Robbie Mustoe and the 'lazy Brazilians'

The game had been, well, not bad. Quite good, actually. Two late goals had given West Ham United a 2-1 win at Southampton. Pretty good goals, both of them, scored within six minutes of each other by West Ham’s Felipe Anderson -- a Brazilian.

Anderson arrived at the London club at the beginning of the season, from Lazio, where he’d been since 2015. A product of Pele’s old club Santos (he played alongside Neymar) Anderson was not exactly a top-rated star. He nevertheless commanded a $45 million transfer fee -- a West Ham record.

He quickly set about justifying the money spent on him with some highly skillful games, and by scoring goals -- something that West Ham had been finding difficult. The pair scored at Southampton brought his total to 8 goals in 20 games -- way above his rate at Santos (7 in 61 games) and Lazio (25 in 137 games).

This was maybe the third or fourth game of his that I’d seen, and he’d looked good in all of them. An easy mover on the field, a smooth passer -- and a ubiquitous player, ever wanting the ball, then prepared to take opponents on.

If that sounds like a player with a mind and a will of his own, all the better. Coach Manuel Pellegrini had evidently given him plenty of freedom to roam.

So the game was over. I wandered away from the TV. When I came back, the studio panel experts were having their say. Here was Robbie Mustoe praising Anderson without restraint, waxing deliriously over his team play and his work rate, predicting -- possibly accurately -- that the big English clubs (sorry, West Ham!) would soon try to recruit him, and how he had come to England to really play ... and then, what was it he said? Did I hear that correctly? Surely not ...

I ran the program back a minute or two and listened very carefully, then watched the captions on the screen. No mistake. I heard what I heard. Mustoe on Anderson: “He’s not just one of those lazy skillful Brazilians ...”

By my count, there are at the moment 15 Brazilians (not including three goalkeepers) playing in the Premier League. They are spread among 10 clubs, leaving the other 10 clubs as Brazil-free zones.

I’m struggling to think of who the lazy ones are. Richarlison at Everton? Willian or David Luiz at Chelsea? Fabinho or Firmino at Liverpool? Fernandinho or Gabriel Jesus at Man City? Lucas Moura at Tottenham? Certainly not Anderson, whom Mustoe specifically excludes. Frankly, I can’t see any.

Mustoe didn’t name any culprits. So who are they, these lazy Brazilians? I can tell you. They exist mostly in the English soccer imagination. Just England’s way of writing off players they know perfectly well are superior to those produced in England. Heck, if you can’t find fault with what they do, then pick on something that they don’t do. In this case, pan them for not charging energetically about all over the field.

Growing up in England, I used to share that view. Heaven knows why -- I never saw a Brazilian team play until I was 28. But soccer fans are notorious for thinking with the herd, or not thinking rather, and I probably believed in the lazy Brazilian myth.

But that was many decades ago. I thought that things had changed. Surely the presence of a few top Brazilians in the Premier League must have laid low such a brainless notion? I guess not. Here comes Robbie Mustoe to prove that the Lazy Brazilian still lurks in the English soccer subconscious, that he might still surface when he should have been banished decades ago.

Maybe things are slightly better. Mustoe didn’t say “lazy Brazilians,” he said “lazy, skillful Brazilians.” The skill has been recognized, but they’re still lazy.

Of course, Mustoe “got away with” what was a pretty offensive, certainly non-PC, remark. Well, that wasn’t difficult -- his two co-panelists were both Brits. Neither commented -- quite possibly neither even noticed anything untoward. In fact, fellow-panelist Robbie Earle embroidered the theme by talking about the warrior/artist division that he evidently espies in the sport.

No, I certainly do not think that Mustoe should be banned from the airwaves. I have come to greatly dislike the workings of the PC mentality and the pleasure it seems to get from demanding excessive punishments for small offenses. But Mustoe needs to be more careful.

Ideally, someone at NBC should tell Mustoe that what he said so blithely is quite likely -- in an age of heightened sensitivities -- to be seen by some as an ethnic slur. I feel quite certain that was not what he intended. Certainly, I wouldn’t interpret it that way. I’m more put out by the fact that it is not supported by any evidence, is in fact just plain wrong.

12 comments about "Robbie Mustoe and the 'lazy Brazilians'".
  1. cony konstin, January 2, 2019 at 5:19 p.m.

    Let’s not go to far. We have an imposter running our nation who is says a great deal of obscene verbiage on a daily basis. 

  2. John Polis, January 2, 2019 at 6:41 p.m.

    Having traveled as a media liaison with the Brazilians during the time leading up to and including the 1994 World Cup in the United States, I became keenly aware of how Brazilian soccer and its players are described by the media. Certain writers, predominately English, tended to write stories and headlines that always included the word "samba" in there. Like these guys were just dancing through games without a care in the world. Well, I can say that being around a team that included Bebeto, Romario, Marcio Santos, Mazhinho, Leonardo, Dunga, Taffarel and my all-time favorite, the great Jorginho, these guys were all business all the time. So professional about how they approached the game and their duty to check their egos at the door and mold themselves into a conhesive national team. Of course, that had much to do with Carlos Alberto Parreira and his "assistant" Mario Zagallo. The "samba" descriptions about this group of players' game was as unfair and ridiculous as putting the "lazy" tag on the small number of Brazilians in the EPL.

