Thursday, 24 June 2010

Football, the world's lingua franca

I came across this expressive description of the famous World Cup final of 1950 between Brazil and Uruguay. The author A. A. Gill has narrated it so evocatively. I have pasted the description of the match here, but it forms only a part of this wonderful article in the June 2010 edition of Vanity Fair. Please click on the link, the article is worth reading. Most poignant for me were the words:

"There is something about opposing teams of 11 men that speaks to humanity in a way that transcends the game...It isn't music or movies or pizza that is the lingua franca of the globe. It's the Beautiful Game.."

"Brazil, the most successful footballing nation on earth, plays mesmerizing, skillful, and emotional football. They also took part in the most famous final—perhaps the most famous game—ever played. In 1950, in the huge, newly opened Maracana Stadium, in Rio, the Saint Peter’s of the Beautiful Game, roughly 210,000 people—still the record for attendance at a sporting event—came to watch Brazil beat Uruguay. Brazil was such an immensely long favorite that they had already cast their gold winners’ medals and composed a victory anthem. Uruguay’s coach, Juan Lopez, gave his team a locker-room pep talk, saying they should concentrate on defense. As he left, the captain, Obdulio Varela, huddled his fellow players and instructed them to forget what they’d just been told. They must play to win. He famously said, “Muchachos, los de afuera son de palo. Que comience la funciĆ³n,” which translates roughly as “Outsiders don’t play. Let the show begin,” meaning, don’t be intimidated by the crowd, the press, the speculation. Brazil went one up. Varela put the ball on the center spot and yelled, “Now it’s time to win.” Uruguay equalized against the run of play. And then, 12 minutes before time was up, they scored again. The stadium fell silent. It is called the greatest silence ever heard. Jules Rimet, then the president of fifa, international football’s ruling body, said, “The silence was morbid, sometimes too difficult to bear.” It was broken by the final whistle. Some Brazilian fans committed suicide, leaping from the upper tiers of their new stadium. Rimet was left on his own on the pitch to hand the cup to the Uruguayans. The Brazilian-team members were ostracized for the rest of their lives. Some retired immediately. Most were never called to play for their country again. There is a lingering pain among Brazilians, still in a state of shock for the loss.
A Scottish football manager, Bill Shankly, said, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” This summer, perhaps a billion people will be watching the World Cup in South Africa, the first time it will be held on the continent. Every single one of them will know that, really, everybody, on and off the pitch, plays.
Let the show begin."
You might also like this slide show of photos and please enjoy the video..