Brazil? They sucked. But the Germans didn’t, and that’s what mattered.
Football Is A Sophisticated Escape From Reality
There is much to be said about the psychological underpinnings of the football-is-religion phenomenon. The transference of values from the arena of everyday life to the arena of football is something indicative of (post)-modern society. People are nowadays having a hard time finding something meaningful or spirited to connect to, feeling stranded, helpless and bereft of choices. Caught between the colorful dryness
The average person seeks salvation elsewhere, finding his or her gods in grand stadiums and arenas, around bars and TV sets that attract others like them, en masse
of a materialist world and the fossilized beauty of a religious one, both of which promise deliverance without delivering it, the average person seeks salvation elsewhere, finding his or her gods in grand stadiums and arenas, around bars and TV sets that attract others like them, en masse. There they assemble, in droves, to lend their support to a select few athletes-cum-performers they admire, if not revere, whose task is to lock horns and battle it out, week after week, year after year, in what is for all practical purposes a circus act, the likes of which Ancient Rome would envy.
Bread and Games
That’s how our forefathers, the people of the ancient world, referred to this arrangement: bread and games, or bread and circuses — panem et circenses — pointing toward two of the most reliable pillars of social control: food and entertainment.
Entertainment Without Food Is Not Very Entertaining
The notion of bread and games is disturbingly relevant to the world cup, as is its misapplication. The recent stories of corruption, graft and profiteering that are currently plaguing FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) point without question to a sophisticated setup of global bread and games — only they involve much less bread than games. Or, to put it differently, the games and circuses are funded with bread money, leaving many people wanting.
It’s a raw deal for the have-nots, whose life revolves around the beautiful game; whose ‘bread’ partially funds the teams; whose devotion makes football the most loyally supported sport in the world. Like John Oliver recently noted, there isn’t much beauty in the beautiful game when one lifts the carpet and takes a peek at the dirt underneath.
Food Is Important
Because people can’t eat good atmosphere
You’d think the people in charge would know how important food is. They apparently don’t. Not that it was FIFA’s responsibility to fund Brazilian infrastructure — it wasn’t — but you’ve got to be savvier when parading glitz through squalor. Because people can’t eat good atmosphere. And you know that money goes to money, so no, don’t be too righteous about bringing business to Brazil. At least shut the hell up, if you want these games to continue in the foreseeable future. Remember who pays for the tickets, who enables the massive broadcasting rights. If you’re a savvy capitalist and want your business to go on.
Because Food Is Life
In Greece they have a saying that goes like this:
A famished bear doesn’t dance
Nowhere is this adage more fitting than in today’s Brazil, a country renowned for its obsession with dancing. Without food, a (circus) bear won’t shake its booty for anyone. Similarly, without bread, the games look bleak, weird and paradoxical, and the game- loving people we are so fond of imagining dancing on the beach with huge smiles on their faces (just a stereotype, by the way) are driven to violent extremes.
As a result, Brazil experienced a number of riots prior to the World Cup. Fed up with the situation on the ground, Brazilians protested the spending of an approximate $13billion on stadiums and other World Cup-related sites that were erected in cities where the infrastructure, as it stood, hardly met their needs for sanitation, health, inspection, safety, education, transport, and energy provision.
Hence the presence of the army. The military police was called upon to escort a number of teams to and from the stadiums. The venues were heavily guarded. Incidents of violence were reported in a number of locations, which the heavies stepped in to quell.
Honor A Brave Adversary
Brazil’s atrocious performance against Germany didn’t help alleviate the already charged atmosphere. Stunned and devastated, the Brazilian fans booed their team throughout much of the match for playing like headless chickens. A jello-legged Fred and a freaked-out David Luis were specifically targeted, but as time wore on the whole team was heckled away.
Then, in dramatic fashion, the fans cheered Germany on, adding the nal straw of humiliation on their battered team’s back. Others, outside the stadiums, gathered to pay tribute to the victors, chanting ‘Alemann, Alemann’ (Germany, Germany).
Enter The Fray
It’s all there, laid out for everyone to see: a tamer version of warfare, absorbing people’s zeal and frustrations, venting human emotion in a way only the Roman Emperors knew how to manage
What happened in Brazil was an uncanny parallel to war. The social psychologists and writers must still be having a field day with all this — I know I am — observing the archetypal events of warfare manifest ever so eloquently through the beautiful game’s events. There was a little bit of everything going on, from the love of one’s country and honoring one’s national colors, to the assemblies of large crowds and the chanting of uplifting songs, to the repeated clash of cultures by pitching their best troops against each other, to the swathes of nationalism that arose from each encounter, to the ecstasy of the victorious and the agony of the vanquished, to the skirmishes before and after the main battles, to the dirty business behind every deal and confrontation, with top-brass interests driving the show, it’s all there, laid out for everyone to see: a tamer version of warfare, absorbing people’s zeal and frustrations, venting human emotion in a way only the Roman Emperors knew how to manage.
