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In Brazil, the most soccer-obsessed country in the world, politics often tracks the beautiful game


THE YEAR WAS 1994, and a depressed Brazil was desperately in need of a lift. Recent years had seen a president impeached for corruption, inflation in excess of 2,500 percent, horrendous massacres of innocents inside a prison and outside a church, and a general feeling that the country couldn’t do anything right. As June approached, so did two seemingly unrelated events that looked destined to add to this record of failure: the launch of a new currency and soccer’s World Cup tournament.

Brazil hadn’t won a World Cup for 24 years— an almost unprecedented stretch that had many questioning whether its magical jogo bonito (beautiful game) had vanished, perhaps forever. As for the currency, there had already been five new ones introduced in the previous decade to try to “reset” the economy, each with miserable results. There was no reason to believe this time would be any different.

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