Singer Brown unveils Brazil's new away jersey
Brazil officially kicked off World Cup fever on Sunday in Carnival frenzy, unveiling the national soccer team's new away jersey at one of the biggest street parties on the planet.
With the World Cup in South Africa only four months away, Brazil's celebrated soccer team got the countdown underway in the cradle of Afro-Brazilian culture, the picturesque city of Salvador on the country's sun-baked northeastern coast.
The honours fell to Carlinhos Brown, one of the deans of Afro-Brazilian music and a mainstay at Salvador's famed annual Carnival bash. Brown will be the first to don the new blue jersey on Sunday when he performs for tens of thousands of revellers on the city's streets.
"This is more than just a shirt, it's a mantle of love", Brown, whose real name is Antonio Carlos Santos de Freitas, said as he tried on the shirt on his balcony overlooking a beach packed with cheering fans.
"Let's hope it brings us luck," he shouted to the crowd.
Image: Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown presents the new national soccer jersey in Salvador, Brazil on Sunday
It is a change from Brazil's trademark bright yellow shirt
It is no coincidence that the 47-year-old Brown was chosen to showcase the national team's new away jersey, which was designed by US sporting goods company Nike. Brown's lucky colour is blue, the colour of the Afro-Brazilian deity, or Orixa, that he worships as part of his religion, Candomble.
Though most people associate Brazilian soccer with its trademark bright yellow shirt with green trim, the blue jersey has been ingrained in the national psyche as a good luck charm since Brazil won its first World Cup in 1958.
That year, the Brazilian team was forced to wear blue for the first time in the final against the host country Sweden, whose home jersey was also yellow. To this day, Brazil - the only country to win the World Cup five times - has never lost a World Cup match in its blue shirts.
A die-hard soccer fan, Brown plans to sport the blue jersey again on Ash Wednesday, when he and a band of 200 percussionists will bring seven days of nonstop Carnival celebrations to a close with a final march along the streets of Salvador, Brazil's third-largest city.
Image: Revellers wearing South Africa World Cup 2010 shirts parade during a carnival in Sao Paulo on Saturday