Grace Under Rain


Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pelé, becomes 80 today. Still considered soccer’s G-O-A-T, his popularity is intact after half a century of retirement. Despite his difficult relationship with Brazil, he helped it win three out of five World Cups, the most of any other.
A wee lad in the 1960s, I’ve experienced his magic and seized the memory as one of my most precious. As his celebrated Santos played my Grêmio, I understood what means to embody the dreams of an entire nation with the grace of a generous king.  

As he walked off the field, crowd jeers turned into cheers. He held his head down until they grew louder to grant us his royal smile. It took him only a second for all of us to become his.

Pelé, football’s greatest player, had come to town to play my team. But by the end of the first half, there was no memorable greatness to report. It was just another league game, after all; rough skirmishes in the mud and a cold and unforgiving winter to boot. That night though there was also a shining knight among us. And he acted the part with aplomb.
Sports fans are rude, raw, and irrational the world over. Crude emotions are always at the ready but civility is usually checked at the turnstiles. Just like at the Colosseum: Christians and pagans crowded the pitch but to the beasts belongs the hour.
The birthplace of  ‘jogo bonito‘ is no haven away from this world of unbounded brutality. The exquisite touch of skills, the artistry with the ball are reflected on the Mondo Cane sensibility at the bleaches, the cursing, the unholy screams, and every obscene gesture to match.
Let’s not get into the urine-bag throwing at random, the foul-smelling bathrooms, the fights that break at chance between rivaling factions. And the slurs throw at women, let’s just not go there.
In such a freezing and wet Wednesday, as only a place that close to Antarctica can be, 30,000 or so of us were braving elements and odds but for a glimpse of a special player, to whom songs, and toasts, and accolades are still being raised.
Chanting our undying commitment to follow our blue team ‘barefoot if necessary,’ as its Anthem promises, that’s where we were at that very night. And for a chance to see how memories are built to last.
Ours was the no-nonsense team, whose physical game had almost no room for finesse. We’d kick the ball and the opponent with gusto, and if we’d sneak an offensive play, it’d usually be like a cannon aimed at the other end of the field. All fancy schmancy and flair had no place in the squad.
It was 1969 and Pelé had already won two world championships with the national team. By then though, he was close to retirement, his great glory days left smashed in the grass of England three years earlier. For all it counted, he had nothing else to prove and a lot of reasons to just fade away.
No one knew then that a year later, he’d rise and enchant the world all over again. Football is a game for the minute. All else (more)
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Read Also:
* Pelé At 70
* National Tragedy
* Don Diego de La Argentina
Continue reading

A Cup of Russia

Obscure Blogger Breaks
Silence About World Cup

Many readers – ok, three – have asked about Colltales’ lack of World Cup coverage this year. Flattered that they even care to ask, I can only offer that I’m a lazy bone by nature. Deep down though I could come up with a corollary of excuses to justify my apathy.
Like, this team doesn’t make my heart beat faster (a lie); it doesn’t hold a candle to past Brazilian soccer players (that’s actually relative); their win will boost a terrible government (it always does). The reality, however, is that when they step on the pitch, I lose my mind.
I’m sorry that Germany is out, after what they did to the game, and to us, four years ago in Brazil. Their fine display of football had the rare quality of matching their generosity off the grass. The community that hosted them won’t forget their dignity, and donations, for long.
Also, despite my little faith, I’d hoped for a rematch of their 2014 7×1 thrashing of the home team. The upside for Brazilians, though, is that their premature exit represented a big relief: Brazil’s unmatched five-times world title record will remain unchallenged for another four years.
Apart from them, all teams expected to get this far, have made it into the round-robin stage. On its twisted way, the cup is a predictable affair. Past champions Argentina, England, France, Spain, and Uruguay are still pretty much alive, at least until next week. Can’t wait.

