By JERÉ LONGMAN
Video of the celebrative moment at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracaña stadium shows Pelé going into the goal to retrieve the ball and reporters going into the goal to retrieve Pelé.
In soccer-mad Brazil, radio and television reporters stand behind the goals and along the sideline during matches. Technically, they are restricted to interviewing players before matches, at halftime and after the final whistle. But sometimes they get a few comments after goals are scored or when players receive red-card ejections. Once, they were even known to follow Pelé into the shower.
“In Brazil, everything is possible,” said Jorge Baptista, a Portuguese television commentator who is the press officer at Ellis Park Stadium here during the World Cup, where the rules are much stricter.
During the World Cup, photographers are allowed near the field, but reporters are not. They must sit in the press area and wait to interview players in a postgame scrum called the mixed zone.
For some matches, mostly not involving Brazil, it is even worse for the country’s febrile radio and television commentators: seating for members of the news media is limited, so they must do their jobs not in the stadiums but while watching a television screen at the International Broadcast Center here.
“This is very cold,” said Reinaldo Costa, a Brazilian radio commentator who has been in the business for 41 of his 58 years. “The main thing is the emotion on the pitch. When you don’t have this, you can’t tell it to your listener. In the previous days, it was more romantic, like you were participating in the history of the game.”
Some restrictions seem unavoidable. Television networks that pay millions of dollars in rights fees want some exclusivity of access in return. Also,, thousands of journalists are covering the World Cup. It would be a logistical and security nightmare if every one of them tried to stand around the field.
“The idea is to give equal opportunity to everybody,” Baptista said. “If you invite chaos, you will have chaos.”
Dunga, Brazil’s no-nonsense coach, has also limited daily access to his players to news conferences instead of individual interviews. And he has restricted media access to practices, which are frequently broadcast live.
This is not going over well with radio stations that have hours of time to fill each day during the tournament. Globo, the Brazilian television rights holder, quit calling Dunga by name after he had a spat with one of its journalists and began referring to him only as Brazil’s coach, Reuters reported last week.
Dunga battles constantly with the Brazilian news media, which criticize him for fielding a team too reliant on muscle and not enough on beauty. But he knows the criticism will be far harsher if he does not bring home Brazil’s sixth World Cup trophy. So he sticks to his methods, making sure his players are rested and not distracted.
“They say Dunga doesn’t allow them to interview,” he said after Brazil defeated Chile, 3-0, on Monday, advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals against the Netherlands. “We have to think about nutrition, recovery, relaxing.”
At the same time, Brazilian fans are losing some of the immediacy they have historically enjoyed in following their favorite sport. Brazil won its first two World Cups in 1958 and 1962, when relatively few people in the country had televisions, making radio a vital and traditional way of consuming soccer.
“TV and the Internet, they can change many things, but there is still the habit of listening to soccer on the radio,” said Andre Kfouri, a journalist for ESPN Brasil. “It’s like baseball in the U.S. Fans like the way they call soccer on the radio. It is a lot faster; you have to create emotion.”
In the Brazilian league, separation between players and reporters is sometimes nonexistent during a match. Andre Henning, a television commentator who has spent much of his career in radio, said he once was speaking to a player who had been ejected after a fight, only to have the scuffle begin anew during the interview.
Players who are named man of the match sometimes receive radios as a reward from a sponsoring station. Those who score three goals in a match can request a song that will be played in their honor on a popular television program called “Fantastico.”
After scoring goals, players often run toward television cameras, prompted sometimes by attractive women holding up signs that say, “Send your messages here.” And they do, often to their families, something like, “I love you, momma” or “Daddy misses you.”
Other lines are more memorable. Claudiomiro, a Brazilian player in the 1970s, was asked once how he liked the Amazon rain forest city of Belem — Portuguese for Bethlehem — and is said to have replied, “I’m happy to be here in the birthplace of Jesus Christ.”
Another player from the 1970s, a flamboyant forward nicknamed Dada Maravilha, would utter remarks like, “I don’t know how to player soccer; I spend too much time scoring goals” and “Only three things can hover in the air: a helicopter, a hummingbird and Dada.”
Often, according to Henning, Brazilian players will ask television reporters stationed near the bench whether an offside call was accurate or how many minutes are remaining in a match. “If the coach is your friend, he might come over and say, ‘I don’t like how my team is playing’ or ‘We should have attacked more from the right side,’ ” Henning said.
About a decade ago, a heavyset radio reporter strayed onto the field at Maracaña stadium, mistakenly believing a match was completed, Henning said. “Then you had a hundred thousand people yelling: ‘Fat man, are you crazy? The game’s not over.’ Afterward, the coach blamed him because his team could not get a tie.”
When the former superstar Ronaldo returned to play club soccer in Brazil last year after a stellar career in Europe, he was surrounded by journalists after his first match, bopped on the head with a microphone and a television camera and left with a black eye, according to Reuters.
“Come on, it’s Brazil,” Henning said. “We go onto the pitch. We talk to the coach. That stretcher they use to pick up injured players? We might take that out there, too. Then we come to the World Cup and realize not every part of the world is like this.”