7 Brazilian sports you won’t find at the Rio Games

BY Josh Ferry Woodard

1st Jan 2015 Sport

7 Brazilian sports you won’t find at the Rio Games

The Olympic Games seem to provide a sport for almost everyone to enjoy, whether that's the intensity of the 100m or the fancy moves of dressage, but there are still some that don't quite make the cut. Here are the Brazilian sports you won't find at the Games. 


Brazil in action against Spain during the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand. Image via Rnoid / Shutterstock.com

Futsal is a variant of football, played on a smaller pitch by smaller teams, with a less bouncy ball. The aim of the game is essentially the same: to put the ball in the opposition’s goal. But the heavy ball and tight playing conditions create an emphasis on skill, creativity, and flair, which makes it easy to understand why futsal is the most practiced sport in Brazil.

Futsal was actually invented in 1934 by a teacher from Uruguay, who took the basic principles of football and added rules from basketball, water polo, and handball. The sport quickly spread to neighbouring Brazil, where it exploded in popularity due to the lack of available full-size football fields.



"It's easy to understand why futsal is the most practiced sport in Brazil"



Elastic legs, flamboyant skills, and bamboozling flicks can now be found all over Rio: from the favelas to the sands of Copacabana.

Although the sport won’t be played at the Olympics, Brazil’s world-beating record in international football owes a lot to futsal. Superstars such as Pele, Socrates, Romário, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho and Neymar all trained with heavier balls on smaller pitches before transitioning into the traditional world of football.

One player who didn’t make the move is Falcao. Widely regarded as the best futsal player of all time, the lethal left-footer notched up 339 goals for Brazil in helping his nation to victory at two world cups. But an Olympian he’ll never be.



Brazilian jiu-jitsu


Like futsal, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a variant of a sport that will feature at the Rio Games: judo.

Jiu-jitsu and judo are both “grappling” martial arts that focus on close range combat. The main difference is that the primary aim in judo is to throw an opponent to the mat, whereas in jiu-jitsu most victories are gained by forcing an opponent into submission on the ground. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is also slightly different because most competitions require you to wear a BJJ gi which is a thick cotton uniform that allows grabbing and pulling.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu originated at the beginning of the 20th century when judo founder Kano Jigoro sent a team of groundwork experts around the world to showcase his martial art. One of these experts caught the attention of a Brazilian named Carlos Gracie, who was blown away by the judo fighter’s ability to take down much stronger wrestlers and boxers.

Gracie studied judo and developed a more pragmatic approach with his brothers. This new form of judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, focussed more on leverage techniques that could be used from the floor.

The practice became very popular in Brazil because it provided a remarkably effective method of self-defense, even against much larger or stronger opponents. Proponents of the sport claim that it is the most efficient strategy for real life confrontations.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu finally hit the mainstream in 1993, when a member of the Gracie family entered and won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. Although it won’t be at Rio, federations such as the SJJIF are working hard to one day make Brazilian jiu-jitsu an Olympic sport.




GIF via Tumblr

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance, music, and acrobatics. The participants, known as capoeiristas, employ a series of fluid kicks, sweeps and cartwheels to attack and avoid attacks from opponents.

While the practice originated as an effective and violent form of self-defense, these days the movements are more commonly applied in playful simulated combats or theatrical performances.

Capoeira was invented in 16th century Brazil by escaped slaves, who utilised the fluid fighting technique to defend primitive settlements, known as quilombos, from armed colonial agents.



"Capoeira was invented in 16th century Brazil by escaped slaves"



Even following the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, capoeira remained a symbol of resistance and in 1890 the Brazilian government decreed that it was prohibited. Those caught practicing the martial art were arrested, tortured and sometimes mutilated.

It wasn’t until 1940 that capoeira was officially legalised, allowing proponents to open schools across the country in order to celebrate Brazil’s ethnic diversity.

In 2014 UNESCO granted capoeira “intangible cultural heritage” status and performances can now be found everywhere from plazas in Rio to bonfires at British festivals—just not at the Olympic Games.




Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Toni Kroos and Raphaël Varane playing Footvolley

Footvolley is a sport that plays exactly as it sounds. It is essentially a 2x2 game of beach volleyball played with a football, where participants are allowed to use all parts of their bodies except for their arms and hands. Sun-kissed skin is not a prerequisite, but nevertheless, it is the norm.

The game was invented on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach in 1965 as a way for football fanatics to get around a ban on beach football. The ban isn’t in force anymore but the unmistakably Brazilian sport remains a popular pastime on Copacabana.

Like futsal, footvolley has attracted cameo performances from national stars such as Romário, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. It can even be found in far-flung destinations such as Tel Aviv, Dubai and Brighton.

It won’t be an official sport at the Rio Games but it will feature as a cultural event at the beach volleyball arena during the downtime between the Olympic Games and the Paralympics.



Surfing, paragliding and F1


Other sports which are popular in Brazil but will not feature in the Rio Games include surfing, paragliding and formula one.

Out of the three, surfing is the most interesting because it has been selected for one-off inclusion at the 2020 Tokyo Games in an attempt to attract younger viewers.

Fear not though ocean lovers, there will be plenty of world-class surf to feast your eyes on this summer on the beaches of Rio. Even if there won’t be any Olympic medals handed out.


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