At the Mineirão stadium, minutes after Germany hammered Brazil 7-1, I scroll my Twitter timeline and see people expecting riots, protests, defeat for president Dilma Rousseff in elections and even locals stopping the World Cup final from being played days later at the Maracanã stadium. Some of those comments are somewhat racist, as if Brazilians are shallow and would make big decisions based on a football match. But I didn’t even have time to get upset. Looking down my row in the press tribunes, a Brazilian couple takes pictures with a German fan as they show the tickets that put them in the Seleção disaster. Some laughter is heard. Of course not happy laughs, but laughs of people who had just seen their uncle do something bizarre at their wedding.
Perhaps Brazilians didn’t understand “the tragedy,” I thought. So I went back to Twitter. Jokes and jokes and more jokes about the national team. I get a text message from a friend in São Paulo that reads: “Just entered a bar with four Germans and they are embarrassed because we are making jokes with the Seleção, they are not.” Hours later I go to the Belo Horizonte bus terminal and the few Argentinians there are teasing Brazilians. Their only response, well humored, was to say Diego Maradona was a cocaine sniffer and that Pelé scored more than one thousand goals.
On the following day, at Arena Corinthians, Argentina and Holland play for a place in the final. Our neighbors go back to the provocations. Most Brazilians take it silently or fight back with the chant mocking Maradona. Fights erupt here and there, of course, but they are rare. At Vila Madalena, a bohemian district, Argentinians celebrate their first World Cup final in 24 years and Brazilians tease them saying they will go for Germany, the same team that had beat them 7-1 the day before. At the Maracanã, few Brazilians tease crying Argentinians. Although they cheered for Germany from the beginning to the end, a respectful silence is the most common reaction. “Brazilians have no pride,” an Argentinian football paper says about locals supporting the Germans.
Brazilians certainly do have pride, I argue. But they are mature enough to tell the difference between football and the rest. And that, my friends, is World Cup legacy on our faces. The maturity that the Brazilian national team lacked on the pitch was abundant everywhere else. If the 1950 Maracanazo was a tragedy for a country in the making, the 2014 Mineirazo was more of a sad comedy for a people that don’t depend on a sport to define itself.
Price tags don’t explain everything that surrounds a gigantic sporting event. When legacy talks restart in the campaign trail for the general elections, loads will be said about stadiums, broken promises and what has actually worked well for the World Cup. But much of what happened between June 12 and July 13 cannot be estimated in reais, dollars or euros. Much more than pride for organizing such a great tournament despite the doomsday predictions, Brazilians could leave their shell and be accepted as worthy members of the global community. They also learned how to cope with a big number of foreigners that were key in the beginning of the tournament to bring the excitement that was needed.
Despite minor incidents in the stadia, including Brazil’s tiny elite insulting president Dilma Rousseff even when German captain Phillip Lahm was lifting the trophy, Brazilians realized they can not only co-exist well with other fans, but also help their favorites. Ask any African, Asian or South American fan (exception to Argentinians) if they felt warmth in the local crowd. That is probably why about 69% of foreigners said they would like to live here, according to a Datafolha poll. Although some people in denial will say only joie de vivre made this an unforgettable World Cup, infrastructure was actually good: 83% of foreigners said they were positively surprised with he organization. Criticism was on self-evident affairs: prices, hotels and communication systems.
Where are the riots?
Maturity was here not only in co-existence, but also in understanding that if preparations had been smoother, a good chunk of the bashing and would be unfounded (fair criticism is always founded). Surely enough what matters is the main event, but the bumpy run-up has shown average Brazilians that the road to the Rio Olympics will have to be different — less excessive expectations, more planning and better communication are now in the agenda, much more than in the World Cup preparations. That maturity might take longer in Rio, since it is going to be the centre of the sporting universe for the next two years. But other World Cup host-cities will be able to be more demanding by comparing what was promised and what was delivered. Cities like tiny Cuiabá or Natal would never get that maturity and national attention if it weren’t for the World Cup.
The clearest exceptions to the nationwide mood were our police, which has again attacked protesters and journalists as if they were paying back after all the criticism they have earned in the last decades and the demonstrators themselves, who failed to point their finger at the police last year and embraced a naive anti-World Cup platform as if most people on the streets in June 2013 were actually against the football extravaganza played here. But these are topics for the next few weeks. Most of this World Cup moments were actually expected by this blogger, as you can see here.
For now I will leave you with a line I will use for the next few years, probably until Rio-2016: told you so!