The agony and the ecstasy of a football-crazy nation
It gives me great pleasure to invite Raam Shanker as a guest writer. Raam is the first of the many guest writers I hope to showcase on Sportizen. A walking football encyclopedia, Raam is pursuing MSc Research in Automobile Engineering in the UK to make his mark in the world of F-1. And yes, he is a hardcore Red – no, not a Commie, but a Ferrari and Man U follower. - H Natarajan.
By Raam Shanker
The story goes back 60 years in time, to 1946 when Brazil had a constitutional government for the first time post a decade of dictatorship. This was cemented by the fact that they had secured the right to host the next FIFA World Cup, which would be held fours years hence in 1950. A major reason why the World Cup was moved to South America was the fact that most of Europe was still in all sorts of problems even though the war was long over. However, it was celebration time all over Brazil.
Come 1950 and Brazil got its shot at glory as the hosts of the greatest show on earth, next to the Olympic Games. This was also a landmark World Cup in more ways than one, for the following reasons:
1. England's maiden World Cup appearance.
2. USA defeating England 1-0 and the British tabloids, foolishly confident, reported that England has won 10-0 against the US!
3. An Asian country, which until recently was under foreign oppression had gained Independence and managed to qualify for the championship. However, they were not allowed to participate as their players wanted to play bare foot. That country was none other than India! The only World Cup India managed to qualify for.
Coming back to Brazil, a rejuvenated Brazil went about the task of building the world’s biggest stadium of the time - The Maracana Stadium with an estimate capacity of around 1,83,000.
When the big tournament arrived, the groups looked a little awkward. Two groups of four teams each, one of three teams and the last group of only two teams. One of the two teams was former world champion Uruguay, who took full advantage of its position to make it to the final group stage. Incidentally, this was the only World Cup not to have a final.
The first championship of the new era could not have had a more fitting decider match than to have Brazil and Uruguay pitted against each other in the still-under-construction Maracana Stadium. In fact, the capacity that day exceeded 2,00,000.
Brazil needed only a draw to lift the cup while Uruguay had to get an outright win to regain the title. The first half ended goalless. However, a minute into the second half, Brazil scored through Friaca to send the stadium into ecstasy. Brazil were poised to turn their dream into reality. But in the 66th minute Uruguay equalized. Though Brazil continued to attack, Ghiggia struck for Uruguay with just 11 minutes for the final whistle to instantaneously stun 2,00,000 spectators into silence. Ten minutes later, Uruguay earned the ascended the throne. The World Cup was handed over to captain Obdulio Varela by FIFA chairman Jules Rimet - the man in whose honour the trophy has since been rechristened.
For Brazil, it was the end of a dream. It was a loss that caused many Brazilians in losing their mental equilibrium. Many were crying inconsolably while a few took their lives, unable to cope with the defeat.
The match lasted only 90 minutes, but the wounds inflicted by the game scarred the nation and greatly influenced the way it plays its football.
A particular incident, amongst other things is worth mentioning at this point. Amid all the chaos and mourning, there was a man in Sao Paolo who was crying uncontrollably. The conversation between him and his little son is said to have taken place on similar lines:
Little boy: "Papa, why are you crying?"
Father: "Sonny, Brazil have lost the World Cup."
Little boy: "Don't cry, papa. I will win the World Cup for you.”
The boy grew up and kept the promise he made to his dad as a child. His name? Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Pele to the rest of the world.
As mentioned earlier, this defeat to Uruguay inflicted deep wounds into the minds of the Brazilian people. Its influence must be so strong that, young footballers are bred with this hard hitting truth which has perhaps led to Brazil producing players of great quality, who understand the value of playing for their country. When you see a Brazilian team on the pitch, you can feel it; they don't play for money or fame, but only for national honour and pride.
There is a message to the rest of the world, a message that says: "You need to be special to play football for Brazil." Their games are an attempt to erase the scars of 1950, but I wish those scars never go, for if the scars disappeared I am left wondering, whether we will get to see the beautiful game ever!