Caxirola prompts concerns about Brazil fan culture

Posted by Tim Vickery

Brazil fans will use a caxirola instead of a vuvuzela at the 2014 World CupAssociatedBrazil fans have found a different - and dangerous - use for the caxirola

Remember the caxirola? It was Brazil's attempt to imitate the vuvuzela, the horn that provided the soundtrack to the last World Cup in South Africa.

The caxirola is less obtrusive, but, it has turned out, more dangerous. The new instrument, based apparently on afro-Brazilian percussion, is shaken like maracas -- but experience has quickly shown that it can also be thrown like a lasso. It was invented specially for the 2014 World Cup by Carlinhos Brown, a percussion-based Brazilian musician from Salvador, the country's most African-influenced city.

But the grand inauguration of the caxirola may also have proved its swan song. The big Salvador derby was not even close, Vitoria thrashing old rivals Bahia. The losing fans found a use for the new instruments, hurling them onto the pitch in protest. Given that it has proved such a useful weapon, the caxirola has been banned from the Confederations Cup.

This was an attempt, a clumsy one perhaps, to invent a new tradition. But old traditions are also fighting for their lives as Brazil readies itself to play host to the world.

Against England last Sunday in the reopening of Rio's Maracana Stadium, the national team did not strut its stuff to the pounding of the samba drums. All musical instruments were banned from the sparkling new stadium.

There is much less samba about Porto Alegre, where Brazil takes on France this Sunday. This is Brazil's deep south, the part of the country most shaped by European immigration. But here, too, modernity is making a difference.

The game takes place in the new ground of Gremio, one of Porto Alegre's two giant clubs. Soccer is appreciated here with a Uruguayan fervour -- expressed by Gremio supporters with the traditional "avalanche," the sudden surge forward of fans to commemorate a goal by their side. This was a key part of fan culture in the club's old Olimpico stadium, and when it moved into the new Gremio Arena at the start of the year an attempt was made to preserve the practice. Behind one of the goals there was standing space left for fans to perform the "avalanche."

It took only one official match to force a rethink. A strike by Elano against Ecuador's Liga de Quito set off the avalanche -- which ended with several people injured.

The problem is the angle of the slope. The old Olimpico ground slopes back gently, as do most of the previous generation of Brazilian stadiums. The new arena follows the contemporary consideration for having the fans sitting close to the pitch, meaning that the slope is far steeper -- which makes the "avalanche" a dangerous activity. More than four months after the incident the area behind the goal remains closed off while a compromise solution is sought.

This highlights an important theme in contemporary Brazilian soccer -- the ways in which the new stadiums will change the culture and atmosphere of the game. The new grounds look impressive, but they are bringing to the surface fears about the imposition of an alien fan culture. Can the modern, sanitised approach work in Brazil? Should it even be tried? How many will be priced out of the stadiums by the drive to turn fans into consumers?

All of these are legitimate fears. The experience of the English stadiums shows that progress comes at a price, that there can be a trade-off with more comfort resulting in less atmosphere. For better or worse, though, the changes are coming -- new things will be gained, some old things will be lost. Only time will tell how many steps Brazilian soccer is taking, and in which direction.

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