This week’s Throwback Thursday looks back at the man who was blamed for Brazil’s defeat at the 1950 World Cup and who ultimately spent the rest of his life as a pariah.
A lot has been said, down the years, about the pressure Brazilian people put on their sport stars to succeed, and how they treat them if they fail to meet their expectations. This is particularly true when it comes to the Brazilian national football team.
The World Cup just gone pays testament to this. Whether the team’s performance was due to the overwhelming pressure put on them at a home World Cup, or the lack of real quality in the team is a matter of opinion. However, it isn’t the first time we’ve experienced this…
When the British Empire introduced football to Brazil in 1894, they couldn’t have known how it would affect the country. It became more of a religion than just a mere game.
It had such a profound affect that FIFA felt obliged to award the country the 1950 World Cup, just 56 years later.
FIFA had changed the format for this World Cup, replacing the knockout rounds with two group phases. This led to the final game being contested by Brazil and Uruguay, with a draw enough to secure victory for Brazil.
The Brazilian people became so confident their own stylish brand of football would lead them to victory that they celebrated before the final game had even taken place.
The Brazilian confidence was partly derived from their performances in the previous games. The free scoring form of Ademir, already with eight goals in the tournament, and the solidity of Moacir Barbosa in goal particularly stood out.
Moacir Barbosa Nascimento was born on the 27th of March 1921 in Campinas, Brazil. He spent most of his career with Vasco da Gama and was regarded as one of the best keepers in the world during the 40’s and 50’s.
His life was to change however, when he was accused, by an entire nation, of costing them their first World Cup.
The Maracanã was bustling, with over 200,000 expectant Brazilians crammed inside. When Brazil scored the first goal early in the second half, the Brazilians’ football temple erupted.
Their joy was short-lived and soon turned to panic when Uruguay equalised in the 66th minute.
Then, the inevitable happened with 11 minutes remaining. Alcides Ghiggia won it for Uruguay, with what was described by Brazilians as a ‘soft’ shot.
“Football’s shrine was as quiet as a tomb. Only three people have, with just one motion, silenced the Maracanã: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and me.” – Alcides Ghiggia
The defeat was so devastating for the Brazilian people that three of them suffered heart attacks and one of them even took his own life.
FIFA President Jules Rimet had to present the trophy to Uruguay without an award ceremony, as no speech had been prepared for a Uruguay victory.
The Brazilian fans started rioting outside the stadium and it is rumoured the Brazilian coach disguised himself as a nanny to escape. The game would become known as the ‘Maracanazo’ the world over.
The 1950 World Cup may have cost Brazil a trophy but it cost Barbosa his life.
“The maximum punishment in Brazil is 30 years imprisonment, but I have been paying, for something I am not even responsible for, by now, for 50 years” – Moacir Barbosa
To rub salt into the wound, Barbosa was presented with the wooden goalposts from the Maracanã. Refusing to be bullied, he started a BBQ with the posts and invited the friends who had stood by him.
He was talked about and pointed at by people on the streets. 20 years on, he was walking by a woman and her child when he overheard the woman saying: ‘Look at him. He was the man who made all of Brazil cry’.
Barbosa was an easy target considering he was black in a racially divided country. It was 50 years before another black player would play in goal for Brazil.
He was never to play for his country again and even struggled to land coaching roles because he was still so reviled.
An attempt to meet Brazilian goalkeeper Cláudio Taffarel before a qualifying game against Uruguay in 1994 was rebuffed because they considered him to be a bad omen.
The man, who had a bubbly personality and was known for not wearing gloves because he wanted to feel the ball touch his hands, was unfairly blamed and shunned until he died penniless at the age of 79 in 2000. A death no good man deserves.
It was heart failure that took him from this world but if you listen to the right people, they will have you believe that a broken heart was the true cause.
Karl Graham, Pundit Arena.