A Great Exercise
Some will disagree with the above analogy, pointing to a less politicized version of world sporting events, like the Olympic games. The ancient Olympics, they say, were a glorious example of how transcultural sporting events were not a means to a manipulative end; they were a cherished tradition designed to bring the world together like nothing else could. Similarly, the World Cup is more than just a toned- down version of war, or a conspiratorial distraction. It’s a great party, a wonderful event, where an amazing game is played by amazing competitors, whose purpose is to win, raise the bar and provide a spectacle for everyone to enjoy.
Love For The Game
Brazilians pride themselves for their undying love for football, a game which they consider themselves to be great at. When their team was annihilated by Germany, their tears and frustration were more than expected, as was the sporadic violence that ensued. What no one anticipated, though, were the cheers — a samba-fest for the opposition.
Juninho, former international Brazilian player and sports commentator , encapsulated it brilliantly on live TV (in so many words)
I love football… today I saw the Germans play the football I love. Let’s learn from what the Germans showed us, so we can become great again.
When I heard what he said, I thought to myself, There’s a rare purist — a game lover! You won’t find many like him. To my surprise, I saw scores of Brazilians sporting the same attitude over the next few days, rising above the occasion and paying tribute to the game they so cherish by celebrating Germany’s stellar performance. I loved the attitude (though not the Alleman, Alleman chants — that was crossing over in disappointment!) and admired the mindset driving it.
Perhaps I was being overly naive, eager to swallow the u story — ‘love and respect for thy brave opponent’ — like a hormonal teenager in need of reassurance that the world is not a bad place and that goodness always prevails. Who knows how Brazilians really feel? Perhaps they’re boiling and seething inside, and this story here is just a warm, fuzzy media puff piece. Or an illusion that is being strategically and methodically spread by the various TV stations and social media outlets in their attempt to color the host nation good, re-establishing some kind of beauty amid the brutality of Brazil’s reality. Perhaps it’s just a reflex rationalization, a positive abreaction that will not hold for much longer. Perhaps it’s a brilliant way for Brazilians to punish Seleção 2014 for their abysmal performance. Perhaps it’s all of the above.
Actions Speak Louder Than Intentions
Through their actions, Brazilians are publicly declaring their love for their game by paying tribute to the spectacle the Germans put on against them
Whatever the case, one thing is certain. The Brazilian reaction to their favorite team’s stunning defeat was nobler than expected, and that counts for something — for a lot, to be fair. Fabricated or not, the narrative is not only noble but useful. Through their actions, Brazilians are publicly declaring their love for their game by payingtribute to the spectacle the Germans put on against them. It’s a rare phenomenon in this day and age.
Grace Under Fire
Say whatever we may, Brazil is still very sad, if not stunned, by its national team’s defeat. Perhaps the most emblematic of Sad Brazilian images was that of Clovis Acosta Fernandes, Gaucho da Copa (Cowboy of the Cup). Always carrying a replica trophy with him, this famous Brazilian fan has been religiously following the Seleção teams around the world for decades, earning himself the title of Brazil’s ’12th player.’
As expected, when the Gaucho’s picture was taken during Brazil’s match with Germany, his face was a very sad one — the epitome of Brazilian grief.
But then another picture of him emerged in which the Gaucho was seen offering his precious trophy to a German fan. According to witnesses, he told her something like, ‘Take it, you deserve it.’
True or not, it’s a great story, and very necessary. The beautiful game needs a little grace under re to remain beautiful.
Below are a few more pics of the Gaucho and his trophy,
Alone and cheerful . . . Among mixed friends, portraying mixed emotions . . .
And from eight years ago, when the moustache was less gray and the heart bouncier…
Smile Gaucho! Things aren’t as bad as they seem. One of the reasons Germany has a great team right now, playing the way they are, is that they learned from their mistakes, some of which have been huge. Thirteen years ago they got thrashed by England 5-1 thirteen years ago, an unprecedented and humiliating defeat that gave them the push to stop wallowing in complacency and get their act together over the years.
Let Brazil do the same. Here’s to a resurgent Seleção.
As for Brazil-the-country, it will take more than just a few football matches to get things on track.
From your deadpan Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.
PS – The World Cup is a little like the world economy. Its key players and challengers, as well as the dark horses, the minnows and the cinderella stories, they all compete in a game of global caliber, where the superpowers get the trophy and glory. Yet every now and then the spotlight falls on the ones who make the most out of any situation, especially those who pick themselves up after having stumbled, reminding everyone that everyone can shine, if they put in the work.