Even in a country whose soundtrack appears, from the outside at least, to be exclusively samba-themed, Roger Rocha Moreira has successfully woven a different musical path. The frontman of the group Ultraje a Rigor, behind some of the most biting and edgy lyrics in Brazilian pop music, his guitar-based tunes draw on the influence of classic bands such as the Beatles, as well as the 1970s and ‘80s punk and new-wave scene.
With more than 30 years’ experience in music behind him, Moreira would love the theme for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ to be a genuine rock song though, as he told FIFA.com, he knows it is unlikely: “Generally speaking, it’s still samba music which best represents Brazil and football.”
The band’s first major single, 1983’s Inútil (Useless), features one of the most notable of Ultraje’s football-related lyrics. “A gente joga bola e não consegue ganhar” (We play great football and still don’t win), was an ironic – and iconic – reference to the painful exit of a memorable Seleção featuring Zico, Socrates and Falcao from Spain 1982. Yet despite two FIFA World Cup triumphs since then, Moreira has no intention of changing those lyrics. Indeed, where would be the fun in that?
FIFA.com: What are your earliest FIFA World Cup memories?
Roger Moreira: To tell you the truth, my earliest memories are of listening on the radio to the 1966 World Cup, which ended up being horrible [Editor’s note: then holders Brazil exited after the group stage]. I can’t remember the 1958 and ’62 tournaments, even though I had been born by then, and it wasn’t until the ’66 Copa that I started to follow it closely. The hype at the time from the older kids was that we had a good side, but we didn’t manage to win. Next up there was the 1970 Copa, which I was able to follow live on our black-and-white TV. That was a wonderful team and [when they won the title] we all went out to celebrate.
I’d sometimes go and watch games that didn’t involve Sao Paulo, in order to see the beautiful, brightly coloured kits of teams like Cruzeiro or Portuguesa.
When you were a boy, were you a regular at Sao Paulo games?
On the back of that World Cup, I started to go the Morumbi more often, perhaps every couple of weeks. I was a Sao Paulo member, so I could get in free, and I had a flag which I’d take to the stadium. At the time their games weren’t broadcast live on TV: they were recorded and played during the night. So it was really cool to go to the stadium and see what was going on behind the cameras too, because it gave you a whole new perspective. And it was cool to see all the colours in the stands, since TV was in black and white. So, back then I’d sometimes go and watch games that didn’t involve Sao Paulo, in order to see the beautiful, brightly coloured kits of teams like Cruzeiro or Portuguesa.
When it comes to your football supporting habits, are you someone who’s more interested in club action or do you watch A Seleção’s games too?
I think I’m one of those typical Sao Paulo supporters. (laughs) Deep down, it’s true: we catch the games on TV, we keep an eye on the league table, but we tend to get more committed towards the end of the championship race, when it looks like the team has a chance. But Sao Paulo are no longer as exciting to watch as they were in previous seasons. I try and follow A Seleção’s progress, but they used to be infinitely better too: it used to be futebol-arte (football as an art form), even at those World Cups we didn’t win.
While as a youngster you’d watch matches live at the Morumbi, come 1988 you had the chance to perform there with Ultraje a Rigor, at a festival alongside Duran Duran and Simply Red. How did it feel to be playing on your team’s home patch?
It was something else. Before that we’d also been at an event [at the Morumbi] featuring Xuxa. But, over and above performing, in 2005 I was also able to make a dream come true: in the build-up to a Sao Paulo-Corinthians clash, I played in a celebrity game at the Morumbi alongside ex-players like Terto, Parana and Viola – with fans and everything! It was sensational, especially for someone like me who knew that stadium before the new stands were all completed. Performing and playing football there were both great, but I think the latter might have been more fun! (laughs) It was a great evening and we won 3-0. There was a point when I went to take a corner and thought about crossing it into the box. But that pitch was so huge that you could whack it really hard and the ball wouldn't even reach [the area]. I could hardly run [by the end], so I didn't do a lap of honour!
Aside from performing and playing a match at the Morumbi, you also recorded a music video there for your version of the Sao Paulo anthem, right?
That’s right. I’m trying to find that video online, but I can’t find it. The music is what people remember. The idea came from the [Brazilian sports] magazine Placar. There was a chant that the fans in the stadium used to sing that had an “Oh-oh-oh” in it, which I added into the anthem as it wasn’t in the original. After making that song, I ended up as a semi-symbolic Sao Paulo supporter. But in the world of music there are much more fanatical Sao Paulo supporters, such as Andreas Kisser and Nando Reis, who go to all the games and even travel to Japan (laughs) [Editor’s note: Sao Paulo won the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2005].
One of the ironic lyrics in your song Inútil (useless), was that “we play great football and still don’t win”. Since then, however, A Seleção have won two more FIFA World Cups. Now that Brazil are five-time world champions, have you ever considered changing those lyrics when performing live for example?
People joke about that song a lot, but the original wording was valid at the time. It was written after [Spain] 1982, when A Seleção were knocked out. They were a wonderful side, but afterwards there remained a sense of impotence, a feeling that Brazil weren’t even winning at football anymore. But, during World Cups, that lyric is always given greater importance when the team doesn’t do well. I remember at a show once, introducing the song by saying “This is for [Sebastiao] Lazaroni’s Seleção”. [Editor’s note: Lazaroni coached the Brazil side knocked out of Italy 1990 in the Round of 16 by Argentina].
There are a few Ultraje lyrics that refer to football but, generally speaking, do you think the game is well represented in Brazilian popular culture?
I think it’s well enough represented in music alone. Jorge Ben wrote a few songs, some real football music. I remember that one from about 1962 which went “You’re all going to see how good Didi, Garrincha and Pele are,” in a song called Frevo do Bi [by Jackson do Pandeiro]. Even though it’s a marching tune, 90 milhões is nice. There are even instrumental songs, such as 1 a 0 by Pixinguinha.
Finally, what kind of music, in your opinion, best represents Brazilian football? How do you think the Brazil 2014 theme song should be?
Generally speaking, it’s still samba music which best represents Brazil and football. Indeed, football, deep down, is like samba. That song by Skank (É Uma Partida de Futebol) also became very symbolic due to the football link, as it describes the situation really well. It’s not a rock song, I’m not really sure what it is, because not everything with guitars can be classed as rock. It’s music with more of a north-eastern rhythm. Of course I’d love the theme [for Brazil 2014] to be a rock song, but I think that something closer to samba would be more representative. It needs to be something quite universal, with a Brazilian feel to it, but which has a wider pop music appeal.