15 July 2014

The Hunger Cup Games

I had already traveled at least 10 miles and I had no recollection that I had traveled that distance. "Wow, I'm already in Burbank?" Momentary lapse of memory, but now I was beginning to stop more abruptly, avoiding a fender bender on I-5. I was tense and still had a ways to get home. I started to worry, the longer I was on the road. I wondered, is anyone else having the same angst as I? I listened to the play by play on the radio and heard, "Here’s the shot… Germany scores!" I looked at the other drivers, and nope, I was the only goof tossing his hands in the air in frustration. I still had at least another 30 minutes until I could watch the rest of the game on TV. Safely, I might add…

USA lost the game against Germany, but passed onto the next round, thanks Portugal. For that, I'm going to eat some linguica as a sign of gratitude. It has been a month of insanity, both for fans and soccer haters alike, aka the World Cup. That day was the last day of qualifying matches. After that it was do or die. It's a short victory for teams who pass to the next round; they knowing the next game could send them home. Like the Hunger Games, you're happy that another tribute bit the dust, but that means you're probably next. The bright side of the Cup is that everyone returns to their "Districts." That is, unless FIFA decides to change the rules.

 Sports bring out a passion in people. But no fans are more passionate than futbol fans. Okay, there's baseball, basketball and football, but when we’re talking about a world championship, futbol is king. What about the Olympics? We have our athletes, and we do go nuts when we see them take the podium, or miss the gold by a tiny margin. But, futbol in my opinion is loved by the world as much as Coca-Cola... Yes, I went there. You can play it in any place and in any conditions. All you need is your feet and a ball. Just about every kid wishes he could become the next Pele or Messi. Of course there are rivalries between each beloved Club or National team, but it's hashed out on the pitch. Personally, I'd prefer that we solve world conflicts in a futbol stadium, but if that were the case, I don't think that the USA would be where it is. 


This is Nationalism in the modern world, at least a less violent version of it. We tend to get rowdy, loud, and testy, but in comparison to the nationalism that led to both world wars, it's mild by a long shot.  But there are dark stains in even futbol’s past, which have left scars in the psyche of many fans and players alike. The Maracanazo of 1950 is the bane of Brazil's futbol existence, and the old timers haven't forgotten about it. Brazil hosted the Cup, and with its proud futbol tradition and skills, was 90 minutes away from being first world champions. The anticipation ran high, and for a very good reason. For the world, it was a time to have nations battle it out, not with guns or bombs, but with a soccer ball. Twelve years after WWII, it was the first World Cup and people were ready to come together with joy. The Brazilian team was confident in their victory. City officials had already printed victory newspapers, and the head of FIFA had a speech prepared for their win. Though Uruguay was the Olympic soccer champion of 1924 and 1928, the Brazilians were unfazed. 

The Maracana stadium had all 200,000 seats filled; at the time it was the world’s largest. The second half was hopeful, as the host team led by one. That was soon gone, when the score was tied, they were on pins and needles. To the shock of the stadium and the country, Uruguay broke the tie, wining the match and Cup. Stunned silence engulfed the Maracana. Some reacted incredibly. One fan jumped from the balcony to his death, and three others died of heart attacks shortly after the whistle signaled the end of the game. Since this was the new age of television and radio, the entire country heard or watched the humiliating loss. The mayor, the team coach, the players, and especially the goal keeper, were the recipients of the nation’s ire. Moacir Barbosa (goal keeper) was practically a villain for failing his duty. At the end of his life he was still hoping for forgiveness from his countrymen: “Under Brazilian law, the maximum sentence is 30 years. But my imprisonment has been for 50 years.” (The Maracanazo)

The famous Pelé described when he saw his country suffer a great embarrassment and defeat in home territory. "I unfortunately remember everything… I was 9 or 10, and in those days we were told ‘boys and men don’t cry.’ In that day, I remember my father crying, and so did my friends. I asked what was wrong, and he said, ‘Brazil lost the Cup, we lost the World Cup.’ That is what was seared into my mind… I didn’t know at the time, but I told him, ‘No worries Papa, I’ll win the Cup for you!’ And at 17, I was in the national team and we won the Cup.” (Pelé, translated)

People were beside themselves. Others compared the loss to that of Hiroshima or JFK’s assassination. Needless to say, this year's results didn't help.

Not all World Cups have had these kinds of dark moments, showing humanity’s better side instead. One of the exciting things about these events is the host country's inaugural/closing ceremonies. Much like the Olympics, each reflect the essence, culture, music, and joy of being the center of the sports world for a month. In these ceremonies, there are sometimes moments of either humor or spectacular achievements. Poking fun at my beloved USA, there's the cringing shtick by Diana Ross. During the 1994 Cup her "penalty" shot, though terrible, was forgotten only because she isn't a professional soccer player… 

 Or was it?...

This year's Cup held in Brazil had a unique moment for one handicapped man: Juliana Pinto (Lee), a 29-year-old paraplegic, who trough advanced technology used an exo-suit for the opening kick. The team of doctors from the Walk Again Project, whose goal is to use technology to allow paraplegics to walk, wanted to use this incredibly popular event for this demonstration. With the Brazilian government’s help, they were able to show this scientific/medical breakthrough to the world (CBS News). I thought that was way better than having J-Lo sing afterwards, in my opinion.

 Now that zee Germans have won the title, you are free from the chaos, till it picks up again in Russia. But if you still cared about futbol about as much as you enjoy stepping barefoot over Legos, it's OK. I understand if you prefer golf, football, or hockey, but you're really missing out on a great time. I’m sure this guy will still be licking his wounds… 

"Something is missing..."

This and all my posts are made possible by the tremendous help from Miss Allison Pari, thank you.
Lee, Nicole . "Watch a paralyzed man in an exoskeleton open the World Cup." Engadget. AOL inc., 1 June 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://www.engadget.com/2014/06/12/paraplegic-exoskeleton-world-cup/>.

“The Maracanazo: Brazilian Tragedy and the 1950 World Cup,” Written by Matthew Schorr (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-2014/world-cup-2014-fan-guide/anglophone-version/the-1950-world-cup-brazilian-tragedy/ ‎(accessed on 04JUL14).

Pele. "El pronóstico de Pelé para la final del Mundial." Univision.com. Univision Sports, 1 June 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://puertorico.univision.com/pasaporte-al-mundial/videos/video/2014-06-18/pronostico-pele-copa-mundial>.

"World Cup 2014: First kick made by mind-controlled exoskeleton." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 12 June 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/world-cup-2014-first-kick-made-by-mind-controlled-exoskeleton/>.

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