The excitement and buzz in the air on the streets of Rio when Brazil beat Cameroon 4-1 was immense. Now, after being pulled apart in the semi-finals against Germany, with an unbelievable score of 7-1, what would the atmosphere in the host country be like?
Initially, the football and 2014 World Cup hadn’t been the reason I’d booked my holiday to Brazil, but it soon became a big part of why I’d visit this amazing country again. The spirit of the people and the culture is infectious. But just as they are elated and joyful on a win, so too can they be ‘humiliated, humbled and torn apart’, as one BBC commentator put it after Germany scored their fifth goal before half time!
During the tournament in Brazil, when they were still very much in the game, that South American passion for the sport shone through; boys were playing with their fathers in their back yards, girls were giving football a go and tourists were joining in spontaneous games with locals, striking up conversation and camaraderie. That might be why there were so many tears in Belo Horizonte last night. Victory meant more to them than just winning – football had become an escape from poverty and a means of bringing a mammoth nation together, despite adversity and dissent.
And, perhaps the best thing Brazil can take away from such a big blow, is that, the game has attracted the world to a country which has yes, learnt humility on their home turf, but their football team has also represented a nation which was so alive with hope and excitement only days ago, and which now must reflect on the lessons to be learnt from such a defeat. Brazil should not be punished now, but should find resolve in its spirit. Don’t we all suffer massive defeats in life? And often there is always a lesson to be learnt?
There would be little victory in picking apart the mistakes of the players and coaches or reasoning a shocking scoreline down to missing men. True, Brazilian striker Neymar is received as a God-like figure in Brazil; the youthful footballer will probably remain a national boy wonder and Thiago Silva will still have his face graffitied all over the streets of Rio, and remain a national treasure, but my heart goes out to the other 11 men who had to battle through an overwhelming 90 minutes of shear pain and frustration – most of whom looked shell-shocked as they walked off the pitch deflated and desolated.
Despite disappointment that the hosts are now out, there remains something about the beauty of the game, the competition, the uniting of nations that was utterly attractive and soulful during the tournament, and I got the feeling that Brazil was just as spirited and colourful World Cup or no World Cup. I’ll probably remember the devastating score and loss for Brazil whenever anyone mentions the 2014 World Cup in years to come, but I’ll never forget the mental pictures stored away in my mind of their victorious celebrations after their match against Cameroon.
A sea of green, blue and yellow t-shirts displayed the Brazilian flag colours, as patriotic fans flocked to Copacabana beach to watch the epic game on the big screen. Strolling along, I couldn’t get Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ tune out of my head, as we zigzagged through the throng of party-goers attempting to find a free spot amongst the crowd. The sport had attracted thousands of fans to the waters edge to watch the teams battle it out. And, after a fighting fit Neymar, scored his first goal, the ocean of spectators went wild! Usually concerned with more feminine practices of yoga and meditation, my mind turned to the simple yet fascinating play of football and the thrilling match that was unfolding before my eyes. Fireworks lit the sky in the distance, the beating of drums sounded a base through the streets and the smell of the warm sweet sea air infused the senses. It dawned on me then, that Brazil, victorious or not, had heart and that would continue long after the game ended.
Beaten by the World Cup champions but not defeated in spirit!
Check out Rio in Rio documentary on Monday 10:35pm www.bbc.co.uk/