  3. Bob Ashpole, January 2, 2019 at 10:30 p.m.

    Good article, Mr. Gardner.

    Mustoe was not really disparaging Brazilians so much as disparaging highly-skilled tactically-smart players.

  4. Kent James replied, January 6, 2019 at 1:13 p.m.

    Good point, Bob, but I would go farther than that.  While there are lazy people in every culture, I think the "lazy skillful Brazilian" stereotype comes from two sources; one is that a lot of Brazilians are skillful, so many are goalscorers, so they may tactically (as you suggest) not run around all the time (not tracking back on defense as much to save their energy for offense (as PG recommends) or standing around so they can explode into space (being harder to track).


     The second is that while every culture has lazy people, seeing people who are skillful but lazy is more noticable than seeing people who are unskillful and lazy.  The latter are just bad players, where the former are talent that's wasted (and therefore more noticeable).  But PG is right to call out Mutoe's lazy commentary (since as PG points out, there is not much evidence for it, and he's just falling back on stereotypes...).

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, January 6, 2019 at 2:16 p.m.

    Kent, in my view people who see lazy forwards not tracking back on transistion to defense also don't see anything wrong with the back being as much as 60 or 70 yards behind the forward line instead of 35 or 40 yards behind. 

    The key to understanding the classic Dutch Style principles of play is understanding the importance of compactness to being well positionned to both attack and defend all the time. Playing long ball pulls a team out of shape and creates big problems when the ball is turned over. This leads to teams playing kick and run with 3 or 4 attackers while the rest stay in a defensive block. In theory a team that attacks and defends with all 11 players will dominate.

  6. frank schoon replied, January 6, 2019 at 2:53 p.m.

    Bob, Kent, there is something to the "lazy Brazilian". It is has more to do with the Culture. Cruyff had a problem with Romario at Barcelona, as did PSV , as did van Gaal with Rivaldo at Barcelona. You can include Ronaldinho, Neymar as well for they were remiss helping out on defense.
    As a matter of fact Cruyff at the end got fed with some of the "Brazilian ways" and got rid of Romario. 
    You will never see a lazy English soccer player, they go all out and give 100%. English fans want them to work hard and it is part of their culture... watch " Sunderland" on netflix...and get appreciation how these English fans want to see their players perform....

  7. frank schoon replied, January 6, 2019 at 3:31 p.m.

    Bob, remember when I sarcastically made the joke about a license called ' Coachin with Drones".
     Guess what Guardiola wants to do....

  8. Michael Saunders, January 3, 2019 at 10:28 a.m.

    Well done Paul.......  Comapring the record of the Brazilian NT vs the English NT, perhaps Robbie Mustoe should mandate samba lessons for the Lions!  

  9. frank schoon, January 3, 2019 at 12:34 p.m.

    I'm so glad the PC police has finally entered the soccer culture realm. I had trouble sleeping last night over Mustoe's remarks. After ruining Stand Up comedy, the PC police are ready to infect  soccer .  I would suggest to those who are very sensitive to those types of  remarks should leave soccer and try your interests in Duck Pin bowling.
    There is truth to what Robbie Mustoe states...he didn't just pull this out of his hat. As a former professional player, Robbie knows the ins and outs of what English players and managers think. And not to shock you,you'll find like minded stereotype opinions in other European countries as well.
     Robbie is an English player whose culture we in Holland among dutch soccer players think is not too bright (Oops , am I being politically Incorrect) and stereotype English players as the type of rolling up the sleeves ,take out the dentures, and fight with no brains..
    Likewise, English players, manager have stereotype opinions about Dutch players of which I agree on. Similarly, other cultures have opinion on Dutch players. That's what makes soccer so interesting and funny. Realize Mustoe's backround of  English soccer, of lots of hard work does not match the Brazilian style of play, more layed back, technical, so naturally he views Brazilian style in a different light. You have to understand Soccer players express themselves in rougher terms, nothing personal, and it can be very funny..
     I can guarantee you that the Brazilian Anderson , likewise issued some  Politically Incorrect gems  about European soccer players..(Boo Hoo ,it just breaks my heart). Yes, naive soccer fans, that's all part of soccer which makes  soccer so interesting how other cultures view each other .
    I love going to a pub and listen to English soccer fans talk, or like any soccer bar anywhere, or listen to the politically humor in the player locker room made up of players of different cultures.There is so much humor ,life, among afficionados of soccer. I hope that the PC disease stays in the North American continent

  10. beautiful game, January 4, 2019 at 9:26 a.m.

    Work rate without efficacy is without purpose. Work rate and efficacy are synonymous. 

  11. frank schoon replied, January 4, 2019 at 9:53 a.m.

    BG, tell that to the English, the fans still prefer to see a player attempt to go all out after the ball even if you know that it's going out. These fans live to smell the BenGay of the players as the run down the sidelines....

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, January 4, 2019 at 4:48 p.m.

    Work rate without efficacy reminds me of far too many youth games today. It also reminds me of the weakest programs in college soccer 30 years ago. I used to describe it as playing glorified high school all star teams, which in fact was a pretty good description of the teams.

    In fact "work rate wthout efficacy" is a little exagerated, but only a little, description of the MNT style of play recently. 

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