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

Victorian Secrets

U.K. Celebrates Two Queens;
the World Respectfully Yawns

For many British citizens, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee is a reason to be jolly, as their monarch completes 60 years as a mainly relic of the U.K.’s gilded past. But while the English don’t mind being called ‘subjects’ of a fading empire, the rest of the world is unmoved. In the U.S., which since its independence has completely upstaged its former lords, the anniversary is a moot point.
Elizabeth Regina took the opportunity to mark another Jubilee, that of Alexandrina Victoria, by posting her last female predecessor’s diaries online. It’s hours of minutia of interest mostly to historian and Anglophiles, and pretty much almost no one else, about the inside-palace goings of life in the 1800s, which the queen was, even if unwittingly, a dominant figure.

Which is not to say that the U.K. for what it represents to the world has become irrelevant. Not yet, anyway. The cradle of a language that’s still vibrant enough to be considered a universal tongue, this tiny island had indeed an oversize role in shaping the world as it came to be, and no other empire since the Romans was as powerful.
It thrived through the Dark and Middle Ages, and wound up dominating the seas during the Discovery Era, defeating all the great fleets of the time, including the Spanish Armada. At the dawn of the 20th century, Great Britain was still controlling a fifth of the world’s population, with the equivalent power to boot.
DICKENSIAN TIMES
Before that, Queen Victoria presided over a period of material prosperity and population explosion throughout the empire, although the times are better encapsulated by the grim social tales of Charles Dickens. They mostly portray a reality of great hardship for the poor, Continue reading

Wonder of it All

The Power of the Human Spit, Keys
That Got Away & Watching Paint Dry

When a prison loses its keys, a steel bridge may collapse because too many people spit on it, and there’s a contest for watching paint dry, well, that can mean just one thing. What it is, we have no idea.
But it may be something to do with the end of the year, or of an era, or hopefully, of people who make a living predicting the end of times.
Whether we’re all going bonkers or stuff like that happens all the time, though, here’s to the pleasures of being a fly on the wall and looking upside down at the world residing next door.
But before we go any further, let us acknowledge all the weird news sites that have helped Colltales to amass the almost thousand posts it has on file. We wouldn’t do it without you, guys, so thank you. Now, off to our Thursday Trio.
A BRIDGE TOO FRAIL
For over 70 years, an average of 100,000 vehicles along with 150,000 pedestrians cross every day the Howrah Bridge, in India. Despite that, it’s expected to remain Continue reading

Unrequited Love

Sorry, Estibalis, But They
Are Just Not That Into You

Someone is asking to be invited to the next wedding at Buckingham Palace, of one Prince William and Kate Middleton, and she’s neither taking a no nor a cake for an answer.
Let’s say, you have this friend from England, who’s either visiting or lives in the U.S. for a while. Nice chap, good to be around, fun do to things with. Oh, and don’t get him started into politics: he’s not just engaged in current affairs; he’s perfectly Continue reading

Potter’s Field

Tomb of Harry Potter Is
Magnet for Tourists in Israel

Now, that’s enough to inspire J.K. Rowling to go back to her old, beaten typewriter and come up with yet another installment of her officially concluded book saga franchise. One of Israel’s most sought after touristic attractions, right up there with the Western Wall, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the town of Nazareth, is the grave site of Private Harry Potter, an English soldier who died age 19 in 1939.
It’s an odd and far away location from the fictional life of such Continue reading

Scousers

Liverpool Fans Sing
The Beatles (in 1964)

And in following a Reds’ time-honored tradition at the KOP, they may just have another go at it.

Power of Poop

Human, Animal Waste
Supplies Clean Energy

Two deceptively simple recycling power projects are helping restore our faith in human ingenuity and the feasibility of alternative sources of energy. An experiment in Oxfordshire, England, is turning human sewage into power for 200 residences. And a dog “poop converter” was used to light up a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a whole month.
Both projects use bacteria inside specially designed tanks to Continue reading

A Dream Too Tall

What Do You Mean
My Tree Is Too Big?

Sometimes it’s great to have neighboors. Like when they call the cops and it turns out you’re laying buried under a ton of rubbish unable to reach the phone. Or when they call 911 because you’re having a party and they’re concerned about you having too much fun.
But seriously, sometimes having a good, nosy, vigiliant neighbor can save your life. Other times, they just drive you insane. That’s what David Alvand of Plymouth, Devon, England, must be thinking just about now. When he finally was able to fullfil a Continue reading

Overnight Sensation

Meaning of Crop Circles
May Lay Beyond Our Wits

If this mystery is ever solved, years from now, will we hit our foreheads and say, “how come I didn’t see this coming?”
Since the 1970s, crop circles, those gigantic, increasingly elaborated drawings better visualized from above that have been appearing overnight on corn, wheat, barley and rapeseed fields all over the world, have puzzled, mystified and challenged everyone and their loony uncles.
Attempts to debunk them failed miserably. From the pure naive, such as the two Britons who claimed authorship in the 1990s, and couldn’t reproduce their attempt under scrutiny, to the cutting edge, as the MIT grads who tried to recreate one and barely managed to draw a Continue reading

