Monday, July 12, 2010

Each world cup has a mark

Each world cup enters history with a nickname, something it has been its most impressive characteristic, either good or bad, and that is usually reflected in the final game, that which decides the world champion.

In the U.S. 1994, for instance, the cup in which Brazil consecrated itself as the first ever 4-times champion, the world cup was known for its lack of effective soccer and of goals. So much that the gran-finale was decided in penalty kicks and the move that made Brazil champion was an anti-goal - Toto Schilacci, Italy's greatest hero, on the "Jesus vs. Buddha duel", kicked the ball out. Taffarel, the Brazilian goalie, had to do nothing but run for the hug of victory.

I was a child then. I had never seen my country, the country of soccer, win a world cup. For me, it was about time. It was celebrated just as my mom before me celebrated the bi-championship, and my grandma before her celebrated the first championship, and both of them celebrated the tri-championship. It was my turn! I was finally able to enter full Brazilian-hood by celebrating the tetra-world-championship.

But it was a sad victory nonetheless. On the day after I was faced with the sad reality spread out on news papers and TV: Brazil won indeed, legitimately, but we were really celebrating the victory of an ugly soccer. Not the beauty that had won the first 3 championships of my parents, not the beauty of the "lost generation of the 70's and 80's". We had won playing a new type of soccer, bred during the 90's, that was strictly made for winning games, without much concern for entertaining the fans or humiliating the adversary; without much concern for scoring as many goals as possible. The only thing wanted was to "get the darn job done."

France 1998, a new type of world cup - the sell-out. Brazil went all the way to the finals, to lose to the hosts... in a weird way. A very weird way indeed, that led to lawsuits and the likes. That world cup was the sole responsible for my falling out of love with soccer. A very bitter experience indeed, because up until that point soccer was directly linked to my brazilianhood. Being Brazilian meant being in love with soccer. I had to rediscover what it meant to say "I'm Brazilian." I was living in the U.S. then, which made things just a little bit more complicated. How do you try to figure out what it means to belong to a country living in another one?

Do I know what the two following world cups were famous for? Not a clue. I was too busy trying to figure out how to feel about the whole deal.

I do not know what Japan/South Korea 2002 was marked by. I was not a soccer lover then. But Brazil did take that one, giving my little brother the same status I once achieved - that of feeling fully Brazilian. I was happy for him. But I did not know how to feel about it myself.

In Germany 2006 I was in America again. And part of me wanted to follow it, and part of me wanted Brazil to win. But part of me also did not want to get hurt again. And it did. France. The same team that had defeated my homeland 8 years before. Undefeated had we gone for 8 years, leading millions to believe we could believe again, just to lose for the same team that had last defeated us. Nope, greater humiliation could not exist.

By then I was dating a guy who enjoyed soccer and that slowly led me into believing I could follow it again. Not with childish blind love anymore. I was a grown-up then. I could enjoy soccer and Brazilian-hood as a grown Brazilian woman - not too passionate, not indifferent either. Just with something irrational telling me Brazil will always be the best, and Argentina will always be the evil that must be stopped from ever winning another world cup.

Finally then, you ask, what has South Africa 2010 been marked by? something good or something bad?
Something bad. Something really bad. Africa 2010 has been stained by bad referee performance. Bad calls on game sequences, poor decisions on discipline management.
Has the final been stained by such? You bet it has. Players should have gotten red cards and be kicked out of the game, but were not. Players who faked injuries were rewarded not only on this game but in every other during the tournament.
The game was boring. Not because no one scored for 117 minutes, but because no one played soccer for 120 minutes!
The sequence that gave the Spaniards the goal to the championship was born from a bad call - the ref simply did not give the Dutch the corner kick they deserved. He gave ball possession to Spain who went ahead and scored.

Could the end result have been different had the ref given Holland their corner kick? We will now never know. There is no "what-if" in history. There is only "what-it-is". Good or Bad, it is what it is.

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