Fri | Aug 23, 2019

Orville Taylor | Dark side of the World Cup

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2018 | 12:16 AMDr Orville Taylor
Brazil's Philippe Coutinho (left) celebrates scoring his side's opening goal with Neymar (top) and another teammate during the Group E match against Costa Rica at the 2018 World Cup in St Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 22. Black Brazilians face institutional and other racism, writes Orville Taylor.


After my articles over the past two weeks, some of my friends took issue with burning of other nations' flags being floated around by Jamaicans who otherwise call themselves patriots. And let me make it clear, I have love for all humanity and thus am happy to share the Bob Marley one love with the Germans, which they received with tequila and a jalapeno.

Even more love to the country that wears the colours of my high school and from where the Christian world boss, the Pope, originates. As Messi as it got, Argentina were stunned by a Croatia that had not read the script because it was written in Spanish. And inasmuch as Messi fought for nothing, the Spanish were barely escape from a draw with the Iranians, who taught them that the Persians were no little specks of Shiites but were formidable foes.

Indeed, I love the fact that the playing field is evening out, and with very few exceptions, there is no dominance by the traditional powers over the minnows. When Iceland froze the Argentinians, it was just good for football. But it stops there. No nation except Jamaica deserves my loyalty to the extent that I must wear their flags in my own country. The only Jamaicans whom I would give a bye on the matter are those whose parents or grandparents might have come from other countries.

In the past, I have taken on Rastafarians and even Rita Marley about putting Africa before Jamaica, and I used to cuss out those Jamaican East Indians who expected me to sit while they cheered for India against the West Indies. And it didn't matter that my grandfather was a Karpar-Hindustani who made roti, chutney and swore like a Kuta while speaking Hindi. I am Jamaican, but faithful to my roots.

Yet, doubtless, there are some countries that we may support over others, and nothing is wrong with that. However, if we knew enough about some of the history and contemporary practices of the nations in the finals, we might not be as excited to fly their flags, especially since many of them do not like people like us.

Most Jamaicans from my generation support Brazil, and that is in large part because of the Black Pearl, Pele. When he came here in the early 1970s, it was almost as big an occasion as when Jah-Jah visited in the previous decade. Pele looked like most of us and he was a magician on the ball. An entire generation of ballers tried to emulate him. But Pele is not Brazil, and Brazil only abolished slavery in 1888. In a country with a population of which 80 per cent have traceable African DNA, less than 10 per cent of elected officials are dark-skinned. Poverty rates double for Afro-Brazilians and surveys conducted recently point to systemic bias in all facets in society, including access to government services and police response.

It is little known that Pele's inclusion in the 1957 World Cup was initially opposed for apparent racist reasons before his superiority to his teammates made his race overlooked. Interestingly, just before the 'Black Diamond', Leonidas da Silva, became Brazil's first black player in 1938, the domestic league was characterised by apartheid until around 1920. One club, Fluminense masked its black players with rice powder. Amusingly, the sweat often washed away enough of it to unmask the truth. Nonetheless, the nickname 'Po de Arroz' (rice powder) has remained with the team.

Brazil has had major issues with human trafficking, human-rights violations and was even found to have had large numbers of people living in literal slavery as recently as 2006.

Germany slaughtered millions of Jews when my father was a grown man. Or we can speak of the slaughter of 100,000 Africans in South West Africa in the pre-World War I era. However, currently in Germany, more than half a million black people reside there, and systemic racism is deep. Even black athletes who run, or play, for Germany are called monkeys and jeered on the field. A United Nations fact-finding team found that there are areas in that country where black persons dare not go. Germany has a far way to go before any Jamaican should be comfortable flying its flag here.

Does anyone wonder where the black people in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina are? The natural response would perhaps be that they were blended in with the rest of the mestizo population. However, the secret is much darker. In many of these whiter Latino nations, there was organised extermination and removal of black people. I urge you all to do an Internet search of blacks and Argentina and not only will you cry like Messi, but you might remember the retired Brazilian player Kaka.

Costa Rica and Panama have Jamaican descendants living there. Many black Panamanians speak Jamaican Patwa with an accent that sounds like one who is hearing impaired but the native tongue is unmistakeable. In Costa Rica, black people were herded from the capital and forced to live in colonies such as Puerto Limon. It is not unusual for a black Costa Rican to say something like, "Mek-a-tell-yu." Thus, for these two CONCACAF nations, it would be understandable if any Jamaican were to cheer for them because they are closer relatives than our Nigerian and Senegalese cousins.

By the way, we do know that our own West Africans did conspire to sell us to the Europeans, but did you know that the Arabs and North Africans enslaved us from in the 1000s? They even exported thousands of us to India to work on tea plantations. Many Africans still live in India as Siddhi people.

So, next time you decide to fly a foreign flag, just flag the history. But Ian yearning for them to kiss any black side in victory while the other teams go for cup.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to and