Batuhan: The day that football died

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I RACED through the Skyway on my way back to work, on the early morning of July 9th.

This was, after all, the day of days. The fateful evening (in Brazil, at least) that 11 samba dancers came face-to-face with the mighty soldiers of German football. The mother of all football encounters, as the iconic Desert Storm commander General Normal Schwarzkopf would have coined it, was about to take place.

It’s difficult not to like Brazil, whether it be in football, or just in general. The Brazilians, kings of the carnival, are a happy people. Even their warrior art, capoeira, is disguised as a dance, and any spectator watching it unfold would be tempted to think that it was meant to entertain, rather than to hurt and maim. Hell, even the Brazilian fighters in the now all-the-rage UFC seem to look like dancers inside the octagon, swaying to the rhythm of the dance, as they dispatch their opponents in the graceful and consummate Brazilian way.

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Brazilian football is especially likeable. A country that gave birth to the legend of Pele, after all, has to be the most skilled soccer nation on earth.

Plus, they have not just danced the dance, they have actually fought the fight. Five World Cup titles—the most of any nation on earth—are what they have to show in evidence. Even if football were born in England, to the world, it was made for Brazil.

And so it was that on that fateful evening, most of the world—and one suspects, even a few romantic Germans—were actually rooting for Brazil to prevail. It would, after all, have been the perfect fairy-tale ending to a fairly enthralling and engaging tournament, which has seen surprises, thrills and spills of the kind hardly witnessed in one event.

But alas, it wasn’t to be. Brazil were unprepared for the battle, and it showed.

Watching the Brazil team that evening get outrun and outclassed all over the field, was like witnessing the spectacle of Polish cavalry on horseback charging the German tanks and artillery during the Great War – it is a romantic sight, but yet it is a heart-wrenching scene of massacre and horror.

Officially, it was the most one-sided game in World Cup history. No side—much less one that before a ball was kicked, many were already predicting to lift the trophy—was as thoroughly outclassed as Brazil that night. It was a sad sight, and something that I will never, ever forget for a long time.

Credit to the Germans, they deserved every goal they scored. They were well-drilled, precise and ruthless, when it mattered. But for the life of me, I just cannot bring myself to like the way they play their football. Football, far from being just a sport, is a romance. The South Americans and the Southern Europeans especially understand this point of view. That’s why when they play, they move like dancers dancing the flamenco, or the samba. They caress the ball like their beloved partner, and go with the flow, as only dancers in the heat of the moment can move.

The Germans—well, they play like the Germans. Cold, precise and calculating.

This is nothing to be sneezed at. After all, the very same precision and calculation has brought to the world wonders such as the BMW and the Mercedes Benz.

But hey, I just can’t bring myself to like it. I am more an admirer of art, a connoisseur of poetry in motion. That’s why I prefer the samba to the blitzkrieg any day.

July the 9th, 2014. Well, for me, it will always be – to paraphrase as Don Mclean laments in the soulful words of “American Pie”—the day that football died.

(Belated greetings to my mother, Carmencita B. Batuhan, who celebrated her birthday last Sunday, July 6.)

(http://asbbforeignexchange.blogspot.com & http://twitter.com/asbbatuhan)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 12, 2014.

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