The response to Brazil's defeat has been a surreal exploration of loss and tragedy

Football can be devastatingly cruel, but in reality it means almost nothing

Share

You have probably seen the pictures of Brazilians crying by now. From Tuesday night, the nation has been in mourning. But in retrospect, the mourning started well before the first of Germany's seven goals.

The Brazilian team came out onto the pitch with a Neymar, Jr jersey, and held it in stirring tribute. Neymar was absent, and his absence provoked grief. So this was the scene: a national team already grieving for a 22-year-old with a dodgy haircut and a broken vertebrae. Making a show of its grief. Unwittingly preparing for more.

I have a German friend. She texted me during the game. "I feel guilty. Because of the crying Brazilians." Germany hadn't even got to seven yet.

One of the peculiarities of sports is that playing well is really cruel. Matches are at their best when they are well-balanced. Blowouts in football are rare and when they come no one really seems to know how to react, emotionally. The players don't weep like they do after near defeats, and don't celebrate like they do after last-gasp, stoppage time winners. When the game isn't competitive, it's hard to stay that emotionally invested in it.

Fans don't know how to react either. It's hard to cheer for humiliation. But sport isn't set up to inspire pity. It's a bloodbath. It's tribal. You bray for your team and you jeer the opposition. But insults don't hurt like the fifth and sixth and seventh goals do.

In the stadium, it took the fans until half time to realise they should be booing. Then they chanted "Fred, take it up the ass." You're meant to chant that about the other team.

In bars across Brazil, confusion turned, darkly, to laughter. German passes were greeted with olés, German goals with cheers. Brazilians set off fireworks when Germany scored, because they'd bought them anyway, and wanted to set them off.

A Brazilian man with a fake World Cup trophy and a spectacular moustache was pictured looking desolate. He later handed his trophy to some German fans. "You deserve this now."

The man became a meme. The internet was awash with pictures of him and other grieving Brazilians. Rio's Christ the Redeemer was photoshopped into a celebrating Angela Merkel. A Vine of a Brazillian cocktail being smashed by a German beer stein went viral. The match was the most tweeted about thing on Twitter ever. Everyone had a joke to tell.

There is an element of gloating to this. People wanted Brazil to lose. They had been petulant and lucky and dirty and self-righteous, a school bully getting help from the headmaster to flush the smaller kids' heads in the toilet. And those smaller kids were so beautiful: aggressive, socialist Chile; celebratory Colombia. Perhaps this explains the jokes. Kick 'em while they're down.

The jokes are more though. Sport doesn't create a framework for processing humiliation. There is a void. There is a sense that, somehow, what happened needs to be explained. This much is clear from the Brazilian media, desperate for an explanation.

The jokes all focus on Brazil, not on Germany. It is Brazil's grief that can be laughed away. Without laughter, it hurts. With laughter, it can be endured.

There was one Brazilian man in the bar I watched the match in. When Oscar scored Brazil's goal, right at the death, he stood up and roared and the whole bar applauded him and laughed with him.

READ MORE
Why I'm leaving teaching today along with thousands of others
Kim Jon-un has the best PR team in the world

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to call someone stupid?

John Rentoul
High and mighty: Edinburgh Castle and city skyline  

i Editor's Letter: We're coming to Edinburgh

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?