Over the weekend, Brazilian outlet Globo published an account of the staggering incompetence on the part of representatives of the CBF, the Confederation of Brazilian Football, at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It’s a record of stupidity and disarray so staggering, I had to translate it for an English-speaking audience. This is a fairly quick translation, which is why the cadence and sentence structure still rings of the original Portuguese. All credit goes to the original writers, Alexandre Lozetti, Edgard Maciel de Sá, Martín Fernandez and Tossiro Neto.
While the players and technical commission of the Brazilian national team work to put their extensive planning into practice at the World Cup, and coach Tite demands excellence in every training session and on-field action, the CBF’s participation in Russia has been a disaster. From voting for the wrong 2026 World Cup host to smashing a glass over a fan’s head, the scandals continue to widen the abyss between the efficiency Brazil’s team has shown on the pitch in recent years and the chaos of its administration.
While behind the scenes the man who’s already making decisions (like working to renew Tite’s contract, for instance) is Rogério Caboclo, the president-elect of the CBF and head of the delegation in Russia, it’s Antonio Carlos Nunes, better known as Colonel Nunes [translator’s note: he was a colonel during Brazil’s military dictatorship, and continues to go by the title, which tells you all you need to know about him], who is still the federation’s official representative. Nunes inherited the CBF presidency because, when Marco Polo Del Nero was forced to resign the presidency during the FIFA scandal (ultimately, he was banned from football altogether), he was the oldest vice-president.
On the very first day in Sochi, home of the national team’s training camp, Nunes was already making gaffes. In an informal conversation with journalists, he mistook the Black Sea for the Red Sea, said that Brazil needed to break the taboo of never winning the World Cup in a European country (forgetting that they won the 1958 World Cup in Sweden), and said he was impressed with the “structure of the Russians”, even though it was the CBF, over which he presides, which prepared the location to host the national team.
The worst was yet to come.
CONMEBOL, the South American football federation, agreed to vote as a bloc for the joint USA-Mexico-Canada bid for the 2026 World Cup, but Colonel Nunes misunderstood the agreement. He thought the vote was secret and cast his vote for Morocco, unleashing a diplomatic crisis. Representatives from other countries want him expelled from the CONMEBOL Council, a post which pays him a salary of US$ 20,000 a month. This Saturday, CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez confirmed in an interview to Globo that he no longer wants to see Nunes at meetings or making important decisions.
The incident perplexed FIFA president Gianni Infantino. The man in charge of world football can’t understand how one of the most important confederations in the world is run by someone incapable of understanding a public agreement.
President-elect Caboclo and vice-president Fernando Sarney have been trying since then to repair the CBF’s relationship with its South American neighbors and the hosts of the 2026 World Cup. One part of the plan is to maintain Nunes as far way as possible from events, conversations, meetings, anything he might attend as an official representative of the CBF.
On the eve of the Seleção‘s victory over Costa Rica in Saint Petersburg, despite the team’s good display in the second half, another excellent display from Coutinho, Neymar’s tears, the decisive substitutions, and Tite’s tumble after the opening goal, Brazil was in the local headlines because of Gilberto Barbosa, an advisor to the CBF president who broke a drinking glass over the head of a fan who had spoken ill of Nunes.
The CBF sent Barbosa back to Brazil. He had originally traveled to Russia as a sort of substitute for Alexandre da Silveira, who for years carried papers and attended phone calls for [former CBF presidents, all of whom were involved in various bribery, money laundering, and other corrupt activities] Ricardo Teixeira, José Maria Marin and Marco Polo Del Nero. Silveira opted not to travel after being named several times during court proceedings in New York related to the FIFA scandal. Unlike his former bosses, he’s not accused of anything—but he’s been identified as someone always present at meetings where bribes and kickbacks were arranged.
Brazil made a formal complaint to FIFA about the Mexican referee César Ramos not consulting VAR at two moments during the 1-1 draw with Switzerland: Steven Zuber’s push on Miranda before the Swiss goal, and a penalty not given for a foul on Gabriel Jesus. The CBF said, in the letter, of “extremely clear errors”. Yet Tite admitted, last Friday, that he wouldn’t have given a penalty.
At FIFA, they joked about the document being signed by Caboclo, in his capacity as chief of the delegation, and not by Nunes. There was even a typo in the CBF’s name: Confederação Brasileira de “Fitebol”. And while the Brazilian staff, including coordinator of national teams Edu Gaspar, talked up the fact that they’d “made their point”, the letter seems to have had no effect:
– FIFA refused to release recordings of the referee’s conversations with the VAR team.
– Ramos was selected again, to referee Poland vs. Colombia.
– VAR was finally used in one of Brazil’s games, but against Brazil, negating a penalty that had initially been called for a foul on Neymar late in the match against Costa Rica.