Soccer Woes and Cheers
Dário Borim Jr
I love soccer. What’s the big deal? I know so many people do too, around the world, but I need to say it again, because the occasion calls for it. I will mention the final score, so do not read these notes, in case you have recorded and not seen yet the European Champions League match this afternoon between the giants Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, in Spain. It seems that after Brazil’s surreal 1 x 7 loss to Germany in the World Cup, in Belo Horizonte, nearly three years ago, huge defeats or huge wins are no longer that big of a deal. Soccer lovers still love picking on friends, though, when some shameful performances stain the image of their teams. It is true that Brazilians have experienced a bit of a revenge by grabbing the unprecedented Gold Medal while defeating the Germans in the last Olympics, in Rio.
Nonetheless, we remain the targets of some mockeries here and there. A few weeks ago, a fellow soccer-loving professor at UMass Dartmouth felt like mocking me. This time it was not a loss by Brazil. Brazil has actually bounced back and presently stands number one on the FIFA’s list of best national teams in the world. We are basically the first and only nation technically on the brink of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, to take place in Russia.
This time my colleague assumed that my European team was Barcelona, so he was up to a laughter on my account, because the Catalan team propelled by the magical offense trio from the Southern Cone of South America (Argentinean Messi, Brazilian Neymar, and Uruguayan Suárez) had surprisingly lost by 0 x 4 to Paris Saint-Germain, in France. Laughing, he asked me if I was upset. I asked why. He answered with a question: “Aren’t you a Barcelona fan?” I said no. He insisted, “don’t you root for Neymar? What is your team in Europe?” I replied that many European teams have one to five Brazilian players, and that I had no reason to root for Neymar in particular or any European team, since I have my own team in Brazil, Atlético Mineiro, aka Galo, and feel no affection or personal attachment to any European squad.
Honestly, if I root at all, I prefer wishing the best to the underdogs, not the powerhouses like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea or Real Madrid. Indeed, my usual non-alliance frees me to enjoy soccer as art, for art’s sake. I do not suffer anxieties watching those games, unlike the way I root for my squad from Belo Horizonte.
I asked my friend, who is a native from Jamaica, what his favorite team was. He told me it was Arsenal, one of the most successful teams in the United Kingdom. In that European tournament, teams play once home and once away. The combination of both scores determines who advances to the next playoff phase and who falls through the cracks.
Well, well: the world of soccer has its myriad ironies, sometimes, multiples “revenges” after one single loss. This time around, there were three “soft revenges” to my friend’s mockery. Yes, soft, because my team and my loyalty were not the target, even though my colleague had poked me, as if he had something to bug me for. Just a couple of days after that short chat, my colleague’s team lost to Bayern Munich by 1 x 5 in Germany, the same difference of goals between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
I would have joked about it, had I seen my colleague after that game. In fact, I have not seen him yet. It will be a cheerful occasion for me, because, if Arsenal already lost “big” in that first game, it also lost the second match, by the same shameful score, just a bit worse: at home, in front of its own fans. Now, to round this up, “my” European team executed a sort of miracle: Barcelona demolished Paris Saint-Germain, 6 x 1, in Spain. I know, I know: it’s just a game! But how fun it is to come around after an unforgettable debacle. Brazil’s national team reawakening did not solve the country’s real problems, and there was no panacea this afternoon in Barcelona, but life does go on now a bit brighter and pleasantly more cheerful.