Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dazed and Confused: Brazil Comes Up Empty/USWNT Takes Home 3rd Gold Medal

It's past midnight, and I've spent the day a bit lost and confused. I drank too much wine, I talked too fast and didn't really listen to people. Or, I didn't talk much at all, and didn't listen to what others were saying. I just waited for a decent time to call it a night. Is 9:30pm respectable enough? Is that too early to call it a night so I can get the day over with?

Brazil lost to the US, by one unanswered goal scored by Carli Lloyd in extra time. I know the words on my passport should have had me rooting for the US, but I felt no joy at this victory, and did no more at the match's finish than turn off the television.

I agree with Brazilian fans Hugo & Cibele's take (see comments to my last entry) on today's match. The US played a strong game, a strategic game, and were tireless. The match looked like a replay of the loss to Germany in the World Cup final - the opposition's impenetrable defense, Hope Solo taking on Angerer's position as the unbeatable keeper, then the waiting game - you know that lone, textbook goal is coming somewhere in the last twenty minutes or so. And there it was - USA 1/Brazil 0.

It was a soulless match. I don't know the answer to the question these kinds of games provoke - because if they suck the joy out of the room, they do put silverware on the mantle.

What was it Eduardo Galeano said? The story of football is a voyage from 'beauty to duty' and is today played by 'functionaries' who 'specialize in avoiding defeat.'

I wanted Brazil to take home the medal. It would have made for a better story. But perhaps this desire is about more than wanting a certain team to win - perhaps it expresses a longing for a world in which the "beautiful losers" win.

I shouldn't be so romantic. When we see Brazil's national women's team get the material support they deserve, we'll see them winning these final matches. I just hope that Brazil's football association takes this defeat as an incentive to honor the skill and passion these women bring to the game, by putting their resources into their training and competition program, and by developing the talents of those girls inspired by them. I fear though that some may see in this a confirmation of their patriarchal ambivalence towards the very idea of "Pele in skirts."


  1. At this level, it all comes down to luck. Look at the teams that claim medals each year:

    2004 Olympics
    Gold - USA
    Silver - Brazil
    Bronze - Germany

    2007 World Cup
    Gold - Germany
    Silver - Brazil
    Bronze - USA

    2008 Olympics
    Gold - USA
    Silver - Brazil
    Bronze - Germany

    The difference between these three teams is measured differently on any given day. Brazil's team is among the best in the world, and whatever one game says, the top three are in a dead heat.

    But the game is about luck as much as skill. Galeano talks about players loving the ball, wanting it, but some days the ball just doesn't love you back. It hits the post and scorns you personally.

    Tough day for Brazil, but the US deserved to win as much as anyone. Every player works for it, but only some get it.

    I think this game is a disease.

  2. "I shouldn't be so romantic."

    Don't say that! Lord alone knows romance is a scarce enough commodity as it is. I hope the match has left only a temporary dent in your beliefs (your Beautiful Losers post is wonderful: "It's not that we don't care about winning - we just don't want to give up extra thing -the beauty, the sublimity - in order to win. It's just not worth it..." - that's Blanchflower-esque.)

  3. I didn't get a chance to see the game but it looks like Hope Solo played a nice game at keeper. Great teams always have a few chances and it sounds like even though Brazil dominated play they couldn't finish. They will one day and it will be sweet. Also note that none of the major women's tournaments have ever been played in South America while both Germany and the US have played multiple events in their home continent. China is a neutral site all you can do is tip your cap to team USA.

    Thanks for your great coverage. Book yourself a ticket to Germany for 2011!

  4. Hey, your blog is very entertaining and captivating! I had an idea that you might like, but I’d much rather discuss it over e-mail instead of posting it here. Send me an e-mail (my address is found in my profile) for more info.



  5. "I just hope that Brazil's football association takes this defeat as an incentive to honor the skill and passion these women bring to the game, by putting their resources into their training and competition program, and by developing the talents of those girls inspired by them."


    I need to say: I heartily desagree with you.

