Three days on and the images from Belo Horizonte that stick in the mind are not those of David Luiz’s Sideshow Bob- standing-on-a-rake routine, nor Germany’s seven wonders, but instead it’s the youngsters and grown men crying in the stands.
It’s actually been a World Cup peppered with shots of supporters taking in games in stadia around Brazil and even in this seemingly innocent pursuit it has been easy to be cynical.
A high proportion of these seem to have focused on the sort of stunningly attractive women you would expect to see wearing the latest season’s styles on a catwalk in Milan rather than a knock-off yellow and green t-shirt with bad stitching in Fortaleza or Recife, but there has, too, been a preponderance of fans clutching those horrible plastic beer glasses with the markings of a well-known brewing company emblazoned around them.
If there is any one item that will sum up the cattle-mart nature of attending a modern sports, or music, event in the early 21st century in the dim and distant future it will be this. You pay over the odds for the only brand of beer available in the entire ground in the knowledge that the risible attempt at a head will dissolve like Brazil’s defensive line by the time you regain your seat. Turns out, in fact, the reason for this is that the gas bubbles in beer escape through teeny tiny gaps in the plastic.
This column can impart this information, not because of a knack for science that couldn’t even pass a test on the various parts of a plant or animal cell in school, but because Professor Shane Bergin of Trinity College Dublin told a room full of us as much at a lecture organised by AMBER, the materials science centre based at Trinity College Dublin, on Tuesday night. Much of it, to be blunt, was lost on this lemon. Like the last of the four lectures, for instance, which discussed injuries and tissue regeneration and coughed up phrases like autologous chondrocyte implantation.
Other nuggets perplexed, too. Like the factoid about how the centre of gravity among high jumpers who used the old scissor kick before the Fosbury Flop actually remained below the bar even as their entire body was in the process of flying over it. Eh? There were other neat tricks, too, like Prof Bergin’s ability to use the phrase ‘Stone Age’ when describing a picture of Packie Bonner’s save from Daniel Timofte in 1990 and for it not to be in reference to Big Jack’s agricultural approach to football.
Looking back, it was an eminently fitting manner in which to spend the hours leading up to that night’s first World Cup semi-final when Germany’s hard-headed, scientific approach to the business of winning games — one restarted with a systematic overhaul of the sport in the country on the back of a dismal showing at Euro 2000 — triumphed over the hysterical, quasi-religious cult that grew around the stricken Neymar and on which Brazil relied on for inspiration before their historic downfall.
Much has been made of the manner of Brazil’s epic fail: the chronic defending, the dependency on one 22-year-old, the absence of anyone else in the form of a creative midfielder or half-decent striker and the brutish and joyless approach adopted by Luis Felipe Scolari. Yet this concept of treating football as some sort of religious pageant helped convince a country of 200million people none of that mattered, that it would be all right on the night.
That link between religion and the Selecao is nothing new. In 1994, for instance, Romario remarked that God had created him with the singular purpose of making people happy through his goals. Four years later and goalkeeper Taffarel deflected the considerable amount of praise he was earning for a string of saves throughout Brazil’s campaign in France by remarking that it was not him making those saves but The Man Himself.
There’s nothing wrong with belief, and that conviction that Brazil were God’s chosen people when it came to football was fine when they were producing players like Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho in a quantity far greater than they are now, but there is a well-known saying about how God helps those who help themselves. As the Germans have, for example.
“Football is evolving in the whole world,” the Brazilian full-back Dani Alves told reporters in the mixed zone after last Tuesday’s epochal events. “Look at Costa Rica, at Chile. We are the country of football but we are not the owners of football.” What Germany achieved this week was beautiful, but it was beauty engineered in labs, boardrooms and training pitches.
Romantic it may not be, but it’s bloody effective.
It’s time for Brazil to get real.
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