After loss, Brazil still standing but identity hangs in balance
Brazil soccer fans walk in the rain after watching a broadcast of their team's loss against Germany in their 2014 World Cup semi-final match, in Rio de Janeiro July 8, 2014. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
It’s the day after the myth of Brazil’s soccer invincibility was shattered.
The country is still standing. No one burned cities to the ground. People went to work. The structure which is Brazilian society was functioning.
Their way of life will continue.
It is a much weaker structure, though, and their way of life is just a little less vibrant.
For most of the world, when Germany cleaved Brazil apart, 7-1, in the World Cup semifinal Tuesday -- it was a stunning result, something beyond the scope of believability.
It was a loss of immense significance from a sporting sense because it had never happened before on this scale, and it happened to a soccer nation that has had no peers in the last half-decade.
The other nations looked at it as you would a train wreck, an oddity, a blip on the radar of World Cup and soccer history, a coming together of events to make a perfect storm.
It was a sporting event that happens every once in a while when everything good happens to one team and everything bad happens to the other.
It was Holland beating Spain 5-1 earlier in this tournament. It was Spain beating Italy 4-0 in Euro 2012. They were humiliating losses that marked the need to change. Move on.
For Brazil, there is no moving on from this loss. For the players who played in the 7-1 loss, they will be branded and will always be associated with the loss.
For the country, it is far more than an embarrassing loss in a soccer game. It is the amputation of a limb, a part of their identity as a people and a nation.
It may seem strange to the “have” countries in the world who have so much, who have everything they want, that a nation’s very soul can be tied to a sport. Some will discount the assertion that life and soccer are one in the same in Brazil.
In 1950, when Brazil met Uruguay for a game that would decide the World Cup, it was played in Maracana Stadium. Brazil wore white.
Brazil lost that game. They never wore white again.
Like no other country, Brazil’s national identity is intertwined with its men’s soccer squad. It can point to its team and to the rest of the world and say, “We are the best. We have won five World Cup championships. We may lose the occasional game but, whenever we play, we strike fear into the hearts of our opponents.”
Until Tuesday, Brazil saw itself as being at the spiritual centre of the sport. It produced many of the game’s legendary players.
The names roll of the tongue with the sweetness of the ball leaving their feet: Pele, Vava, Garrincha, Did, Tostao, Rivellino, Falcao, Zico, Jairzinho and so many more.
When Brazil plays a game, the country takes the day off.
For 90 minutes of soccer, there is no differences between favelas and high-priced condominiums; those who wear Louis Vuitton shoes and flip-flops; rice and beans to the most expensive churrasco; white, black, mulatto or indigenous natives.
The ball is round for all of them and the national team gave them an equality and pride they would never feel otherwise.
No matter what situation they found themselves in, they were the best in the world at this one thing. They were especially the best when the game was played in Brazil, the cathedral of soccer. The Selecao were exquisite and resided in the rarefied air that no one else breathed.
Today, Brazil is looking for answers to what happened.
It is lashing out at its players and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. While Brazil was winning, the $12 billion spent for the tournament was justifiable simply because it’s so difficult to put a price on a way of life.
Now there is roiling anger at everything to do with soccer.
The anger is not just about the 7-1 loss or the tactical errors made or the performance of the players. The anger is because a myth and way of life have been changed forever.
The spectral have taken on a human form.
Do you think Brazilians take soccer too seriously?
Yes, it's totally over-the-top
No, it's like hockey in Canada
Ah, it's hard to say