FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Brazil Lost the World Cup

by

When asked in 1998 who would win that year’s soccer World Cup being played in France, Diego Maradona responded: “Countries organize the World Cup to win it,” thus suggesting that France would be the winner. And it was. The same thing could be said today for this year’s World Cup in Brazil. For most people that country is favored to win the competition. Except…

The year is 1950, when the fourth FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup was held in Brazil from 24 June to 16 July. Scheduled to play against Mexico, Switzerland and Yugoslavia, Brazil beat Mexico 4-0, thrashed Sweden 7-1, and Spain 6-1, to become finalist for its group.

Uruguay had a difficult match with Spain, finally ending in a 2-2 draw after lagging 2 to 1. Afterwards Uruguay beat Sweden 3-2, the winning goal coming just minutes before the end of the match. The match between a splendidly performing Brazil and an unconvincing Uruguay would decide the world title. The latter, one point behind Brazil, had to win to become world champion, while its rival only needed a draw to claim the title.

There was enormous interest in the outcome despite the consensus from sports journalists and the public that Brazil would be the champion. After all, the Brazilian team had won its previous games easily while Uruguay merely reached a draw with Spain and won an agonizing match against Sweden. A comparison of their previous performances left little doubt of the final result.

Rio de Janeiro was a beehive on July 16, 1950. An improvised carnival was ready to celebrate Brazil’s triumph over Uruguay. Brazilians filled the newly built Maracanã stadium to capacity. Although the official count was a world-record 173,850, unofficial estimates were close to 210,000. Only 100 Uruguayans were present at the game.

The daily newspaper O Mundo printed a special edition with a photograph of the Brazil team captioned, “These are the world champions”. Jules Rimet, former FIFA president and originator of the World Cup, had prepared a speech in Portuguese to congratulate the winners, expected to be the Brazilians. The Brazilian Football Confederation had imprinted 22 gold medals with the names of its players. A song entitled “Brasil os vencedores” (“Brazil the Victors”) was composed days before the final game.

Before the game, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Ângelo Mendes de Moraes, addressed the crowd with words intended for the Brazilian players, “You, players, who in less than a few hours will be hailed as champions by millions of compatriots! You have no rivals in the entire hemisphere! You who will overcome any other competitor! You, I already salute as conquerors!”

With the Brazilian teammates and public anticipating victory, Uruguay’s coach Juan Lopez told his players that the best way to play against the powerful Brazilian team was to play defensively and try not to let them score too many goals. Outside the locker room, Uruguayan captain Obdulio Varela, nicknamed “El Negro Jefe” (The Black Chief”), told  his players, “Juan is a good man, but he is dead wrong,” adding, “Boys, outsiders don’t play. Let the show begin”. And with these memorable last words the players went into the field.

The first half of the game ended 0-0. Two minutes after the start of the second half Brazil scored the first goal. Brazilians were delirious and the Maracanã stadium shook as people jumped and shouted at the top of their lungs. Brazil was a feast.

After the goal, Varela took the ball and slowly, very slowly, walked towards George Reader, the British referee and, speaking to him in Spanish, questioned the validity of the goal. He spoke at length, forcing the referee to bring out an interpreter. The game was suspended while the talk was taking place. The Brazilian spectators were furious. This was supposed to be a party! Why was this guy talking so long to the referee! One Brazilian player spat on Varela but he remained undaunted.

Afterwards Varela would declare that his was a carefully thought-out strategy aimed at cooling down the crowd. Mission accomplished, he addressed his teammates: “Let’s go, boys, now is the time to win.”  The Uruguayan players, suddenly energized by Varela’s words, felt they could deal with the Brazilian Goliath.

Twenty-one minutes into the second half Uruguay evened the score. Speeding on the right, Alcides Ghiggia crossed a low pass for Juan Schiaffino to score. Maracanã, which until then had been a party became silent, a silence “which terrified our players,” declared later Brazilian coach Flavio Costa.

A draw would have crowned the Brazilians, but there was another surprise in store for them. Ghiggia exchanged passes with Julio Perez. Ghiggia continued running and sent a deadly shot scoring the second goal with only 11 minutes to end the game. The inconceivable had happened. Brazil had lost the game and Uruguay became the world champion.

The loss of the World Cup had a devastating effect on Brazilians. There were dozens of suicides and many nervous breakdowns. Rio de Janeiro, which was all samba before the game, became as silent as an abandoned country church.

Years later Varela would recall, “There was such sadness among the fans that I decided to go and have drinks with them. I thought the Brazilians were going to kill me when they realized who I was. But I figured that if I had to die that evening it would be my fate. Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. They congratulated me and we had quite a few drinks together.”

The following day Varela did not allow any photographs of him and refused to join in the celebrations saying, “My heart goes to people who suffer.” Upon their return, the Uruguayans were met by an ecstatic country. Everybody was exultant except one person: Obdulio Varela, the man who made the Brazilians sad.

Dr. César Chelala is a New York writer from Argentina and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

 

 

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail