Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
16 July 2014updated 07 Sep 2021 11:31am

After the final, the streets of Copacabana ran with urine and the bars ran out of beer

Jonathan Wilson's Brazil Notebook.

By jonathan Wilson

The World Cup ended, as it had begun, with angry white Brazilians calling for Dilma Rousseff, the president, to “stick it up her arse”. Or at least it did for about 30 seconds before Fifa’s propaganda machine got into action and blasted banal synth-pop into the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro – the final surrender of this great stadium of the people to the corporatism in which the Brazil of Dilma and her Workers’ Party has been complicit.

The symbolism takes some working through. When the Maracanã was built as the emblem of Getúlio Vargas’s Estado Novo, it was conceived as the grandest football stadium in the world. It’s said that over 200,000 packed in for the final game of the 1950 World Cup, people from all walks of life, rich and poor, professors and prostitutes, pickpockets and captains of industry.

It was a stage for Brazil’s self-projection. Now, tickets for the Maracanã are so expensive, and distribution so controlled, that they are out of reach to all but a sliver of society. The populist, and in theory socialist, government of first Lula and then Dilma co-operated in investing huge amounts of money to put on an event that its supporter base couldn’t attend, with the result that those who could attend, natural opponents of Dilma anyway, were given a perfect platform on which to abuse her.

Given that the World Cup had become a focal point for dissent, the most obvious examples of the corruption and cronyism that blight Brazil were, in effect, jeering Dilma during the final for giving them the opportunity to do so.

There had been talk earlier in the tournament that Dilma and Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, wouldn’t even attend the final for fear of the abuse they would receive, but both were there at the handing-over of the trophy (which, weirdly, seems these days to resemble Blatter; stick it in a suit and paint his head gold and it would be like Dr Evil and Mini-Me), even if the official cameraman seemed to be doing his best to keep the pair out of shot as Germany cavorted on the temporary stage.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Even more confusingly, Dilma’s popularity in the polls had risen from 34 per cent before the tournament to 39 per cent when Brazil won their quarter-final.

Content from our partners
The truth about employability
Why we need a Minister for Citizen Experience
Powering careers that secure our net zero future

Yet this was never an attractive or likeable side: led by the boorish Luiz Felipe Scolari, they played over-physical, cynical football and rode a tide of emotion that tipped into hysteria when Neymar suffered the back injury that put him out of the tournament. There was something almost comical about Germany’s stony-faced professionalism amid the frenzy as Brazil’s stand-in captain, David Luiz, held Neymar’s shirt aloft before their 7-1 capitulation to the Germans in the semi-final. All those who insist that what England need is more passion should consider what happened next: no side has ever sung a national anthem more stridently than Brazil did before that semi-final, and no other side has then collapsed quite so spectacularly or brainlessly. Dilma will probably still win the October election, but that humiliation will eat into her majority.

Along the beach at Copacabana the morning after the final, the vast caravan of Argentinian fans lay quiet. Some wandered over the sand, some boiled water on gas stoves, some sat on the steps of their vans or the bonnets of their cars. After defeat to Germany in the final, they were quiet, emotionally drained, their version of “Bad Moon Rising”, with which they had taunted Brazilians for weeks, notable by its absence.

What was up with Messi, wondered those who could be bothered to speak. Was he simply exhausted? Why had he started this season by throwing up on the pitch? Given that he’ll be 31 by the time of the next World Cup, is that it for him and his hopes of following Diego Maradona and leading Argentina to the world title?

There was a sense that this was the true World Cup – these fans who had spent their savings to drive up from Buenos Aires just to be part of the event, knowing they had no chance of finding a ticket, or being able to afford one even if they had. It is impossible to say quite how many Argentinians decamped to Rio; official estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000. What is clear is that it was lots: they were nose-to-tail along the seafront and they filled the Samba Park with their camper vans. Occasionally, amid the swaths of blue-and-white, there’d be a flash of another colour. There were Chileans and Colombians, the odd Brazilian from outside Rio. One family, their car draped in dark green and red, had driven all the way from Mexico City, making the World Cup final the end of a journey across the continent that had taken three months.

For those of us who argue for football’s importance because of its universality, this should have been a scene of vindication. But Sunday night after the final was far from a carnival of nations. The streets of Copacabana ran with urine, bars ran out of beer and there was a sweaty fractiousness in the air. Actual violence was limited, but there were occasional clashes between Argentinians and Brazilians, angry enough to make you grateful that the two great South American rivals hadn’t met in the final.

And there is one final irony. Most of those fans lining the coast road watched the final on one of the two screens on the beach. One of them had been erected by the local municipality; the other screen was an offering from the Fan Fest, a soulless monument to commerce, with face-painting for £8 and bottles of Fifa wine for £126, that has been earning untaxed revenue for Fifa since 2006. Even amid the camper vans and the seemingly anarchic raucousness of the beach, Blatterism reigns. 

Jonathan Wilson is the author of “Inverting the Pyramid: the History of Football Tactics” (Orion, £8.99)