Brazil loves football. As I prepared to visit South America for the Red Bull Campus Clutch Valorant tournament in December, I hoped Brazil would still be competing in the football World Cup simultaneously. Sadly a surprising Croatia comeback robbed me of the opportunity, but as I walked into the Pacaembu Stadium – where several matches of the 1950 FIFA World Cup were played – to watch teams play Valorant in 2022, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of upset on their behalf. It’s hard to think of a country that loves football more than Brazil after all.
Competitiveness is part of Brazil’s culture. They want to be the best, or at the very least, fight to prove their worth at every step. It’s an inspirational attitude, and though sports are Brazil’s bread and butter, this passion has seeped its way into its esports too.
The Red Bull Campus Clutch isn’t a huge event in the Valorant calendar but the passion of the Brazilian audience and competitors made it feel like it was the crown jewel of the Valorant scene. Hosting the competition in a grand Art Deco stadium with big sponsors like SteelSeries, Intel, AOC and of course, Red Bull itself for some college-age players made it feel like a grandstand event. Everyone was excited to be there and the Brazilian team at Red Bull, the college players, and anyone I met from the country was delighted people had come to them. They could come and they could see Sao Paulo and what it had to offer.
Sadly, the Brazilian team playing in the Red Bull Campus Clutch didn’t make it too far in the competition. By the time NME met the team they’d gone through some tough matches with New Zealand and the Czech Republic that had surprised them, not unlike the situation of their football counterparts the week earlier. Fluyr, the only player able to speak English, kindly translated all the answers on behalf of the team of Nandinh0, Lula, GBZ, and UrangO. When I asked if Fluyr thought the spirit of Brazil’s passion for football carried through to its passion for esports, he didn’t hesitate in his answer.
“For sure. I’m sure of that because we can feel like the culture that we live in makes us feel like that in all kinds of competition. It’s not only esports because it’s growing, it’s an internal feeling that our people have you know. Brazilians have a long tradition in esports. In 2006 we had a world title in Counter-Strike. So we know the tradition that our country has as representatives in the FPS world.”
Brazil’s FPS attachment runs deep as Fluyr says, and the country was the underdog in the 2006 ESWC Counter-Strike tournament before going on to win the $52,000 prize. In Valorant Brazilian team LOUD only just won Riot Games’ biggest tournament Champions in September of 2022, carrying on its prize-winning reputation. “They are our friends, we always play against them in ranked lobbies and they are Champions. They really surprised everyone.”
I asked what Fluyr thought made Brazilians such fierce competitors in FPS games and wider competitions. “I think we are focused, I think we are, like, hot inside. We just feel the emotions very well. I would say that it’s dedication, South American always focused on conquering and giving it your best. We are Brazilians, [and] Brazilians are famous because of football and our competition. But talking about the Argentinians, the Chilieans, they also feel that they have that drive to compete. They never let the game go. We call that here in Brazil haça, we play with haça, we play with a lot of willing.”
Haça (said hasa) is a new word for me—I had to ask a local how to spell it. Haça, as it was explained, is a specific sort of Brazilian expression of passion. Every time I asked someone to explain it to me, their brow would furrow as they searched for some English alternative word, while a hand might stretch and flex to indicate how intense the meaning is. They’d settle with “passion” but just… more. More, and more Brazilian. It’s like passion but with more fight, more want, and the desire to dig deep and keep pushing forward. To play with haça is to play with your all. It’s about pushing yourself to your limits and fighting with every bit of yourself. That’s what makes Brazilians so passionate about sports. Playing with haça.
Guilherme ‘Tixinha’ Cheida, a caster for the LATAM broadcast of Red Bull Campus Clutch brought up the connection to football without prompt. When I asked him what made Brazil so passionate about esports he cited the country’s long history with Counter-Strike, before weaving in the country’s love of football. “It’s like our football club. So we play football forever, ever since we’re kids, and I think that FPS is the nerd equivalent. I grew up playing FPS, I grew up playing Counter-Strike when I was a kid with my father. We won together. So I think that’s the main difference, it’s in our roots.
“Brazilian people love to have a winning team. We are good at football. So I think when CS started here we had a great team that were champions in like 2006. That drew up the passionate side of the Brazilians. And we have champions in Point Blank, Crossfire, and other FPSes here. The FPS culture here in Brazil is really big so I think that’s one of the reasons we’re kind of good in Valorant.”
When I asked Tixinha about haça, he smiled and laughed immediately trying to sum it up in English for me. “It’s like passion… but it’s totally different. I don’t know, it’s more emotional you know?” I think I did know. The way Brazilians were so proud to be hosting an FPS tournament, even if their regional team didn’t win, shone through everything they did. The tournament didn’t need a huge cheering crowd. The yelps and shouts of the young players were enough to encourage their peers.
Though I didn’t interview host Upmind during my time at the event, he shared a video of a precious moment of the tournament where he got to address the audience in Sao Paulo in Portuguese. His delight is palpable as can barely stand still on the stage as he speaks. Though now living in the USA, his family originated from Brazil, and you can see how proud he is, how much passion he has for being able to return and do his best speaking in Portuguese on home turf.
Red Bull Campus Clutch was a phenomenal opportunity to show off the talents of Brazil beyond just its famed love of football. Pelé, perhaps the greatest football player of all time, sadly passed away at the end of 2022, dying in Sao Paulo which was home to the Valorant tournament. The legend was of course, a symbol for the sport across the world, but the crowds that have formed of his fans in Brazil show off just how deep the love for him goes. He was a champion. The biggest of champions. And though Brazil loves to win, they love to fight to show us all just how good they are at beating its competition. Whether that be football or Valorant or Counter-Strike, their pride, their passion, their haça, is something to be admired.