About this much is sure: Vinicius Jr will dance. The world can think whatever it wants. It is serious business being in a World Cup – for Brazil, it is never just that, the five-time champions are expected to win every time an edition comes around – and with two assists and one goal in Doha, the 22-year-old is doing his part. But 'Vini' will also enjoy when he can. Be it celebrating goals with an elaborate routine or breaking into a laugh on seeing a cat jump on the high table while taking journalists' questions.
Some of which inevitably veer to Brazil's celebrations after scoring. They did to Vinicius on Wednesday and to head coach Tite on Thursday ahead of Brazil's quarter-final against Croatia.
Vinicius said he understood why. "Sure, some love to complain when they see other people's happiness and we Brazilians are a joyful people, so it will always bother." Then he gave the team's point of view. "The goal is the most important moment in football, in a World Cup it is even more important so it's a moment of joy not only for us, players…"
Not just them but for the "entire country." That is why Vinicius said they would continue. "We still have many celebrations ready, so we need to keep playing better, winning games and stay joyful in the process." If Roy Keane doesn't like it , well, that is his problem. The former Manchester United captain said on television that Brazil's celebrations after each of their four goals against South Korea felt like watching "Strictly", referring to television dance show.
On dancing, the Brazil left-side attacking player has Tite's backing. "I am very sorry but I will not make comment on those who do not know Brazilian history or Brazilian culture, the way each and every one of us is," he said.
"To those, I leave that noise aside. I want my connection to be to my job, to the people who I relate to. They know how much I respect the Brazilian history." Dancing, he said on Thursday, was his way of connecting with players "who could be my grandchildren."
The question on dance has been tailing Tite and the team since they reached Doha on November 19. Ahead of their opener against Serbia, the 61-year-old head coach was asked about it. Tite had said he respected other cultures and teams but equally expected Brazil's culture to be given its due. "We must respect ourselves," he said on November 23 before their first game here.
Vinicius' goal celebrations have been criticised earlier as well. In La Liga where he plays for Real Madrid, Mallorca players had confronted him about what they thought were extravagant celebrations. Atletico Madrid captain Koke said there would be trouble if Vinicius celebrated with a dance in the Madrid derby. Prior to that game last September, the head of the Spanish football agents had asked him to "stop playing the monkey".
By the time Real Madrid travelled to Atletico, it had snowballed into an act of racism. "You are a monkey, you are a monkey," Atletico Madrid fans chanted. When he failed with a back heel, they chanted "stupid; stupid." Vinicius' response through a statement was sharper than what he said here. "The happiness of a victorious black Brazilian in Europe (annoys people), much more so. Weeks ago now, they started to criminalise me for dancing."
Real Madrid responded to Atletico's chant was by dancing to celebrate Rodrygo's goal. When Federico Valverde scored again, they danced some more.
With 21 goals and 20 assists in La Liga and Champions League last season, Vinicius was crucial to Real Madrid winning both. It was his goal, after picking Liverpool's right back Trent Alexander Arnold's pocket in the final, that gave Real Madrid their 14th Champions League title. Before the club season stopped for the World Cup, Vinicius had six goals and three assists in La Liga and four goals and one assist in six Champions League games.
He is no longer the player Real Madrid's Karim Benzema was heard telling a teammate to not pass to. "I always try to evolve, not only here, but at the club where I have more time to work," he said on Wednesday. "(Real Madrid coach Carlo) Ancelotti helps me a lot and he sometimes works together with Tite, they communicate and are very similar in the way they talk and relate to the players."
The numbers were more modest with Brazil for whom he debuted in 2019. But that has changed here. What hasn't changed is the dancing.