by Erin Weinberg
The statement “What a World Cup” has taken on a whole new meaning.
After close calls, last-minute goals, over times, penalty shots, red cards and injuries, we have the Brazil collapse. Since I arrived in Brazil for my second tour of duty this tournament, it has been a sea of green-and-clean clad, happy fans. Every store front, restaurant and hotel was draped in banners and flags. It was clear that the great feeling about the team’s continued advancement had helped quiet the protesters and loud voices of opposition. People were optimistic – and not just the fans. Yes, there were isolated protests during the first few weeks, but no more than you see in Times Square on any given weekend in New York. The love of the game and Brazilian pride had taken over and it was a great thing to see and be part of. As Americans, we root for our teams, wear our jerseys, celebrate victory and suffer defeat - but not the way Brazilians do. Soccer is a religion, simply put. When the national team plays, the country literally shuts down. Offices close, schools let out early and there is no apology for it. It’s the Brazilian way. So when Brazil took the field against Germany, the entire country was upbeat – almost euphoric – at the opportunity to play and vie for World Cup trophy on their home turf.
And then it happened…one goal for Germany…then two, three, and so on. The stadium, the fans…the entire country was devastated. The utter disbelief gave way to humiliation, which is a feeling that translates in any language, and Brazilians wore it on every face. It was painful to watch our Brazilian colleagues literally suffer as if they had been physically beaten-up. Grown men cried. The night was filled with firecrackers and people on the street, but more so to make their way home instead of celebrating with their friends and countrymen. There were some moments of violence – a Molotov cocktail thrown, stores broken into – but for the most part, people just wanted to suffer in peace
The next morning as I made my way to a meeting, it was noticeable how quiet the city of Rio was and how everyone who had been wearing their Brazil pride had put their shirts and flags away, at least until Saturday. They will suffer the pain of defeat for now and unfortunately carry the loss into all future World Cups given the unbelievable outcome...but what happens beyond is the question. Given their captain Thiago Silva and superstar Neymar Jr. were missing from the line-up, the country could have forgiven a 1-0 loss. But 7-1? No doubt there will be plenty of Brazilian fans in the stands on Saturday when Brazil plays the Netherlands for third place, but what is the long-term impact? It will reverberate into everything Brazil does in the foreseeable future – including the Presidential elections in October. This will unfortunately scar a country so passionate about football that it bleeds green and yellow. It will be the asterisk next to Brazil’s name whenever they talk about the 2014 World Cup Brazil. Ultimately, I know Brazilians will stand and support their team but when they get up off the floor is the question.