Joao Vitor de Oliveira, a student from Brazil, was thrilled to receive the Brazil 2022 World Cup shirt in August.
A 20-year old went to the nearest shop, grabbed the yellow and green top, and brought it to the till. He was greeted with a happy smile.
“The shopkeeper assumed that I supported the current government, as I bought the shirt,” Joao says to the BBC.
Joao doesn’t support Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which is up for re-election Sunday. He realized that he could have bought the shirt in the shop, and people might think he did.
To avoid any confrontation, Joao pretend to be a Bolsonaro fan. Another sign that the yellow-green shirt, made famous by Ronaldo and Pele, has become a symbol for a divided country was this.
Mateus Gamba Torres from the University of Brasilia says that “the shirt has been stained with political meaning” since 2014.
Eight years ago, millions marched in Brazil to protest Dilma Russoff’s former president. They wore the flag colours and demanded that the left-winger be impeached.
In 2018, the colors were used again by Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right president.
In this year’s Bolsonaro rallies, blue, yellow, and green are the main colours. People wear T-shirts, accessories, and the national flag.
“The green and yellow shirt is a symbol of Bolsonaro’s government,” Mr Gamba Turres said. “This means that a large part of the population doesn’t identify with it anymore.” ”
Joao’s encounters with the shop owner are not the only reason why he is hesitant to discuss politics. Political disputes in Brazil can quickly turn deadly.
Marcelo Aloizio de Arruda, a supporter and former president, was shot to death at his 50th Birthday party by a police officer who allegedly shouted support for right-wing President Bolsonaro.
Mr Arruda shot his alleged attacker before he died. He spent some time in hospital and was sent to prison where he awaits trial.
After a heated discussion between the two, Benedito Cardoso dids Santos, 44, was allegedly shot to death by a colleague on September 9. Police are still holding the 22-year old suspect.
Ruy AraujoSouza Junior, 43-year-old Tech programmer, told BBC News that he will not wear the shirt outside of his home to avoid being mistaken as a Bolsonaro fan.
Lula, an ex-President, hopes that the shirt will “once more unite us” and symbolize true love for the country, not political parties.
Lula, a left-wing candidate, has been focusing on “reclaiming the flag.” Many of his supporters, including singer Ludmilla and international star Anitta have made it a point to wear the shirt when performing.
Djonga was part of Nike’s official campaign for Brazil’s World Cup kit. He told a crowd at a concert that wearing the shirt publicly was a form of protest.
He said that Bolsonaro supporters believe everything is theirs. They take the meaning of family, our national anthem and everything else. “But the truth is that everything is ours and nothing is theirs.
It’s not only Mr Bolsonaro’s enemies who are wary about wearing the shirt.
“I am a patriot and right-wing. Alessandra Passos (41), Bolsonaro supporter, says that she really wants to vote in her yellow shirt.
She says she is afraid to wear it because of the tension between voters.
What do footballers think about the shirt being a political symbol? Richarlison, a Tottenham forward from Brazil, says that the connotations of the shirt and flag are causing Brazilians to be disconnected from one another. This is removing a part of their shared identity.
“As a Brazilian fan, player, and player, I try my best to share the identity we have with them to all of the world. It is important to recognize that we all are Brazilians and have Brazilian blood [above all else]. ”
Nike’s new shirt advertising campaign features people from all political sides – with the main focus on togetherness. Nike claims that the shirt is collaborative. It is worn by more than 210 millions Brazilians. It’s ours”.
The brand also prohibited the customization of shirts with religious or political terms. Many Brazilians chose to buy the blue away shirt, which was sold out within hours.
Futsal, a Brazilian form of indoor soccer, coach Matheus Rocha (28), tells BBC News that he decided to wear the blue shirt for this year.
He says that he doesn’t want to wear the yellow shirt. “Actually, the idea that I would wear it repels me. I can’t even get my old ones out from my drawer. The shirt is beautiful, it’s a shame. ”
He said that the sentiment was shared by his friends and coworkers. He says, “RIP yellow shirt.” “And I wish Brazil wins its sixth World Cup title, in blue, for the people. ”
Despite Matheus’s feelings, many football fans still love the shirt.
The Supporter group Movimento Verde e Amarelo (Green and Yellow Movement) believes that the World Cup will help Brazilians get back behind the yellow shirt.
“We don’t agree with those that insist the Selecao’s yellow shirt has died, it’s just sad to watch it being used as a pretext for political clashes,” Luiz Carvalho (founder of the group) says.
He adds, “It doesn’t make sense to claim that the yellow shirt represents this or that politician,”
“When our team enters the pitch, so does our pride as Brazilians. Whatever happens in October polls it should not matter what, because the love that we share should win, just as it has always. ”
Yet, for Bolsonaro supporters the shirt has become a bigger symbol of patriotic love, taking on a new form during his government.
Adriana Moraes do Nascimento (49) says that there was no sense or patriotism prior to Bolsonaro’s government. Leftist governments don’t wear our flag.
“Thank God, our president loves Brazil and has preserved these values for us. ”
Adriana thought the shirt was a symbol of football, but it is now a symbol of love for her country.
She says, “If the left wins an election, the flag will vanish once more.” Have you ever held a flag in your hands? No. However, that will not happen as President Bolsonaro will be victorious. ”
This is the first occasion that Brazil’s presidential elections have been closely linked with the World Cup in terms of its timeline and social discussions.
Professor Gamba Torres suggests that Brazilians should disassociate their shirt from politics. He says, “A shirt is only a shirt.”
“Officially, it can have many meanings but it doesn’t necessarily represent any one government. While governments change, our country and our team will remain the same. ”