“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”
“I have nothing to say¨ lamented Ary Barroso, Brazil’s most popular commentator of the 1950′s.
The late shocker left everyone incredulous. Brazil had already been crowned as World Cup champions before the whistle signalled the start of the match.
Dreams were destroyed when Uruguayan winger Ghiggia fired a shot that beat Brazilian goalkeeper Barbosa at his near post, bringing the score to 2-1, and sealing the victory for his countrymen on Brazilian soil in July of 1950.
It is said that no psychologist, sociologist or journalist could ever perfectly encapsulate the effect that took hold of Brazil that day. Ghiggia himself exclaimed that,
¨only three people have, with just one motion, silenced the Maracana: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and me¨
Alex Bellos, in his novel ¨Futebol: A Way of Life¨ further analyzes the effect of ¨The Fateful Final¨ on Brazilian social history.
¨Brazilians have a predisposition for colourful melodrama. On this occasion their histrionics were, if not excusable, at least understandable. This final is the only time before or since – that a clear favourite playing in front of a home crowd has lost a World Cup final. England, West Germany, Argentina, and France have all won World Cups in their own countries. Brazil remain the only world champions never to have won as hosts.¨
Joao Luiz, a journalist, who considers July 16th 1950 to be a heartbreaking tragedy, went as far as attempting to create an alternative ending. He edited footage from the match, making it look as if Ghiggia’s shot hit the post. The next shot is of the goalkeeper clearing the ball – footage Luiz found from a previous match.
At the heart of this sporting catastrophy lies Moacir Barbosa, the national scapegoat forever branded by the late winner.
To say that Barbosa was blamed for the loss is an understatement, he was completely chewed-up by journalists and fans-alike. He was never allowed to forget 1950.
When Dida was chosen as the Selecção’s first pick, the media remarked that it was the first time a black goalkeeper was once again trusted after the ¨maracanazo¨ of July 16th.
In fact, Brazil’s scapegoats were all black, as Bellos writes in his novel,
¨Barbosa, Bigode, and the left back, Juvenal, were black – reigniting theories that Brazil’s racial mixture was the cause of a national lack of character¨
Barbosa quickly realized that his status as the ¨bad-omen¨ was immortal when he was banned from all training sessions due to the superstition that he would bring bad luck to his fellow countrymen.
¨Under Brazilian law, the maximum sentence is thirty years, but my imprisonment has been for fifty.¨
Roberto Muylaert, a Brazilian journalist who wrote Barbosa’s biography in his book titled, ¨Um Gol Silencia O Brasil¨ alleges that Barbosa eventually found himself a new job, ironically, as the supervisor of the Maracana stadium. The stadium offered the stigmatized keeper the goal-post of the 1950 final as somewhat of a haunting-souvenir.
As a part of a strange-purification ritual, Barbosa invited his friends over for a churrasco (a Brazilian style BBQ). The smoke fumes, hissing from burning paint, were quickly identified as everyone realized he was burning the posts in an attempt to clean the skeletons out of his closet.
Before dying virtually penniless in the spring of 2000, he was in a shop, when a woman pointed at Barbosa and told her son,
¨Look, there. It’s the man who made Brazil cry.¨
The summer of 2014 will bring the FIFA World Cup back to the greatest footballing nation in the world, for the first time since the fateful final in 1950.
Perhaps the likes of Neymar and company can put the tortured soul of Moacir Barbosa to rest – and finally give him the happy ending that was never meant to be.