Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that. (Bill Shankly)
This I suspect is the overwhelming feeling in Brazil today. A performance almost on a par with Barnestoneworth United. (Eight One – Eight bloody One! – And even that were an own goal!) Brazil sadly lacked a Golden Gordon and were more Right Said Fred in a Bernard Cribbins sort of way.
The WC (down which Brazil were well and truly flushed) is a nightmare to watch in Hong Kong. You need to pay vast amounts of money to a bunch of licensed bandits called PCCW and have the resilience to stay up all night to watch in the hope that something interesting will happen. Most matches simply lack bite. Not enough to get your teeth into. So Mrs. Ha and I refused to stand and deliver and instead waited for last night. For it was the first free to air transmission. Starting at 4am. At 03.58 on the dot, the alarm went off, the TV went on and the doughnuts were unpacked. It started brightly enough.
Why didn’t they stop him kicking the goal? A fair question from Mrs. Ha as it went to 1-0. I had no rational explanation to offer. After 25 minutes Mrs. Ha asked another legitimate question. Are you sure Germany are not in the yellow shirts? Yes, I replied. The ones crying are the Brazilians. I thought Brazil were supposed to win, said Mrs. Ha. I was struggling to argue with that.
As goal number 7 went in an unpleasant thought struck me. I saw in my mind a headline from the Bild Zeitung [?] in April 1978. Es riecht nach Geld. (Literally: It smells of money). I had been in the Rheinstadion the previous afternoon and watched Borussia Dortmund lose 12-0 against Borussia Mönchengladbach. At the final whistle I banished that image and momentary thought. The humiliation was plain to see. Scolari was magnanimous in defeat, a true gentleman. Events such as these make or break a man. Scolari’s footballing genius may be tarnished but not his honour, I venture to say. Some of the younger players may be damaged beyond repair. It was sad to see small children crying, adults gasping for air, their joy draining away as their disbelief rose with the each ratcheting up of the footballing disaster. The tectonic plates in the Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte, had not so much shifted as rocked violently. The foundations of Brazilian football were subsiding faster than Rolf Harris’ record sales.
And so I reflect on Bill Shankly’s famous quote. Is it ‘just a game’ or is it more important than a matter of life and death? I suspect deep down Shanks was simply a great motivator. He wanted to win above all else. The difference today lies in the money. Soccer is big business. So important it has joined the ranks of the sports bedevilled with corruption. Success brings you everything. Failure reduces you to the bottom of the 4th column of the 3rd-from-the-back page. My club is facing a winding-up order. It may not exist soon. That’s pressure. Back on the dole for some of the players. I doubt if the players who lost 7-1 will be in the dole queue on Monday. If they are resilient the younger ones have plenty of time to redeem themselves. Some of us may not live long enough to see Brazil win another WC but maybe they will bounce back in 4 years time. This may be a colonic irrigation of a defeat, flushing out all the excesses that have masqueraded as talent.
Germany may or may not go on to win the final. Brazil has to play for its self-respect in the 3rd and 4th place decider. It will be character building. And probably there will be no Fred.
I finish with another Bill Shankly anecdote:
Of course I didn’t take my wife to see Rochdale as an anniversary present. It was her birthday and would I have got married during the football season? Anyway, it was Rochdale reserves.
and a prediction for tonight’s game, which Mrs. Ha and I will watch. Argentina 1- Holland 8. Don’t miss it.