Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Death of samba

 If the players from either  Brazil and Germany showed yesterday the kind of doggedness and focus of Brent Sancho and his Soca Warriors compatriots, then surely they would be playing in Saturday’s World Cup final.

I’m writing this without the benefit of knowing the result of that semi-final in Belo Horizonte. Maybe I will by the time I get to the end of this piece. But that match would have been a very hard game to win, and lose.

Too much was at stake for either team for the game to be anything but an intense confrontation. 

For Brazil, the home side, not getting to the final would have been at best, a massive letdown for all kinds of reasons; including his teammates not being able to bring some cheer to stricken colleague Neymar. For Germany, a semi-final exit for the fourth World Cup running would have been the cause of much more soul-searching for a football country with a big reputation for getting the job done. 

A loss this time would have been the lowest blow of all, since coach Joachim Loew’s charges would have been beaten by a side seemingly there for the taking without their best defender and captain, Thiago Silva and the current golden child Neymar, the one still playing football the old Brazilian way.

That old samba style has become, the stuff of myths and legends, buried like 1982 Brazil skipper “Doctor” Socrates with his impudent backheels and goals to remember.

Speaking of him, forever I will see like yesterday his volley against the Russians in the first round of that Spain tournament, smashed past the super agile Rinat Dasaev in goal. The keeper, the best of his generation, was still rooted to the goalline as Socrates wheeled away to celebrate after Dasaev had been sold by a Paulo Isidoro dummy and the Brazil captain flicked up the ball and lashed it home. I thought you could only score goals like that in your dreams.

Brilliant as some of the strikes in this 2014 tournament have been--the James Rodriguez swivel and volley against Uruguay comes to mind--they have not been fantasy goals like that Socrates one. Very few these days play with that kind of imagination. It is a different time.

Had he still been alive, the “Doctor,” football idealist that he was, would probably have been none too impressed with the standard of play in his backyard. Thinking about what he would have said about this Brazil team, I cringe for them.

He probably would not have been in the Luiz Felipe Scolari fan club right now. 

For while “Big Phil” is the prgamatist, Socrates was the free-spirited philosopher.

Can’t imagine Phil saying something like this Socrates quotable quote: “To win is not the most important thing, football is an art and should be about showing creativity. If Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas had known the level of recognition they were going to have, they would not have done the same. You have to enjoy doing the art and not think ‘will I win?”

Or this: “Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.”

Truth is, nobody in Brazil would have cared too much about “jogo bonito” yesterday so long as the home team beat Germany. Beauty was not going to come first for Scolari and his under-pressure players yesterday. Victory was all that would have mattered, not a beautiful game.

To overcome the Germans, who themselves have put aside their own version of pretty football of recent years for their more traditional, functional approach, the Brazilians would have had to get into the trenches and battle with all 11 men, much in the way that the 13 Soca Warriors have been doing for the past eight years.

Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of a US$1.3 million payout to the Trinidad and Tobago stars of 2006 seemed, finally, to bring an end to a long and messy saga. 

But Sancho and his colleagues don’t seem to see it that way. 

Hear him yesterday: “ I don’t think some people understand what we are trying to do. Our getting paid has nothing to do with the litigation process against the Federation. We are on a quest to find out where the money went.”

Eight years on, and those players are still fighting even though they have “won.”

Such single-mindedness is not common in these parts, especially when it seems to be based on principle. In continuing to go after the Football Association, however, the Warriors run the risk of losing the good will of the public. It is a risk they must be aware of. But this group has demonstrated that they have gumption. And focus. The wisdom of further legal action is doubtful though. 

Speaking of gumption and focus, half time is approaching and Brazil have lost all of theirs. That first half could get a slot easily on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not at 5-0 to ruthless Germany.

People in this office not believing what they seeing, even the “Germans.”

Socrates got off easy. He escaped the death of samba.