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Postcard from Lisboa: The World Cup Wrecks Brazil. A futebol game was also lost

The Brazilian seleção collapsed in the World Cup under the weight of a nation's insuperable expectation. Drubbed by Germany 7-1, the semi-final game was the coup de grace for the host South American country, providing a perfect footnote to the end of the global economic, political, media and marketing circus that has been the 2014 Mundial. After everything Brazilians have been put through by the big money players and urban planners as a result of this World Cup, what a way to go out, in the 61st game of the final phase with all of those goals rolling in one after the other. Although in the team's defense, I think Brazil still would still have made it a game if either star Neymar had not been out after being injured with a broken back in the previous match or if captain Thiago SIlva had not been suspended for the game. Between the pressure, the lack of personnel and unfortunately catching a semi-flawed and inconsistent German team when they were absolutely clicking, it was all too much for Brazil to overcome.

With many Brazilian migrants in Portugal and Portugal's own unique relationship to Brazil, it is always fun to watch Brazil's international games as they are watched in Lisbon. I saw the semi-final on an esplanada patio among a bar crowd that was pretty mixed between Germans, Brazilians and Portuguese. The mood was surprisingly subdued before the kick off, although a woman with a Brazil flag painted across her face spat nervously into a bra-vuvuzela from time to time as various cohorts of Bavarian tourists searching for scarce seats had to be politely ushered away from standing in front of the other spectators while waiting for something to open up.

Brazil came to play, didn't they? and then like that, German goal one, two, goal number three, and after the fourth German goal went into the net, the bra-vuvuzela woman and her friend burst from a crowd of yellow shirts inside the bar and ran out the door to the patio. In an unhinged outburst of weeping yawps, one of them threw her mostly full pint glass of beer across the street, as they both scrambled teary-eyed away from the bar toward the Cais do Sodré praça—an adrenaline rushed flight from the scene of the mauling. All of us on the patio, independent of our team, were left looking at each other much like the Brazilian players on the field—still trying to figure out what was going on long after it had already happened.

As the shock was wearing off, a group of four or five sarcastic Brazilian fans behind us broke into an a capella version of the 1939 Ary Barroso classic, Aquarela do Brazil, sung with a rapturous mock zeal....

Brah--ZiiiiiiLL, Brah-Ziiiiiiil, Brah--ZiiiiiiLL, Brah-Ziiiiiiil.....

ba da da da-da da da da daaaaaaaaah

I joined them on a later chorus and sang along. Between hangman's humor and crying pathos, it was a fine public communal catharsis, helpful for any fan of the World Cup who has been pained by all of the problems attendant in putting on a large scale global event of this kind. The tournament was anticipated with great excitement, but Brazil has not been celebrating with characteristic enthusiasm, as the country's hosting of the Copa has revealed unapologetic corruption at the top-levels of FIFA management, gross governmental financial waste, and human rights abuses as a result of displacements and deaths of workers during stadium and infrastructural construction. Here, in soccer-mad Portugal, there just wasn't a lot of feelink as they say in criolo, for the Mundial this year, and that was even before Portugal lost their first game 4-0, an earlier multi-goal victim of Die Mannschaft.

But as long as the Brazilian team was still in the tournament it has been easier to avoid directly confronting the turmoil in Brazil as a result of political and economic controversies. How does anyone enjoy the games when the Copa is responsible for so many social and economic problems—in which all spectators are more or less complicit just through our attention to the spectacle. And enjoying the games less than we usually do is a strategy to assuage the conscience, it is not a solution to issues of gross international malfeasance and abuses of power. The events are sold by organizers as a way to promote infrastructure and improve local economie. The result in actuality is that infrastructure that is designed for the temporary increase of mass tourism has both direct and indirect deleterious effects. Poorer neighborhoods are destroyed or transformed to outprice former residents, increasing the displacement of marginalized populations. The financial and time pressures on construction projects can promote poor workmanship and increase the exploitation of workers. This is as true for a World Cup as it is an Olympics, or a World Exposition. How the fiasco in Brazil will effect preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where scores of migrant workers have already died in reprehensible working conditions, remains to be seen. And as Brazil continues to prepare for the upcoming Olympic games, these problems will only advance.

By the time the lamentations of the two Brazilian women had abated and they composed themselves enough to return back to the bar from the praça, Germany's Sami Khedira had already scored the fifth goal. After a hug from a friend inside, one of the women looked up to see the new score. Staring blankly for a beat, she was sent running back to the patio, although her grief was more subdued this time. She just stood there next to the big screen TV in front of the crowd, as we watched her quietly sobbing.

While the tears fell, the Brazilian table behind us returned to singing their gleeful mock chorus of Aquarela again, and this time people on the patio joined in too.

Brah--ZiiiiiiLL, Brah-Ziiiiiiil, Brah--ZiiiiiiLL, Brah-Ziiiiiiil.....

ba da da da-da da da da daaaaaaaaah

Let's all keep on singing until the Rio Olympics in 2016 when we do it all over again.


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