Is Brazilian football dead?

This was more than a game. For Brazilians, the match represents the triumph of competence over cunning

  • Even the Germans were stunned
    Photo- Reuters

Fiasco. The one word that describes the Brazilian team’s performance against Germany in the World Cup semifinal. The defeat was foretold before the tournament even began: No one thought the hosts would make it that far. But what happened in that first half was almost inhumane. The Germans were courteous enough to hold back, although equally stunned. No one imagined the level of football could become so low. So what happened?

For almost 20 years now, Brazilian football has been less about promoting a national passion and more about exporting talent. As in other sectors, the country exports raw material (also known as 12 to 14 year-old boys) and buys back the finished product, exponentially more expensive. Or second-rate quality.

The result was no surprise for whoever follows the off-field developments of the sport. Be it due to lack of financial ability or wit, it is impossible to compete with a) foreign sporting powers, b) corruption within the national sphere. The most promising new Brazilian talents are found today in Europe, Middle East, or Asia. Athletes look not only for bigger paychecks, but also properly equipped arenas.

Without high-level national teams, it is hard to fill stadiums with people who wish to watch good matches or sell transmission rights to foreign broadcasters, like what happens to UEFA. Not by chance, stadiums are more easily filled for concerts than matches. The good news is that other sports, like American football and rugby, are growing while amateurs organise to set up new leagues. The better news is that what self interest didn’t kill is Brazil’s love for the game.

During the match, Brazilians used humour to critically analyse the differences that made such a ravaging contrast possible within the lines. In the morning after, the hangover feeling was quickly replaced by the will to go deep and find roots.

No one expects miracle cures before the next match, even if it is against Argentina. Brazil has good and profitable relations with the “hermanos,” as sibling rivalry still makes them brothers. But what is expected is a different approach to the team, in and out of tournaments.

So yes, in Maracanã, Brazil was outplayed by Uruguay. It was fair, and honourable, although traumatic. However, Mineirão saw much more than that. Brazil didn’t just lose face. It confirmed long-running critiques in alternative media. When the blame game unavoidably started, players – and even coach Scolari – were spared to a certain extent, though comments on the lack of focus and discipline kept running, as from the beginning of the tournament. Fingers are now condemnably pointed to CBF.

In the midst of successive mentions of diversion and grime at headquarters, the confederation didn’t support a generation which could have been unbeatable. In the words of sports commentator Jansle Appel Junior: “We lost Ganso, Pato, Damião, Lucas. Countless talents down the drain, without an obvious explanation.” While Germany’s work with their kids has shown results for two World Cups, Brazilians had to face scenes that are “Sad. Frustrating. Painful.”

Comparison is inevitable: In the German league, budget is evenly spread among teams. In Spain, 70% goes to Real Madrid and Barcelona. In Brazil, Flamengo and Corinthians have the biggest slice, especially after Globo media group and Brazilian Football Confederation CBF split Clube dos 13, the association of main teams. Guess where Brazil is headed?

Internally, the defeat was evaluated as a sad offshoot from an uneven reality. Social media echoed the underdog feeling so well-known to Brazilians, from Formula 1 (how can one compare Barrichello to Schumacher?) to politics. In one long sentence taken from online forums: “You already have good governance, health system, education; your infrastructure is great, your flyovers don’t fall … couldn’t we at least have football?”

Netizens’ frustration gained strength with David Luiz’s tears. “I just wanted to give joy to the people, these people who suffer so much every day. I apologise to all Brazilians. I just wanted to see my people smile. Everybody knows how important it was to see all of Brazil happy because of football,” he lamented tearfully. Somewhat naively, he made it a whole other ball game.

A text made public by sprinter Sabine Heitling, Pan American medalist, carried characteristics apreciated in the guest country: “Beloved homeland Brazil has to be loved every day in our work, in our study, our honesty,” it read. “There is no sense in loving the motherland in a football game, but then stealing from it the next day in an act of corruption, whatever it is, jumping a queue, evading taxes … Brazil’s tired of being betrayed by its own people.”​

The lasting feeling is that this was more than a game. For Brazilians, the match represents the triumph of competence over cunning. The crowd is now hoping this will serve as an example for generations of children who know that to succeed in life, you must practice and study, ending Brazilian improvisation – so often confused with innovation.

Source: Dhaka Tribune


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