Don Diego de la Argentina

Brilliance & Controversy,
Maradona’s Legacy at 50

One of the greatest soccer players of all time, Argentine Diego Armando Maradona, reaches his 50th birthday, marked by unique achievements on the field and embarrassing mistakes off of it.
His playing ability and skills remain unmatched and it’s his arguably the most beautiful goal ever scored in a World Cup, against England in 1986, Mexico, in the second title won by Argentina.
It’s also his one of his country’s most vexing moments, in the 1994 cup when Maradona failed a drug test and was banned from the competition. Since that quick exit, Argentina’s still to win another trophy.
His volatile personality, a magnet to controversy, threatened at times to obscure his achievements as a player. It also doesn’t help that to most he plays second fiddle to Brazil’s Pelé, who won two more tournaments than him, and far outscores everyone else in the game, almost 40 years after retiring.
In fact, Maradona’s public feud with Pelé is now part of the lore of the world’s most popular sport and a polarizing issue for its fans. Even his biggest victories seem to be multiplied by those of Pelé, except in what run-ins with the law and fan devotion verging on the bizarre are concerned.
His trials with illegal drugs and personal drama were often played out in public, and yet Argentines of all stripes would gladly light up candles for him anytime. Some went as far as to create the Church of Maradona, founded in 1998, and that counts 2010 as the year 50 D.D., Después de Diego (After Diego).
Still, to soccer lovers the world over, it’s more than simply coincidence that its two greatest idols were born exactly 20 years and a week apart, in two countries known for their petty but intense rivalry.
Thus, Maradona would be the Dionysius to Pelé’s Apollo, the dark, younger, unbound tango god and the sunny, wiser, hedonistic king of samba. Such over-the-top characterization, though, always gets in the way of a fully appreciation of such a complex and vulnerable public figure represented by the one once known as ‘Dieguito.’
But it seems appropriate that unlike Pelé’s 70th birthday celebrations last week, Maradona’s will be considerably more subdued because of the national mourning in Argentina for the sudden death of its former President Nestor Kirchner.
Once again, for a freak of destiny, his long-anticipated coronation will be somewhat shortchanged, and he won’t be able to completely rule the headlines in his own birthday, sharing them instead, with the commentary and reflective news on the death of another powerful populist figure.
Or it may all be a bit of payback from that infamous ‘Hand of God.‘ Whereas it once graced Maradona with an illegal and crucial goal, now it may be reminding him of its moody, counterbalancing whims. For if anyone’s greatness or disgrace would be close enough to be touched by the powers that be themselves, that would clearly be El Pibe de Oro.

(*) Originally published on Oct. 30, 2010. 

Wild Life Behind Bars

Hardship of Captive Elephants
May Point to an End for All Zoos

A report about elephants living in zoos in England is reviving the argument against keeping not just the great beasts but all wild animals in captivity. The discussion is going on for quite some time now and both sides seemed to have valid arguments in their favor. Lately, though, there’s growing evidence that the practice ultimately causes more harm than good to the animals.
Despite the greatly improved conditions of living for captive Continue reading

Vanishing Goddess

Fight to Save Wild Tiger Pits the
Shoeless Against the 4-Wheel Drive

Several nations have recently gathered in St. Petersburg, Russia, in a last ditch effort to prevent the imminent extinction of tigers. Big cats face threats to their natural habitats, which shrink as the human presence increases, are hunted relentlessly for the black market value of their skin and body parts, and are down to an ever-diminishing genetic pool. Captives living in private reserves, which outnumbered those in the wild, don’t have the necessary biological diversity to guarantee the species’ survival.
Without a global, effective and consistent strategy to preserve them as they’ve lived for millennia, neither their mythological charisma nor the powerful allure they’ve always exerted over our Continue reading

Yesterdays

Beatles Hit Their
Half Century Mark

It was 50 years ago yesterday. The Beatles played their first concert at the Indra Club, Hamburg, West Germany. The scruffy lineup included John, Paul, George, soon-to-be-replaced-by-Ringo Pete Best, and the late Stuart Sutcliffe.
Paraphrasing Lennon, the Beatles were born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg. For that first paid gig, and the almost 300 that followed in the city over two years, prostitutes and sailors were their primary audience, and concerts could last up to 12 hours, Continue reading

Thirsty Future

Water Supplies and Access
To Define Mankind Survival

Human Rights Now Include Access to Clean Water
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The U.N. General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right last month, in a Bolivia-drafted resolution approved by 124 nations. The vote was considered unanimous, even though 41 countries, including Canada, abstained from voting. The fact that there even were abstentions at all is nothing short of surprising. For within or very near the Canadian borders, for example, sit some of the world’s greatest glaciers, but never mind about that for now.
It is an unrestricted victory for an increasing number of scientists who for years have been calling attention to the serious issue water, or its lack thereof, may represent to the future of this planet. In fact, it’s one of those threats that’s grave enough to end civilization, and it’s safe to say, it’s way more likely to happen than the catastrophic collision with an asteroid we all rightfully fear.
According to the UN, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion are without basic sanitation. Every eight seconds a child dies of a waterborne disease, in every case preventable if their parents had money to pay for water. In fact, more lives have been lost after World War II due to contaminated water than from all forms of violence and war. And a World Bank report says that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by more than 40%.
But let’s not get too wrapped up Continue reading

Bloody Christmas

30 YEARS AGO TODAY

When the World Lost John Lennon

– Where were you when you heard about it?
His family and close ones will always prefer to remember his birthday in October, specially this year, his 70th. But the world will always think about his brutal death, outside the Dakota in New York City, and the crushing end of so many dreams, however unrealistic they may’ve been.
John Lennon’s death, with its profound resonance for millions of fans around the globe, was almost as unexpected as it was deeply unjust. His songs, his music, his art and awareness of Continue reading