RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil does not celebrate Thanksgiving, but it is in effect a national holiday here this year. School, banks and government offices closed early on Thursday, and just about everyone was off work, unless they were serving beer or frying something. The national team was back in action.
Fans spilled out of bars onto the streets across Rio’s beachside Copacabana neighborhood on Thursday afternoon. Most people wore the national team’s iconic yellow jerseys, but this year, there was a lot more blue in the mix. That is because the yellow jerseys have become a sort of uniform for supporters of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and many on the left have begun wearing the team’s alternative blue jersey in response.
The jersey is not the only thing that has become politicized. Brazil’s star player, Neymar, was one of Bolsonaro’s most vocal supporters ahead of last month’s election, which Bolsonaro lost. Neymar even promised to pay homage to Bolsonaro after his first goal in the World Cup, though such political statements are banned.
“It’s wrong. The team doesn’t belong to any political party,” said Fabrício Neves, 42, an offshore oil technician standing outside a bar wearing a blue Romarío jersey from Brazil’s championship 1994 team. “We go through a lot of hardship here, and the national team brings us some joy for a little while.”