Série Futebol I, José Roberto Aguilar

Soccer Series I

José Roberto Aguilar, Série Futebol I, 1966.

José Roberto Aguilar's Soccer Series I in Dialogue with Racial Nationalism

Jose Roberto Aguilar’s Soccer Series I is the first piece in a series centered around soccer. This piece very obviously depicts this with eleven figures in a position alluding to the team photo taken before a soccer match. The figures don the famous yellow and blue uniforms of the Brazilian “Seleção” – a storied icon of the sport today. In 1966, the team was even more a symbol of burgeoning promise and pride. Having just won their second world cup title four years before, the Brazilian national team was held as favorite for the year’s World Cup in England. Aguilar’s piece harkens to this very familiar image at the time. 


However, Aguilar’s painting blots out each players face with white spray paint, which drips slightly down their torso. This tactic renders the players anonymous and indistinguishable aside from their poses. But, perhaps more importantly, it erases any racial differences, and thus participates in the myth of racial democracy, “the view that Brazilian race relations are relatively harmonious and that race is of minor importance in shaping identities and life chances” (da Costa 5). This discourse developed through the course of the 20th century, emerging not long after Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. 


The discourse of a post-racial national identity was particularly helpful for the dictatorship. As da Costa signals, a post-racial society collectivizes people as one, breaking down divisions within the masses. A largely uniform and compliant nation is a source of power especially for an authoritarian regime. In a time with Afro-Brazilian stars such as Pelé and Garrincha, soccer provided a great example of the proposed post racial world (see Wisnik). 


Through both soccer and racial politics, Aguilar criticizes the national identity of the Brazilian people. Soccer and post racial theory creates an illusion of equality conjured up by dictatorial powers. But Aguilar challenges this powerful image by demanding we look into how these discourseare used to silence and erase the identities and individual psyches of Brazil’s diverse population. By spraypainting post racial ideology so violently onto the icons of Brazilian soccer, he criticizes the manipulation of the Brazilian people through the creation of icon. 


- John Victor Alencar


Works Cited 

da Costa, Alexandre Emboaba. "Post-Racial Ideology, Emergent Multiculturalisms, and the Contemporary Conjuncture of Racial Politics in Brazil." Reimagining Black Difference and Politics in Brazil: From Racial Democracy to Multiculturalism. New York City: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 23-44. Print. 

de Oliveira, Marcus Aurelio Taborda. "O Esporte Brasileiro Em Tempos De Exceção: Sob a Égide Da Ditadura (1964-1985)." História do Esporte no Brasil: Do Império Aos Dias Atuais. Eds. Mary del Priore and Victor Andrade de Melo. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2009. 387-416. Print. 

"José Roberto Aguilar." James LisboaEscritório de Arte.Web. <http://www.escritoriodearte.com/artista/jose-roberto-aguilar/>. 

Wisnik, José Miguel. "A Elipse: O Futebol Brasileiro." Veneno Remédio: O Futebol e o Brasil. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2008. 168-403. Print. 

Série Futebol I, José Roberto Aguilar