'It’s not just a game': Brazilians react to World Cup loss amid political divides
Saturday 07/July/2018 - 12:20 PM
"The Guardian" newspaper- By" Dom Phillips ":
The firecrackers were already booming down Rio streets two hours before the kick-off of Brazil’s quarter-final against Belgium. The crowd gathered around a big screen as downtown Rio buzzed with anticipation.
And then came the own goal from Fernandinho، and Kevin De Bruyne’s follow-up – and the crowd fell into a horrible silence.
Was this going to go horribly wrong again? Brazil always wants to win the World Cup. But today’s Brazil – politically polarized، ground down by recession، with its most popular leader in recent decades in jail، and an extreme rightwinger leading polls for October’s presidential election – yearned for victory despite – or because of its many problems.
And yet after Friday’s 2-1 defeat، there was less of the wailing، gnashing of teeth and black humour that followed Brazil’s shock 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014’s semi-final. Just a sense that people were taking stock.
“Brazil eliminated from the cup with an own goal is very representative of the current national crisis،” Maurício Santoro، a professor of international relations at Rio de Janeiro State University، posted on his Facebook.
“It is a really bad feeling. Brazil did not play as well as they could،” said Marcos Cordolino، 50، a civil servant watching the match on Benjamin Constant Street in Rio. “Our stars failed to shine،” he said. Brazil has won the World Cup five times، but its relationship with the tournament has grown cooler in recent years.
The country hosted the 2014 tournament just a year after huge street demonstrations targeting graft and spending on stadiums. The economy had stopped growing، and the cracks were appearing in the success story of a country once heralded for combining economic growth and social progress.
After that، everything seemed to go wrong: a multi-billion dollar graft scandal; a Zika epidemic; rising violent crime and an army takeover of crumbling security services in Rio de Janeiro; the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff، and her replacement by her even less popular vice-president، the rightwinger Michel Temer. This time interest built up even more slowly than four years ago، with some Brazilians even supporting archrivals Argentina. But the team gave some reason for hope under coach Adenor Bacchi، known as “Tite”، who appeared to provide the managerial expertise his country’s notoriously corrupt and widely-despised political leaders lack.
“We always expect to win the cup،” said Tadeu Prieto، 32، an IT technician.
Even so، the crowd spilling down the steps in front of the big screen on Benjamin Constant street was about half the size of four years ago، when games were also shown here.
Brazil’s deepening political divides were on show too. Engineer Camila Leonçio، 33، was wearing a blue Brazil shirt because the iconic yellow team shirts were adopted by rightwing demonstrators calling for Rousseff’s exit، and the country’s flag was waved by those calling for military intervention during May’s national truck strike.
Regina Horge، 32، a kitchen assistant، had – like many leftists – gone one step further and wore a red Brazil shirt with a lapel flag. “People are not excited. The 7-1 was wrong and the social issue is very bad،” she said.
At half time، with Brazil two-nil down، the crowd held onto expectations. “I am very hopeful،” said Joelma Saldanha، 38، a lab technician wearing a T-shirt whose slogan، loosely translated، read: “It’s just a game، your ass.” She explained: “It’s not just a game. It’s Brazil، playing for a better world.”
And yet، things kept going wrong. During national anthems before kick-off، the big screen failed، forcing people to crowd around a small television set balanced on a nearby speaker - an emblematic moment for a broken country trying to work out how to fix itself.
It did not start working again until the second half، just as Brazil started playing properly. After the final whistle، people milled around the streets. Yet there was no sense of the desperation some Brazilians remember from past failures، like 1982 – when Brazil’s most creative team was eliminated by Italy.
Julia Mayer، 32، sat on a stool scrolling through her cellphone messages. “Now Brazil has to worry about other things like health and education. The struggle continues،” she said.
On a nearby street music was already booming from a house party and four women discussed the game as they walked by. “For Brazil to have won this cup would have been an embarrassment. The last cup destroyed our country،” said Estella Resende، 42، a kitchen assistant.