    The only good thing about Brasil´s defeat is that the female football will not be developed in this country. The chances to something like that happens were minimal. Now is zero. Everything will remains the same.

    We will not have an national championship. We will not have state championships too. The fans will not be interested, neither the
    sponsors. Without fans and sponsors the big clubs will not put any money on this.

    In the nexts tournaments our unemployed players will be still showing banners begging for support

    At least, I hope so.

    And, if we are lucky, the girl´s interests toward football will decrease and a lot of them will be leaving those "soccer´s schools",now looking for others sports than football.

    It´s make me happy.

    No, I´m not an chauvinist. I don´t have problems with women playing football.

    I just hope that the consequences of this misfortune will be Brasil continues revealing players like Pretinha and Cristiane. ( I don´t much care about Marta )

    No, I´m not crazy. Be patient, I will prove my point.

    You know, Brasil was second in the last 3 most important tournaments. But, while in USA, Germany, China, and others countries,there was milions of women playing soccer, here it was quite rare when these girls started to play.

    It´s contrary the logic, wich stands that is needed spread out the sporting practice in order to obtain quality and results.

    But are much more girls playing soccer in USA than in Brasil. The rate is more than 10.000 / 1.

    So, how they achieve such good results? How it was possible?

    Maybe there are in Brasil an kind of sport´s super-structure, hiper-professional, scientific, capable to increase theperformance of the few female players we have.

    No, there are no structure at all.

    Maybe they are super-athlets! But... no, the others teams are even more phisicals.

    Maybe they are just lucky. Maybe... but, 3 times lucky?

    There are other reason, feel free to take notes because i´m about to going reveal the secret. ( Of course, if you promise don´t tell )

    But... only in my next post...

  6. Friday, coming home, I saw all those little boys ( and some girls ) on the beach preparing for another day of class on a soccer´s
    school. Wearing uniformes, making exercises, half-hour warmings, training ( training, not playing ) while an severe adult exhorted them
    to be disciplined, giving instructions and orientations, acting at the same time as referee of the game.

    It´s made me think.

    I don´t remember to exist such thing like a "soccer´s school" when I was kid. In fact, in the old days, soccer was a strange kind of sport played on synthetic fields by the New York Cosmos and the idea of someone learn football on school would sounds as pure non sense.

    In my childhood I spend my days climbing trees, trhowing stones, hunting birds ( I regret about it ),flying paper kites,
    riding a bike and, of course, playing football on the streets, on vacant lots, on the beach, everywhere.

    In these days everyone played football and every street in the district has, at least, one boy who was extra-class. Some of my idols wasn´t professional stars but just boys like me. I remember João Caruso, who has incredible skill. His style was, in somehow, similar to Maradona´s style. But, unlike Maradona, João was ambidextrous. On futsal he was unmarkable, when you thought did you trap him on the edge of the court, he would put an foot right
    over the line. By doing this, it was as if his brain had mapped the space around and the exact limit between inside and outside, and at this point he no longer needed to look to the ball. He would driblle you and your fellow, inventending spaces where before they doesen´t exists. Sometimes he would made the ball runs straightly over the line, as if it was a kind of track. So amazing that it´s remains among the more vivids memories from my childhood.And there was Helinho too, he had an nice move. He gave you an "balão" rising the ball with his heel. With heel, not with the intern side of the foot, as you see the "pros" doing. No, it´s rude. The ball should pass right over your own head. The movement, when made in a right way, is so fluid that your adversary even has a reaction.

    I tried it during years, few times I succeed and none of them in a game. The only professional player who I saw carry out this trick correctly was Edu ( teamate of Pelé, on Santos ) in an old video. Unfortunnaly I couldn´t found this old video on Youtube but here you can see Robinho doing it in a WRONG way.

    In these days the fields of "varzea" ( I can´t found this word in my on-line dicitionary ), where so many brazilian players were forged, no longer exists. But there was a field in a "favela" nearby my house and we made friends there, in order we could play, sometimes, in a real field. Favela was a dangerous place but not too danqerous as they are nowadays. There we met many others talented boys.

