Books: Non-Fiction

Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy

Book — Non-fiction. By Dave Zirin. 2016. 276 pages.
Examines the cultural, economic, and political context and impact of the World Cup and the Olympics on Brazil.

Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, 2001-
Themes: Slavery and Resistance, Sports, World History/Global Studies

 Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's HistoryThis book should be required pre-reading for any high school student or adult planning to watch the 2014 World Cup games or the 2016 Olympics. Drawing on extensive interviews with Brazilians, Dave Zirin focuses on the history of soccer and the economic impact for the rich and the poor of both international competitions.

As Zirin explains in the closing lines of the book:  “Our collective destiny is tied up with every eviction, every surveillance camera, and every cracked skull on the road to the World Cup and Olympics.” [Description by Rethinking Schools.]

ISBN: 9781608465897 | Haymarket Books

Clip from D.C. Book Event


Zirin explains the motivations for and the title of the book, “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil.”

View full book event online at C-SPAN website


“People think speaking truth to power is easy, but if it was easy everyone would do it. This book does it. . . It speaks truth to the powers that be, from Brazil to the US to FIFA to the IOC. It hits you like an uppercut that rattles your brain and sets it straight. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.” —John Carlos, 1968 Olympic medalist

“Dave Zirin has long stood on the edge of the sports writing world, exploding topics many of his colleagues are scared to approach. With Brazil’s Dance with the Devil, he puts to bed any notion that the IOC and FIFA have the best interests of their host countries at heart. Brazil is a special country and Dave Zirin honors its people and history while mercilessly going after those who would undermine its people. This book is a remarkable mix of investigative sports journalism and insightful social history.” —Glenn Greenwald, author, No Place to Hide

“In a sports journalism landscape where it sometimes seems there are only those who fawn and those who pander, where curiosity about the world at large is in short supply, Zirin is an altogether different kind of presence. He does care, until it hurts, and consistently delivers unique takes on the nexus of sports and race, globalization, politics and human rights. In Brazil’s Dance with the Devil, Zirin’s at his best, on familiar and fertile ground. Like so much of his work, it’s incisive, heartbreaking, important and even funny.” —Jeremy Schaap, ESPN, author of New York Times bestseller Cinderella Man

Brazil’s Dance With the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics and the Fight for Democracy, is a powerful and haunting look at what’s happening behind the scenes (oft-tragically) in a nation hosting both the World Cup and the Olympics. It’s strong work.” —Jeff Pearlman, author of Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty

“For years, FIFA and the Brazilian government have failed to understand the complexity of the Brazilian populace, that it’s possible both to love soccer and to be outraged over the organization of the World Cup at the expense of the people. Dave Zirin, one of our great chroniclers of sports and society, spent time on the ground in Brazil interviewing those most affected by the Brazilian World Cup and Olympics, and he comes away with the truth of it all: That the brutal expense of these Mega-events isn’t worth the investment of so much public money and historical memory. Everyone who watches the World Cup should read this book.”—Grant Wahl, senior writer, Sports Illustrated

“A vision from abroad about our Brazil from inside. It’s a vision at once critical, smart, truthful, and free of prejudices, and not sparing any criticisms of his own country, the United States. Additionally it’s a generous vision that uplifts the great Brazilian people. Enthusiastically recommended!”—Juca Kfouri, columnist, UOL Esporte

“Dave Zirin offers a great, fast-paced primer for those who want to get up to speed with what is happening on the ground in Brazil as it prepares for the World Cup and Olympics. Zirin brings the reader through years of history in order to contextualize the tumult on the streets during the 2013 Confederations’ Cup and offers perspective on what the world can expect during the World Cup and Olympics. Brazil’s Dance with the Devil gives insight into the linkages between corruption, massive public spending and the folly of mega-event planning in a country with huge wealth inequalities and major infrastructure challenges. Zirin has done his homework and fieldwork, consulting the classics and experts to bring together a fast-paced, focused read for an international audience.”—Juliana Barbassa, Former Rio de Janeiro correspondent, Associated Press

“Dave Zirin fans, of which I count myself as one, will relish his new book, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil. With his unique sports-politics lens and artful story-telling, this book focuses on Rio’s upcoming World Cup and Olympics. Readers will never again allow their love of sports to blind them to the re-purposed political ends of big, international sporting events.” —Nancy Hogshead-Makar, civil rights attorney, senior director of advocacy Womens Sports Foundation, Olympic Gold medalist

“Dave Zirin does it again. In only the way he knows, he takes the political and makes it extremely personal and inserts us all into the heart of soccer in Brazil. You don’t have to have ever watched a soccer to be caught up in this epic story. Sports needs Dave Zirin more than it even knows. Although after this book he probably won’t be invited to carry The Olympic Torch anytime soon.” —W. Kamau Bell, comedian

“Like everything Dave Zirin writes, this book is impassioned, deeply informed and very readable. It’s also a necessary book, because Brazil is a poorly understood country entering a crucial period. Zirin backs up his opinions with good, honest reporting. Brazil has a good friend in him.” —Simon Kuper, author, Soccernomics