A Year Since Its Biggest Lost,
Brazil’s Football Remains Stunted
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. After being thoroughly thrashed by the Germans, at the World Cup held at its home, the Brazilian national team was expected to be, at this time of the year, in full recovery mode, with a few new conquests to boot.
Nothing of sorts has happened. And judging by the once again totally undignified way it got kicked out of the recent Copa America, the beatings will continue until someone can no longer say, ‘Brazil’s the nation of football,’ without sounding deranged.
There’s a growing sense that neither we’ll have the will to fix the very structure of the sport, so it can provide the support and background to nurture a new generation of outstanding players, nor the talent needed to win another World Cup has even been born yet.
Also, there are very few voices still interested in discussing what actually happened on that saddest of all Tuesdays, a year ago today, in Belo Horizonte. Even the Brazilian press has hardly focused on its causes and possible solutions so that could never happen again.
A year ago, we managed to line up a few of just such conditions, lacking or needed, so the future would be rewritten. But there was already the sinking feeling that, despite all the pain and the crying Brazilians on the Internet, that too would be forgotten.
So we’re republishing the post, hoping it makes a bit more sense today. It may be a tad too heavy on the Seleção Brasileira and its woes, and not as fair as it should to the German squad that beat it. But it’s still on the money, as far as we could see then.
Once again, I’m still very sorry, Brazil.
To say that this was a loss would be an insult to all teams that have lost during this and previous World Cups, despite fighting their hearts out and carrying their nations’ hopes. To say that it was about Brazil is also unfair to the great German squad. It was their win to celebrate.
But what did happen on this sad afternoon in Brazil was that reality has finally caught up with the Seleção Brasileira. Not just for what it’s shown during the tournament but for past decades of completely lack of preparation from the ground up, to protect its soccer traditions.
For since it has won the World Cup only 12 years ago, not a single Brazilian club has climbed the rankings among the world’s best, despite a few wins in the Intercontinental Cup, and the state of organized sports in Brazil has only got even more appalling, from the foundations of its business model to the very own field of games.
In fact, to watch a regular Brazilian league soccer game has become one of the most unpleasant and dangerous experiences for the fans, as well as a pathetic display of incivility, with so many illegal tackles and ugly bumps, to disgust even the most fervent supporter. And the state of the stadiums only enhances such perception.
So guess what team had the record number of faults in the World Cup? Even though it isn’t alone in allowing its players to fake injury to gain benefits from the referee, Brazil has been a shameful adept of the brutality on the field, and arguably the serious injury Neymar suffered was an involuntary payback by the Colombians.
The league is also one of the unfairest, forcing well supported teams to compete, and play, in under par fields all over the enormous country, for great part of the year. Many a time, a club simply refuses to be downgraded to a lower division, using political influence and the courts in lieu of the lack of quality of its soccer.
Brazilian clubs also fester with mismanagement, corruption, traffic of influence, and behind-the-scenes deals with empresarios, who treat promising players like commodities and reap considerable, and mostly unreported, wealth out of trading them to foreign leagues.
Finally, for a sport that mobilizes obscene amounts of money, club management in Brazil is mostly a cash and carry structure, with no accountability even as it’s supported by taxpayer money. Fans have little saying on the financial decisions of the clubs they support.
So, no wonder that when Brazil was chosen to host the World Cup, the first thing that was done by the Brazilian federation, CBF, was to map where the games would be played, not on the basis of infrastructure or tradition, but according to political favors owned and paid back to local bosses.
No wonder either that some of these extra multimillion dollar stadiums (at least three) that were built for the competition went over budget and will probably slowly decay as they were erected in cities without a single team competing in the country’s main soccer league. Most blatant example: Brasilia, site of the government.
A WORN OUT LEGEND
Still, for a while, the Seleção has managed to support the archaic idea that Brazil still plays the best soccer in the world, an idea easy to market, and custom made for Fifa to promote, and profit, from the sport. While most Brazilian clubs wilted under continental and global tournaments, the national team kept scoring.
Last year’s Confederation Cup, a shorter tournament which Brazil won with honors, showed that at times such disconnect between the national squad and the quality level of soccer played within the country is not always as flagrant. It was foolish, however, to believe that the miracle would keep happening over and over again.
And no wonder too that the biggest and most massive rallies since the final days of the military dictatorship irrupted in Brazil’s major cities, driven by the sinking feeling that all the wealth the cup would eventually bring to the country was not about to find its way to its lower classes, or even stay within its borders.
Even though to rally against the World Cup, once it’d been established that it’d take place in Brazil, was misguided, Brazilians on the streets were absolutely right: the great majority was going to be left out of the great party as research has showed that some 60% of the average stadium attendance is white and middle class.
SOUL SEARCHING TIME
That conflicts with racial percentages of the general population, reflecting also the under-representation of blacks within the top circles of power and political elites of Brazil. The straight reason was, they simply couldn’t afford the price of the tickets.
So, what was defeated today at Mineirão stadium, we surely hope, was not an idea of how soccer should be played – for Brazil hasn’t really been close at proposing one at this time around anyway – but the business of ‘futebol brasileiro’ that has got to change, if we have any hope for such disaster not to be repeated.
You may hear talk about lack of endeavor, exertion, faith from the part of the Brazilian players, and how they ‘didn’t show heart’ on the field. Don’t believe it. Even if some of them weren’t as intensely religious as they are, they gave it as good as they possibly could. Beware of anyone who says otherwise, for they may have ulterior motives.
On the strict account of what went on the field, Brazil was totally outplayed by a superior team that has managed to inflict the worst defeat in its history, even if doesn’t go on to win a fourth World Cup (it did). It’s also poised to seriously challenged other records, even if it won’t break the World Cup one just yet.
THE DREAM ANOTHER DAY
This will hurt Brazilian national pride perhaps, and unfortunately, even more than its slums, the poverty of its shantytowns, the indifference of the wealthy and the politically connected, all on plain display for the world to see during the tournament. Maybe now more people will care.
A defeat of such a magnitude will also affect the way poor children see the game as a ticket out of the social miseries, as some of them were out on the field today, wearing the famed yellow jerseys and being thoroughly humiliated in front of billions. At the very least, it’ll give the country pause to think why the World Cup is so important like that?
It may force us, those millions around the world who have been parading the past glories of this team as a tattoo of our own personal achievements, to consider giving it a rest, since this day too shall pass. But in the meantime, it has given the rest of us an excuse, an urge, a compulsion even: to find quickly a place to hide.
We’re really sorry, Brazil.