It was a fitting end. This most South American of World Cups won by Europe. The very same Europe that appeared in the Death Notices two weeks prior. But that summed up Brazil 2014. It was a World Cup of contrast and contradiction. A spellbinding blend of wonder and whimsy.
It was billed as “The World Cup of a Lifetime”, as for many that will be true. From a football perspective it certainly was, of my lifetime at least. Never pure “Joga Bonito”, it was though an enthralling, rollercoaster of a month, as teams attacked with abandon in the group stage, caring not for reputation. And once the stakes were high and the caution took over in the knockout stage, we were treated to drama and tension. Like the Acts of a great Shakespearean tragedy.
The hosts themselves embodied the contradiction on and off these fields of dreams. Brazil. The spiritual home. The sepia tinged memories of our youth, yet in crisp high definition, the shirt looked the same, but the body therein? Imposters. Except the number ten. He could play. And talk. And unite a nation in joy and in total grief. The full range of the fragility of human emotion on show, channel through the life of a young man. A young man who carried the burden of two hundred million, and as it turned out, eleven men in yellow, who collapsed emotionally without him.
As the Selecao’s performances worsened, so your love for them, and desire for success grew. Your saw what it meant in the eyes of the people. Animated street corner conversation. Proudly wearing yellow on matchdays, non-matchdays, and any chance in between, The faces of the most improvished, perched high above Rio’s golden sands. Living in hope of better days, yet for ninety minutes, at one with the masses laid out beneath them. ootball the glue holding a broken society together, whilst at the same time, blowing it apart. The people deserved better. They still do.
The social divide is stark. Rich and poor. High and low. Yet it appeared that life carried on. For better or worse. From open sewers running through favelas a stones throw from the Maracana, to curious locals carrying on with life as it’s always been around the corner from drunk Aussies in Cuiaba. The question hangs heavy int he air though. Once the circus is gone, what will be left? Will the omnipresent police disappear and allow pre-World Cup life to return? Once the sirens that blare as the latest motorcade roars past curious onlookers on street corners fades away, those on the corners will still be there. What now for them?
In the new cathedrals of Brazilian football, we were treated to a magical collection of moments. Shocks, surprises, magic, misery and everything in between. Each moment lived through a fans eye. The Argentines in the Maracana against Bosnia, owning the stadium, the cries of “Brasil decieme….” echoing through the grand old lady’s corridors.
But most of all it felt like the month that football finally gave back. From the Euro stuffed coffers of the Champions League to the Oil rich barons of England, and the sponsor driven superstars of La Liga, football’s soul had been misplaced. Maybe, just maybe, we found a little of it again.
Away from FIFA’s sponsor driven pleasure domes, the protests and corruption, it was the bit of green from whistle to whistle that provided sanctuary. Twenty Two men, playing for the shirt, a shirt bereft of the name of a Korean electronics company or a Chinese betting agency, giving their all for thousands in the steepling stands donning the colours all around them, and millions at home, sharing the nations blood.
So while the confetti slowly falls, and the memories begin the recede into the files of our football mind. Before other more frivolous pursuits attract the eye and bother the mind, take a moment to consider what played out in front of us. For we may not see it’s like again.