THE TEAMS, THE GAME & EVERYTHING
By far, everybody’s sentimental favorite seems to be Mexico, this time around – albeit there’s a place in my heart for Japan too. They’ve been playing with gusto, and Sweden aside, are hot for a first title. Plus, they play next, and are always reeling to beat, Brazil. You’re on.
Up to now, the best game was the early thriller Portugal 3×3 Spain. And Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo has the edge over Argentine Messi and Brazilian Neymar as MVP. That can change but it’s unlikely. It may not be feasible but a Portugal versus Mexico final would be great.
Speaking of coverage, the media has been predictably biased and disappointingly sparse. News organizations, which have spend lots of ink demonizing Russia, seem set on not showing the country’s so-called human side, as it’s customary in this sort of world class sports event.

THE MYSTIQUE OF THE YELLOW JERSEYS
Disgusting displays of hate and racism happened too, but none from host Russians. Scenes of ugly sex abuse of female fans and reporters, burning of country flags, and xenophobic celebrations went viral and caused the appropriate repulse around the world.
But I daydream, sort of. Despite FIFA’s ingrained corruption, referee mistakes, fake injuries, and some boring games, the cup always manages to thrill those, like me, helplessly hooked on its appeal. My, I even consider those world titles my own personal achievements.
I grew up with Pelé, Garrincha, Gerson, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Sócrates, Zico, Falcão, Renato Portalupi, Careca, Romário, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Kaká, – and now, the pickings become slim – Marcelo, Dani Alves, and, fine, Neymar, and Coutinho.
I can’t help it, I’m lucky that way and yes, you may hate me for it. So when friends say they’re rooting against Brazil, I tell them (more)
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Read Also:
* Grace Under Rain
* Out of This World (Cup)
* Cold Cups II Continue reading

Rant & Cave (in)

A Brazilian’s Irrational Fear of
Argentina Winning the World Cup

They’ve called Porto Alegre the Argentine capital. As my love-hate for that city loses its balance, I can only muster, SHAME! Worse, they said it’s all the color blue’s fault. CHEATERS! I know who’s behind it: Big Red Internacional, who always dreamed of owning the color of the sky.
The game against Nigeria was the perfect excuse to do so (to humble us again, the cretins). While they took over the city, only to stage one more of their wins, we were being told that the old, vicious, healthy Brazil-Argentina rivalry was being called off, at least for now.
World Cup 2014 LogoThen there are those claiming that cheering for Messi is rooting for beautiful football, and that in the end, it’s all for the common good of South America, you know, hermanos and all that. They don’t fool me, magnanimous phonies; I know what they’re after and it’s not the brotherhood of man.
It’s all done to mortify us, Grêmio supporters. The blue-covered Beira Rio stadium on TV, which thanks to ‘Colorado‘-lover President Rousseff, (there you go, Dilma-haters), has usurped the cup games from the Grêmio Arena, it gave me a funny knot in my throat. Not many red shirts amidst that iced blue sea.
Well, I didn’t spot a striped jersey of the ‘Musketeer‘ one either, even thought some Southerners do consider themselves more ‘gaúchos’ than ‘cariocas,’ which is how the Hispanic networks used to call them little Canaries (they’ve stopped now, it seems). Again, no one use the bird’s name for the Brazilian team anymore.

A TAINTED FEELING LIVES ON
I too was an Argentinophile once, at least culturally, up to the time of their military coup. But a lot of what I still admire about the ‘Platenses,’ Piazzolla, Borges, the pain of lost souls, have always been a cherished part of me, way more than the Carnival in Rio. Now, wear the shirt? I’d rather get lost at La Boca.
I’d wear the Netherlandsbeautiful blue jersey, though, or even Ivory Coast’s. (Funny that I used to like the Santos FC white uniform, but I think it was religious coercion then.) All the blue I’ve always loved never included the Alvi-Celeste, the one that battered us so badly through the years.
Specially when worn by that evil genius, dark soul Maradona. Again, rooting for him is like rooting for football, et al. I don’t sell myself that cheap. It just makes me jealous, of course, not of them having had him and having Messi now. But for me being absent while the Dutch cover in orange Portinho, which is also how no one calls Porto Alegre anymore.
I’ll live, though. Too creaky to turn down my deep-seated ‘principles.’ No, not humanity, universal love, or goodwill toward human brotherhood. I’ve traded those a long time ago, probably in exchange for some instant and temporary thrill. Continue reading