RIO DE JANEIRO: President Dilma Rousseff has recalled her own revolutionary days in urging all Brazilians to get behind the national team at the World Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Sections of the street protests have complained that the Selecao was being used as a ‘tool of the state’ in seeking to divert attention away from the problems within the biggest country in Latin America.

But Rousseff has rebutted that in an open letter issued through her presidential office.

She said: “In 1970, I was in jail. At the time, many segments of society would say that ‘those who cheer for Brazil strengthen the dictatorship.’ That was folly. For me, that dilemma never existed.

“I was arrested on January 16 of that year, and, as it has now, the World Cup began in June. At the time, many of those who opposed the military regime began raising the issue that we would be strengthening the dictatorship if we supported the Brazilian national team.

Political constraints

“At first, there were many people who thought that way, but their numbers gradually dwindled, and eventually there was no one left.

“As the matches went on, everyone, those who were in jail and those who weren’t, passionately supported Brazil’s national team.”

She recalled the political constraints of the era, saying: “We

lived under a dictatorship. There was no right to demonstrate, no right to assemble, no right to dissent. There was torture, prosecution and repression. But that was never the issue.

“My cellmates and I never had any doubts about this, and we all cheered for Brazil because football is above politics.”

She concluded: “The Brazilian national team represents our nationality. It stands above governments, parties and interests of any group. Yesterday, today, and always, the Brazilian people’s love and trust are with the Seleção.”

Ironically one of the trusted political pillars of the regime then was Jose Maria Marin – now president of the Brazilian football confederation of the World Cup’s local organising committee.