Joga Bonito: We Are Freestyle

Fabio Cannavaro may well have just won the Ballon d’Or in 2006, but no matter what the votes said, the Brazilians were still the poster boys of modern football, and their swashbuckling, all-out-attack football was the ideology.

And Nike knew this; the most iconic sporting brand of the time – and probably still to this day – showcased the purity with which we all love the game for, in perfect style.

A series of adverts were released during 2006, presented by a bearded Eric Cantona, we had ‘Joy’, ‘Honour’, ‘Heart’ and the final instalment in the four-parter was ‘Team’.

The titles of the four pieces encapsulate the things that, from Alberto Spencer to Jan Ceulemans to the then-six-year-old dreaming of being a footballer in 2006, viewed the game as. Just over a decade on, and this is no longer the case; fans are cynical, footballers are leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in world-record deals when it should be the other way round.

2006 Joga Bonito perhaps represented the last time that football still had any links to the fans in the stands, to the core values of why we all kick a ball, and presented something that seems to have been forgotten along the way: teamwork.

“I am constantly being asked about individuals. The only way to win is as a team. Football is not about one or two or three star players.”

Pele

‘Team’ brought the curtain down on a blockbuster set of adverts: beginning with a beautifully-odd quote from King Eric – an amusing tip of the hat to the Frenchman’s infamous ‘if the seagulls follow the trawler’ line – partnered with the now-iconic ‘Mas Que Nada’ song, as the unity of the Brazilian team is highlighted through its love of the beautiful game, and most notably: freestyle.

“Freestyle is a form of expression.”

Come the end of 2006, Adriano, one of the world’s best strikers at the beginning of the year, had begun his sharp decline to overweight, troublesome footballer, Ronaldinho would be in his penultimate season at Barcelona, Robinho wouldn’t be far off a now-ill-advised move to Manchester City and Ronaldo’s time as King of the Bernabeu would be reaching its end.

Freestyle, joy, honour, heart and team would be left behind with the Brazilian maestros, the last of their kind, with football’s many faces changing again, and changing for the worse – we will never see football in its purest form ever again; we are too cynical.

Although we won’t see the emotions and style encapsulated in the Joga Bonito on our television screens anymore, in football’s underground, on the streets around the world, freestyle lives on and encapsulates the pillars of the Joga Bonito campaign.

“Freestyle allows me to express myself.”