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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Brazilians spooked by Halloween
By Tim Vickery

Brazil striker Ronaldo
Football survived an attempt to ban it - now Halloween is under fire
There is a group in Brazil who are organising a protest against Halloween.

They are acting, they say, in defence of Brazilian culture - whatever that might mean in a country where everyone bar the Indians comes from somewhere else.

It would seem strange indeed if they were opposed to samba, with its obvious African roots, or Carnaval, a party originally imported from Italy - or football, introduced by the English just over a century ago.

In fact, there was a backlash against the growing popularity of football in Brazil.

In the 1920s even heavyweight literary figures were queueing up to predict that this weird foreign invention would never really catch on - a kind of sporting equivalent of the man at Decca who turned down the Beatles.

Posterity has made such predictions a laughing stock. But they probably contain a grain of truth.

If football was nothing more than the game played by the English in the early years of the last century - all straight-line running and muscular Christianity - it would surely have not become such an international sensation.

It may not even have replaced rowing, which strange as it now seems was Brazil's number one sport at the time.

Those early critics of football had failed to spot a fundamental feature of the game, one which even today is frequently overlooked.

As you live, so you play
Argentine football saying
Football is indeed a simple game.

But its simplicity hides a fantastic variety of movements.

Football is so fluid. The ball can be moved around the field in so many different ways.

Such diversity makes it possible to have lots of different styles of play.

It means that the approach to football can become a physical expression of national identity - and this is more strongly felt in South America than in any other part of the world.

"As you live, so you play," goes a saying in Argentine football.

A glance around the continent gives confirmation.

Colombia like to stroke the ball around with a type of joyful irreverence which is representative of its people.

Paraguay play with a collective warrior spirit that the Guarani Indians have shown throughout their history.

In Argentina they place more emphasis on passing, while in Brazil there is more stress on dribbling.

Both, though, are all about finding improvised solutions.

As former Argentina coach Cesar Menotti once wrote, the game as he understands it is nurtured with the same sense of sharpness that the kid from the poor neighbourhood uses to survive.

It is a phrase which describes Maradona, Pelé and hundreds of their compatriots.

Football is a universal language.

But it is one that can be spoken in many different accents - and that is one of its great strengths.

A century ago it might have seemed like a foreign fad.

But re-interpeted by the locals, football is now one of the most significant manifestations of Brazilian identity.

It is unlikely that Halloween will have the same success.

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