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World Cup 2014: Brazil’s Hands on Shoulders

Brazilian football team walks onto the pitch with hands on shoulders

Blind leading the blind?

When I first moved to Brazil there were many sights and sounds that were new, funny or just plain downright weird.  There were a number of times when I was left open-mouthed when I saw something for the first time, like the Oil Man of Curitiba or 80-year-old men walking around town in just their Speedos.

The Blind Leading the Blind

One of the things that sticks in my mind was the time I saw a row or 4 or 5 blind people crossing the road.  The first person was walking with a white cane with the next person following him with his hand on the lead man’s shoulder.  The third person, in turn, had his hand on the second person’s shoulder, and so on.

Obviously I had heard the expression ‘the blind leading the blind’, but I thought it was just an clever turn of phrase.  But here it was, in Curitiba, Brazil, an actual reality.

Brazil Football Team’s New Ritual

When Brazil walks out this evening in Fortaleza to meet Colombia in the 1/4 Finals of the World Cup, they will do their impression of the blind leading the blind.  They have a new ritual whereby they captain, Thiago Silva, walks on to the pitch and the next in line puts his right hand on the captain’s shoulder.  The third player then puts his hand on the second player’s shoulder, and so on all the way down the line until the 11th player who has nobody’s hand on his shoulder, except maybe for that of fate.

This ritual was first seen in Brazil’s opening game of the World Cup against Croatia.  Apparently it was the brainchild of Silva and David Luiz and a friend of theirs.  The explanation for the ritual is that “you can give your hand to anyone, but the shoulder is just for friends.”  I’m not quite sure what that is supposed to mean.

Elephants holding tails

Elephants ready to play football.

Personally, I don’t like this hands on shoulders things.  As well as images of blind people crossing the road, I also see the elephants holding tails in the Jungle Book.  But worse than these images is that it looks like forced camaraderie, that they were looking around for a gesture to show how much they are a team, instead of 11 individuals.

Where they are getting it right is during the singing of the national anthem.  At this point, the team comes together with arms around each other’s shoulders and they sing the national anthem with the crowd, continuing when the music has stopped due to absurd FIFA regulations.  This seems a lot more natural to me, as opposed to the shuffling onto the pitch of 11 people forced to play football together.


This blog piece is a part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs series on World Cup for Kids.  If you would like to follow the World Cup from the point of view of kids around the world then please go and check out the site.  There are bloggers from all of the competing countries as well as articles about Brasil and how to get kids interested in sport.

Written by
Noah Cooper

I'm the head of the Cooper heard. My wife and I moved abroad when our first son who came along in May, 2011. I am a typical Brit abroad with a family to raise and am sharing the journey of the expat life abroad.

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Written by Noah Cooper