Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nadeshiko Courtesy and Brazilian Women's Team

Going into the final days of Olympic media overload, I remembered another detail about the Nadeshiko that made me smile.  When several of their key players, like Kumagai, were substituted at the end of the game, they faced the field, bowed to their fellow players, officials and fans as they left the field.

This gesture reflects the virtue Rei, courtesy, which is foundational for any martial artist.  After studying for many years with Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura in New York, all the honbu students heard about courtesy and respect as being required for a true karateka.  To see this kind of small courtesy on a soccer field on a global stage was so different.  I really appreciated the players who did this, and I wonder if it was a personal choice or a team practice.  I did notice when the young striker Ohno left the field, she did not bow. 

I don't mean to criticize Ohno.  However, amid the loud, over the top media coverage of the game, a small gesture like bowing, which went totally unacknowledged by the commentators, seemed all the more meaningful.  Osu!

On the other end of the spectrum, one of the worst games I watched involved the Brazilian women's team. They were a polar opposite to the Nadeshiko. They were not a team at all, but a collection of individuals who didn't care.  Every player looked sullen, angry and unhappy.  Former World Player of the Year Marta stood around looking lost, and when she got the ball, she tried to do too much by herself. Marta was dispossessed easily.  Her skills have faded, and the competition has caught up.

The team had no leadership on the field, and it appeared that they had no tactics except to go one-on-one or to shoot randomly from long distances.  It was truly depressing to watch. Their coaches should be ashamed of themselves.  I believe that it may have been Judy Foudy, an analyst, who said something really interesting.  She said that the players look exhausted and frustrated from enduring years of neglect by the Brazilian soccer establishment.  I think she has hit the nail on the head.

Brazil wants to take its place on the world stage as an emerging economic and political power.  As a nation, it possesses enormous wealth in its natural resource endowment alone.  Some of its companies are among the largest in the world, and its wealthy industrialists certainly rank among the world's elite.  It lobbied hard and spent millions to get the Rio Olympics as a showcase, just as China did for the Beijing Olympics.

The entire machinery of professional soccer in Brazil is, and always has been, intensely corrupt.  Pele has said this for decades, and even took a turn as a Minister of Sports to try and clean up the game.  He failed. Besides developing and selling players to sell to foreign clubs, the Brazilian professional soccer machine had little to commend it.  The reason I mention this is to say that this machinery has no interest in developing women's soccer in Brazil. 

How about an organization like Petrobras?  How about some wealthy corporate or social leaders from the very large Japanese-Brazilian community?  Some new leadership needs to grab a hold of the objective to create a large, sustainable, grass roots women's soccer program in Brazil, with a high profile professional league at the organization's apex. 

The way these incredibly skilled women players from the Selecao have been treated is disgraceful and not worthy of a country which aspires to the status of a global power, as Brazil does.  They should be playing with smiles on their faces like the Nadeshiko. 

No comments: