who also has French nationality since 2016 and was made a knight of the Legion of Honor by former President François Hollande, does not intend to leave his country and his countrymen. “I have the honor of being a French citizen, of feeling a citizen of the world, but my soul is irrevocably Brazilian. I will always be here to believe that we can become a better country,” concludes one of the greatest players of Paris Saint-Germain.
Socrates, who died in 2011, was politically committed to democracy at the end of the military dictatorship (1964-1985).