Brazil has surprised a number of observers with its rapid rise onto the international scene. The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), has lent his unsolicited advice and influence to solving the Iranian situation and the Gaza crisis, among others. This prompts the question: how has Brazil managed to generate so much international influence and goodwill? Many American analysts will point to Brazil’s booming energy industry, including the discovery of massive undersea oil deposits off the country’s coast. Any experienced international traveler or sports aficionado will tell you that one of Brazil’s most valuable resources is its human capital: it’s legions of skilled football (soccer) players.
Poor children the world over know all about the Brazil soccer team and its stars, listing Ronaldinho, Robinho, Kaka, and Ronaldo among their favorite players. Moreover, given most Brazilian players’ humble beginnings in the country’s favelas, these sports superstars are very easy to relate to. This affection for Brazilian soccer plays starts at an early age, and over time, has generated massive reserves of goodwill for Brazil all over the globe.
Though the term “Soccer mom” has entered the national vernacular, the United States still has yet to embrace soccer with the fervor with which the rest of the world worships “the beautiful game.” The United States would do well to encourage the development of its homegrown soccer talents to lay the base for an improved performance at the 2014 World Cup hosted by, of all countries, Brazil.