In what profession other than soccer would Brazilian federal officials try to strip a compatriot’s citizenship just for working in another country?
Atlético Madrid forward Diego Costa is currently leading his squad through an unthinkable run that has the first-place club nine games away from pushing down the wall of prestige that Barcelona and Real Madrid have built between themselves and the rest of La Liga.
In the 2013-14 La Liga campaign, Costa has scored 23 goals, two more than Lionel Messi and just three fewer than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Thus, it is fair to say that the Brazilian-born, Spanish player has earned his global notoriety for his work on the domestic stage. The next step for every star player, however, is showing that same effectiveness under the international spotlight.
After choosing to play for defending World Cup champions Spain instead of Brazil, Costa will be surrounded by an immense level of talent, which in turn may help him become an international icon for the sport.
Critics of Costa, however, call him disloyal to Brazil, and some even interpret his decision as an insult to his birthplace; does the striker’s choice signify a severance of ties with the entirety of Brazil, or does he merely consider this a promotion in his career?
“A Brazilian player who refuses to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team and compete in a World Cup in your country is automatically withdrawn. He is turning his back on a dream of millions,” said Brazil manager Felipe Scolari in a public statement. Scolari did as he said he would, removing Costa from the roster for Brazil’s upcoming friendly matches.
The Brazilian Football Federation went further, according to Goal.com, as juridic director Carlos Eugenio Lopes requested that the country take away Costa’s Brazilian citizenship.
And in doing so, Lopes has humiliated himself.
Whatever sent Costa to Europe from South America should be of no concern to Lopes or Scolari. It was a personal decision that is legal under FIFA’s rules on national eligibility. So that should be that, and Lopes should leave Costa alone.
Yet I believe that Lopes and Scolari don’t actually care why Costa left, and that’s the problem; people who are outraged by the decision only see the symbolism of Costa’s actions, and have no interest in why he chose to depart. Just the fact that he chose to walk away makes him a villain, and, considering the passionate Brazilian fans that agree with Lopes and Scolari, little can be done to erase that perception.
Although, as a neutral observer, I would have preferred watching Costa connect with Oscar in the midfield to the roaring delight of the home fans this summer, I don’t care that he left.
I understand why Lopes, Scolari and the Brazilian fans care. They are, at their cores, simply supporters of their team, and Costa could have given them a better team to support.
But I do not understand the apparent wish of Lopes to execute power over Costa that would turn this story into a social issue; by advocating to terminate Costa’s citizenship, Lopes is attempting to take rights away from the player that are unrelated to sports.
It is fine for Lopes to have national pride, but Costa apparently does not value his heritage as highly, and that his personal right to do so.
Moreover, the hypocrisy of Scolari’s objection to Costa’s choice is glaring; the manager has coached two other countries (Portugal and Kuwait) besides Brazil in international competitions. Why should Scolari hold Costa to higher standard of loyalty than himself?
Costa does not deserve to lose his citizenship. If Lopes’ movement is taken seriously, then he should lose his job. What was initially just a story about soccer could unfortunately have social implications.
Despite the negative press surrounding him, Costa is still in a position where he could very well walk away with the World Cup trophy in just a few months. And perhaps the feeling of winning will taste sweeter knowing that Lopes is watching with envy.