International soccer sometimes feels like one of the last bastions of acceptable nationalism, a space where it’s perfectly fine to paint yourself in national colors, wear a flag like a cape of pride, and bellow loudly for the downfall of other countries. Broadcasters are part of this tradition, helping to create the experience of watching a game for their national audiences. American announcers sometimes dance around the notion of supporting the U.S. national team while covering games, erring on the side of criticism to allay any notion of bias, but big moments have a way of bringing out the passion. The most famous goal calls in American soccer history are the most famous in part because there’s no denying the commentator felt the moment much like a fan would.
In most other countries, however, announcers seem to worry less about presenting an impartial front. Throughout Latin America and much of Europe, the passion that only shows up in select moments on American television is evident from pre-game to full-time and everywhere in-between. It’s in the analysis, the in-game chatter, and the ululations of the men behind the mic when the home side scores. Considering the long history of this approach to calling a game, we could even call it tradition in places like Mexico, Argentina, and Italy.
Many Latin American countries are home to commentators who bellow “GOL!” in some form, drawing the word out to a ridiculous extreme, or repeating it over and over. When those voices retire, someone else will perform the ritual in his own way. The tradition holds, even if the expression of it changes.
In Italy, the audible, orgasmic joy of a goal by the Azzurri sometimes gets an added element: The shamelessly rapturous celebrations of people off-mic. Mayhem in the background make Italian goal calls the closest thing to what we hear at home, watching with friends.
In very few countries are these traditions independent of any particular broadcaster, but in Brazil, a certain goal call has remained in use for more than 40 years. Called “Brasil-Sil-Sil”, the “vinheta” (Portuguese for “vignette”, used in this context to refer to what Americans would call a jingle) was created by Radio Globo commentator Edmo Zarife and audio technician Jose Claudio Barbedo ahead of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Zarife’s bosses at Radio Globo wanted something to galvanize the Brazilians listening behind their Seleçao and add showmanship to the broadcast. The tradition of vinhetas already existed in Brazilian football broadcasting, going back to the days of commentator Ary Barroso. Barroso was one of Brazil’s most successful songwriters during the first half of the 20th century and was nominated for an Academy Award for songwriting in 1944, and he marked goals during his radio calls with a harmonica.
What Zarife and Formiga created after two hours in studio wasn’t overly complicated or particularly inspired. Effort after effort, often using phrases in place of the simple end result, failed to produce the bombastic pro-Brazil vibe they were looking for. Finally, in a moment of clarity, Formiga focused in on Zarife’s booming out “Brasil.” Little could he have known how iconic it would become.
After adding a whistle and some echo, Radio Globo had their patriotic vinheta for Mexico 70. Globo played it often during Brazil’s run to their third World Cup title, thanks to Pelé and company scoring 19 goals in six matches. Perhaps it was the triumph that elevated
“Brasil-Sil-Sil” to such fame, particularly in an era of Brazilian history marked by the beginning of two decades of military rule, or perhaps the vinheta simply fit the culture of the country and the way it followed soccer.
“Brasil-Sil-Sil” would become a fixture of sports broadcasts in the Brazil, regardless of the sport being aired. If the pride of Brazil turned on the proceedings, the vinheta rang out to celebrate success. Globo used it for racing broadcasts after wins by famous Brazilian drivers like Emerson Fittipaldi and Ayrton Senna, and during international volleyball competitions often dominated by Brazil.
The modern version is usually played twice for goals, with a peppy musical sting to separate them. Watch Brazilian highlights of Brazil games, and you’re bound to hear it after a Brazil goal.
“Brasil-Sil-Sil,” that whimsical creation of Brazilian culture now in its 45th year, will hit the airwaves again at the World Cup. Brazilians will hope to hear it often.