The biggest show on earth is nearing the end, with the realisation that the unexpected humiliation of the hosts has added a surprise element. Brazil’s loss to Germany in the first semi-final has heightened the sense of anticipation in the tournament, which keeps fans across the world on their couches through the month it is played. The tournament had not started before it got mired in political wrangling with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff under a cloud of protests and controversies. Brazilians fed up with joblessness and failing infrastructure would have none of the government spending billions on an event that required costly stadiums and glitzy facilities for visitors.
The underlying truth of the tournament was that it vindicated Rousseff, who had always defended the decision to host the World Cup. However, the tide changed after the first semi-final. The former guerrilla leader, who launched her presidential campaign during the World Cup, probably trying to cash in on the goodwill and cheer in the country brought about by the event, will start being wary about the success of her drive. Rousseff was upbeat about the prospects of Brazil organising the Cup, and made no secret of that by baulking at her critics.
That sport can also tread on political territory is slowly becoming clear with national federations often caught in tangles involving the high and mighty from the ruling dispensation. In Brazil, football has now been caught in this mire not because of graft or the wrongdoings of politicians but because Rousseff has been unlucky to be caught on the wrong foot.
Brazil’s rout at the hands of Germany certainly didn’t happen because of their stars, but because the team didn’t play well, letting Germans do the dishonour on home territory. Football is followed like religion in South American countries, more so in Brazil that has produced the likes of Pele. A joke about Pele went viral on social media after Brazil’s loss on Tuesday. In the spoof, the former Brazilian football star is seen disowning his country: “Brazil…? No, my brother, I’m from Ghana.”
When the Brazilians lost, it was no ordinary defeat—it was the vanquishing of national pride. Fans wept and wailed in the stadium as the country was bruised. And also was wounded that aspiration which allows thousands to play a form of The Beautiful Game in rugged lanes and sloshy grounds.
Neymar’s absence due to a serious injury made a difference in performance, but the margin of German victory made sure it could be attributed to lack of commitment by team members exacerbated by an inability to deal with psychological pressure on home turf.
The fear among the Brazilian ruling class that all this is going to show at the hustings is not entirely unfounded. The Brazilian team has dealt a blow not only to its aspirations but also to the political ambitions of the ruling dispensation.