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.