Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hexa

Why do I support Brazil?

I think I have to go back nearly 30 years to the first football World Cup match I ever saw - in 1982. It was not a live match, for sure. It was a replay of a quarter-final match between Brazil and Italy. Before that, I had only heard of Pele and a few other players who were from the 1960s Brazil side - nothing to fall in love with the team. But this time, Brazil had a line of forwards that had flattened lesser teams in the earlier rounds.
The match was an eye-opener and I remember it better than the Spain-Switzerland match I watched last evening.
As I remember it, the match was played almost entirely in the Italian half with the trio of Zico, Socrates and Falcao literally besieging them. This could be a slightly exaggerated view because Italy scored twice and both times, Brazil equalised. And of course, a third goal was also scored (a hat-trick by Paolo Rossi).
What happened after that was my 20 minutes of epiphany.
The third Italian goal must have happened around 70 minutes or so. And after that, Italy just downed the shutters with 10 men in the defense and thwarted every Brazilian surge for twenty minutes, that alternately felt like an eternity and a flash.
As an eight-year old, I thought this was very unfair that a team would not want to score goals but only win. (Fallacy? You, bet!)
And I became a Brazil fan.

In 1986, they pretty much repeated their style by steam-rolling their Group and Second Round opponents and setting up a quarter-final clash with France. Again, they attacked and attacked till they threw it all away with a missed penalty from Zico and France won on penalties.
By this time, I started hating the European teams for having only defenders and goalkeepers.

After these two Cups, 1990 was a bit of a disaster when the coach (I forget the name now) tried to 'get the Cup' and not win. (The not-so-subtle difference is elaborated upon, here.)
1994 was a return of the prodigal as the forward line of Bebeto-Romario took them to their fourth Cup, of which I remember a stunning match against Netherlands where Brazil went 2-0 up, took it easy, took two goals in and then scored a third to win. The match was made famous by the dance of the three Brazilian forwards after the second goal, mimicking a baby-cradling to celebrate Bebeto's son, who was born the previous day.
1998 was the emergence of Ronaldo - who went on to become the highest scorer of the World Cups - and a heartbreaking loss to France in the finals.
For me, 2002 - though not a great performance by Brazilian standards - stood out because of one goal. Just one effing goal that stood for the victory of style and exuberance over safety and strategy.
2006 was bad - both from the style and result point of view - but I found another Brazilian.
Its strange but I think despite these five World Cups, the biggest reason for my Brazilian allegiance would still be that match against Italy where a 'defence machine' shut out great art.

Every World Cup, I shudder when I read about the Brazilian coach trying to 'adopt a defensive style of play', 'temper flair with solidity' and 'curbing natural instincts to become more effective'. These things are best suited for Humphrey Appleby and England. If I wanted to see solidity, I would go to see Germany. Defense is for the Italians.
But I am at the Brazil match to see the sorcerers in green-and-gold creates waves of attack.
That's why I wear full-sleeved-shirts to office (and a Germany match) and a Brazilian jersey to watch the Selecao.

So, why do I support Brazil?
Because they have always been everything that I ever wanted to be as a child.
As they try for their Sixth Cup - the Hexa - I can only hope that they never grow up.
After all, my son also has to feel proud when he wears the jersey that says 'Ronaldinho 10'.
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