The original slave player must train their own skills, based on Capoeira’s spirit and the ability to handle the body skillfully to deceive the opponent. Since then, Brazil has started to appear Capoeirista on the field such as Domingos Da Guia or especially Leonidas Da Silva in the 1930s, the father of the masterpiece “Backward bike”. Leonidas is nicknamed “black jewel”, and is the descendant of the old slaves.
In Brazil, people of color like Leonidas are called “Malandro”, an image of Brazilian legend about a bohemian model, with enough tricks to live through in the slums. On the football field, the Malandro do not care much about tactics, but focus on the sublimation of themselves, watching football as a stage for everyone.
Malandro is most famous in the eyes of the Brazilian Garrincha, the former best known as “the king of Samba dribbling.” That culture helps Brazilians train the best football skills, such as Rivelino’s Flip Flap, an eye-jerk like Socrates’s back, or Ronaldinho’s “meat salad”. All are skillful and beautiful.
The same Capoeira culture helps Brazilians nurture their passion for martial arts. They “processed” Jiu Jitsu of Japan into BJJ later. Brazil is also a great power on MMA, which produces the famous Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Jose Aldo on the UFC floor. On the contrary, boxing is hardly developed in Brazil, because of its origin only for aristocracy.
When he arrived in Brazil in the early 2000s, Simon Kuper said that the Malandro were disappearing, when the soccer fields on the street had to cede land to buildings. Wanting to play football, players have to find clubs, and of course, the dusty and unique qualities are gradually disappearing.
The Brazilian football fields are now much more modern, but there they do not have Garrincha or Rivelino. In contrast, the player model – the obedient student like Willian and Kaka is numerous. So, Brazilians always feel hurt when the “Selecao” – the nickname of the national team – is now nothing more than ordinary teams out there.
That is the reason why many Brazilians expect Neymar, because outside of talent, he is almost their last Malandro.