“Football is not a matter of life and death…it is more important than that.” – Bill Shankly.
With the Maracanazo being recalled with Fear and Loathing in Brazil (and unbridled pride south of Rivera border) on the eve of a potential Part 2 (a would-be ‘Minerazo’), the main protagonist’s story remains told only in hushed tones in Brazil’s most secluded nooks and crannies, in the hope that it will be eventually erased from collective memory.
The ill-fated man between the sticks, Moacir Barbosa, became the pariah of an entire nation, blamed ad hominem for the Maracanazo, Brazil’s apocalytpic 1950 World Cup defeat to Uruguay at the mythic Maracanã.
Shunned from ‘foutchebol’ and society for the rest of his days, he was even turned away from Brazil’s training camp in 1993 for fear of his presence bringing bad luck on the team. So much so that it took 43 years for the country to trust another black goalkeeper, with Dida’s inclusion representing partial closure.
Barbosa couldn’t even live out his final days in peace. Walking down the street one day, he overheard a woman say to her child, ‘See him? That’s the man that made all Brazil cry’.
He had the Maracanazo goalposts ritualistically burnt in a vain attempt to exorcise the mental scars, but nothing changed. He died in poverty at an empty funeral.
Barbosa’s is the tragic untold story which unmasks the extreme, irrational fantasies of Brazil and its futbol.
And the worst thing about it, he wasn’t even at fault for the goals by any unbiased and fair assessment. OK, he was beaten at his near post for Ghiggia’s infamous goal, but it was no ‘frango’.
A symbolic posthumous gesture from the Brazilian Federation would go some way to redressing the mistreatment suffered by Barbosa, but nothing will ever return the second half of his living life which was so cruelly, and wantonly taken from him.
As unlikely as that seems – there are 3 awkward mentions of him in Brazilian sports websites’ history archives – the cathartic protests taking place right now could serve as the catalyst for Brazilian football to look deeper into the mirror and finally speak of its secret shame.
After dying two deaths, the least Barbosa deserves is some recognition in posterity.
RIP, Barbosa. Descanse em paz, Sir.
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