    So, When I saw Blanco, traping the ball between his legs and start jumping awkwardly like an pregnant kangaroo,and all the tv´s over the world showing it as example of skill and technic, I knew, those journalists and soccer experts never kicks a single ball when they was kids. So ugly, so rude, so pathetic. How he is not ashamed to do that in a World Cup´s game? If Blanco made such thing in my neighbourhood he would became a joke. It´s for sure.

    That´s why when Cristiane refused to call her goal as "bicycle" it has a meaning for me. It means Cristiane luckily ever didn´t attend a soccer school.

    This formal system, financed by undertakers, designed to form competitive players to sold them to the european market, are killing the football´s brazilian culture.

    Another kinds of football´s culture still survive in Africa and Argentina. There aren´t soccer´s schools in Africa or Argentina.


    When Robinho was in inferior categories everytime he tried something diferent his coach yelled at him: "Pára de palhaçada, Robinho!". I don´t know how to translate it but is something like "Don´t be a clown!". For miracle Robinho never heard the screams - as we can see in this video
    and he is still a clown, for the pleasure and amusement of football´s fans all over the world.

    When I watch those american movies there are kids playing soccer. The son are wearing a new and perfectly clean uniforme and mon give him a ride to the
    training. On sunday. The coach is an middle-aged man Who learned about soccer in a textbook and see this game as war and act like an general to the kids. Mon watch the game and cheer on your son. Then I think to myself: "That people never will become good at it."

    Becuase although the man is an mixed result of the genetic and environment there aren´t genetic talent able to survive such environmental opression. It seems like, there, no one realizes that creativity and spontaneity and fun invariably come along.They doesen´t understand... football is not olympic gymnastic.

    But, suddenly, we are becoming "americans" too. The same values, the same mentality, pervading all aspects of the society. The globalized world is an monochromic world.

    On football´s world Brasil are still revealing some interesting players on futsal and beach soccer. But just because it is not a globalized trade of millions. Yet.

    By the way... "Beach Soccer"?! What is this?

    Why "beach soccer world cup" if it´s took place in Marseille/France? Why "beach soccer" if the country who invented the futebol de praia don´t speak English? Why "beach soccer" if Brasil won 13 of 15 Beach Soccer World Cups? Why "beach soccer" if the only country where people ( few peoples ) play beach soccer even can´t classify their team for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup? I´ts perfectally normal for an american to say "beach soccer", but I don´t understand why O Globo, a newspaper from Rio de Janeiro, write headlines like "Brasil vence mundial de Beach Soccer". Yes, Brasil has a Beach Soccer National Association, but no one can explain why it´s called "Confederação Brasileira de Beach Soccer".

    In the same way we invented the futebol de salão. We invented the ball, the court, the rules, but now FIFA says it´s no more futebol de salão. Now we say futsal. Because the rest of the world can´t spell "futebol de salão". Ok, I can´t spell "düsenflugzeug" too. But I don´t expect the germans banish this word from their
    lexicon just for this reason.

    Don´t get me wrong. I´m not a nationalist. I´m not an xenophobe. Nationalism is a disease, but culture is for a people what the personality is for a person. A people without their culture is like a person without personality: empty. And we are losing our personality.

    Well... back to the subject...

    Here is the secret wich I promissed to unveil: football do not demand "resources", neither "training programs" or blood "soccer´s schools". Develop the talents of young girls is not a task to C.B.F. As I said, it´s not olimpic gimnastic. We just need healthy and happy lifes, healthy cities, safe, with a lot of empty spaces, where kids of both sexes can play free and unconcerned and, if possible, in touch with the nature.

    Your intentions are kind but the result is evil. Put one million girls on "training programs" into soccer´s schools and you will get
    one million boring robots at the end of the process. Nor a single Cristiane.

    Let them remains as "beautifull losers". Please, don´t wish to turn our team into another functionarie´s team.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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