i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it


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The Independent Online


Men wept without shame. Families clutched one another, wracked with sorrow. One little boy’s grief was broadcast around the globe. The origin  of their misery: a ‘mere’ football match. Few among the hundreds of  millions who watched the World Cup semi-final between Brazil and Germany will ever forget it. But i reader Susan Boldrini of Blackfield, Hampshire, writes: “While a humiliating result is hard for them to swallow, it is  only a sport and someone has to lose. The players will carry this with them for the rest of their lives, but I think it’s time we get things in perspective.” Susan quotes Boris Becker after his Wimbledon exit in 1987: “Nobody died. I just lost a tennis match.”

Such stoicism is not shared by my Brazilian editing colleagues at GloboEsporte (“The Disgrace of All Disgraces”) and Lance! (“The Biggest Shame in History”).

This was supposed to be the £7bn World Cup that helped to transform Brazil’s economy and public services, restored national esteem, united a divided and unequal populace of 200 million, and announced the country as a global power. Those goals were always optimistic, making success on the pitch ever more critical. Too much pressure on a small group of men of limited means. The Brazilian President, Dilma Rouseff, whose prestige is inseparable from the tournament, was subjected to lavatorial chanting at the match and she faces a hostile run-up to October’s election.

Some English will have taken a  little pleasure in another nation’s humbling by Die Nationalmannschaft. I loved it. Not the hosts’ humiliation, but the spectacle, the event. It will still be incredible in 50 years. This, and a thrilling tournament that has given joy and excitement to billions of people, is Brazil’s gift to the world.

Special mention to the hundreds of Brazilian fans who waited for hours in pouring rain to give the victorious German team a heroes’ welcome. If I were them, I’d keep the carnival  partying for four more days.


Twitter.com: @olyduff