Uproar over Dunga's African-root comments

Concepcion (Chile) - Brazil coach Dunga was at the centre of a racism storm at the Copa America on Friday after remarks in which he likened criticism he had faced to discrimination suffered by people of African descent.

In a bizarre outburst on the eve of Brazil's Copa America quarter-final against Paraguay, the 1994 World Cup-winning captain invoked the issue of racism as he lashed out at his critics.

The 51-year-old contrasted the current criticism to the pressure he faced during his playing days, when Brazil went several decades without winning either a World Cup or a Copa America.

"I had the pressure of 40 years without winning a Copa America, 24 years without winning the World Cup," he said. "Everything was going badly. I even think I might have African roots because of all the blows I've been dealt.

"It's as if people saw me and said, 'That one there', and started hitting me."

Dunga's choice of words swiftly drew an avalanche of criticism on Twitter, with several voicing disgust at the remarks.

"Outrageous Dunga compares criticism he deserves to the suffering of African-Brazilians," prominent Brazilian football writer Mauricio Savarese wrote on Twitter, before adding: "I say fire him."

Dunga later apologised in a statement released on the Confederation of Brazilian Football's website.

"I apologise to everyone who might feel offended by my statement about people of African descent," he said. "The way I expressed myself does not reflect my feelings or my opinions."

He also appealed to fans for patience despite a series of lacklustre displays from his team in Chile during the first round, saying stronger Brazilian sides in the past had not faced such severe criticism.

"If a team that was exceptional, that was good, didn't win, why pressure a team that's considered to be bad? As I tell fans, my children, sometimes the bad ones win and the good ones lose," he said.

Brazil are aiming to bounce back from their disastrous exit at last year's World Cup, when they were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semi-finals.

AFP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'Uproar over Dunga's African-root comments'. Print Edition | Subscribe