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1950 World Cup: Germany is excluded from a new beginning

The day a football nation died

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The sun fell from the skies in Brazil in 1950, the first FIFA World Cup finals after the Second World War, and the first since 1938. However, Germany was ostracised and barred from taking part.

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In Europe, news of the tournament was slow to arrive and as a result many football fans only gradually became aware that July 16th was a day of death for the great football nation of Brazil.

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The Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, built for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, then had a capacity of 200,000. According to FIFA, there were officially 174,000 people in the arena at the final. (Photo: archives)


For on that day, at 15:00 hrs, almost 200,000 fans packed into Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium expecting the coronation of their football gods. An entire nation, from the Copacabana to the rain forest, was fixed on one point – the kick-off of the decisive group match of the FIFA World Cup, which, because of how the tournament was structured, had the character of a FIFA World Cup final.

It was the encounter between the hosts, big Brazil, and the 1930 FIFA World Cup champions, tiny Uruguay. Brazilians were convinced that at the final whistle, the Coupe Jules Rimet, that small but exquisite FIFA trophy, would be theirs. The focus of the entire country was fixed on the title, on success. Mathematically, a draw would be enough to secure a FIFA World Cup triumph. The hope of millions and millions of fans was their coach Flavio Costa and stars such as goalkeeper Barbosa, midfield genius Zizinho and striker Friaca.

It is said Brazil had hosted this FIFA World Cup just for that day of days. It is said that the Maracana stadium had only been built as the stage for that victory. Even to this day it is the dream of all Brazilians to score the winning goal in a FIFA World Cup final, the greatest spectacle in world history, in the “dish”.

It seemed just another small step for Brazilian Albino Friaca Cardoso and his team to turn the dream into reality. Friaca’s goal in the 47th minute only seemed to confirm this. But goals by Schiaffino (66th) and a certain Alcides Edgardo Ghigga (79th) shattered the great illusion, the vision of the FIFA World Cup triumph for Brazil. Unbelievably, the match ended in a 2-1 victory for Uruguay. Rarely has a defeat triggered such grief in a nation.

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That’s the moment goalkeeper Barbosa is defeated, Uruguay lead 2-1, the Brazilian nation is engulfed in mourning for years to come. The 1950 FIFA World Cup was decided. (Photo: archives)


Ghigga paralysed Brazil

At 16:33 hrs on this July 16, Ghigga paralysed a country. The author Eduardo Galeano later called it the “most roaring silence in the history of football”. The scorer later boasted: “Only three people have managed to silence the Maracana with just one activity. Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and I.” The author Nelson Rodriguez, who memorably wrote: “It is the greatest to be Brazilian,” would later write: “Every nation has its own irredeemable catastrophe, something like Hiroshima. Our catastrophe, our Hiroshima, was the defeat by Uruguay in 1950.” Ghigga’s goal left Brazilians with a taste so bitter that this author dared to compare it to the death of hundreds of thousands of Japanese a few years before.

In his book “Anatomy of a Defeat” Paub Perdigäo said: “Until today, it is the most famous goal in the history of Brazilian football ... no other sports event measures up to it ... it became a historic moment in the life of a nation.” Alex Bellos, a British writer, looked even deeper into the soul of the Brazilians: “When the crowds left Maracana, there was just one violent act: the granite bust of Rio’s mayor Ângelo Mendes de Moraes – who had saluted the Brazilian players as victors before the start of the match – was knocked over ... Possibly nothing else is capable of unsettling so many Brazilians than to watch their national team lose to a neighbouring country in the dying minutes in the world’s largest stadium.”

The Maracana was a sea of tears. Seconds of film shreds can still be seen on the internet. Uruguay’s stars crying with happiness, the Brazilians in pain.

The presentation to the FIFA World Cup champions took place without great ceremony or official award. FIFA President Rimet pressed the trophy quickly into captain Obdulio Varela’s hands, the Brazilians were already getting away to the dressing rooms. In the stands of the Maracana, real life tragedies were happening. At least four people died – three from heart attacks and one fan committed suicide by throwing himself off the stand. The Brazilian nation fell into a trance.

Escape as a nanny, a curse on Barbosa

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According to several informed sources, Brazil’s coach, Flavio Costa, left the stadium disguised as a nanny. On that July 16, 1950, Brazil played for the last time in white shirts and blue shorts. After a poll among millions of fans they switched to yellow and green.

Brazil’s national team imposed on themselves a two-year break from matches and only played again at the Maracana four years later.

Goalkeeper Moacyr Nascimento Barbosa suffered most from the flop at the Maracana.

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Victor Andrade, one of the 1950 FIFA World Cup champions. He shared his surname with Jose Andrade, the first football world star, who won the 1930 title with Uruguay. (Photo: Archives)

In 1993 he said in an interview: “The law in Brazil calls for 30 years in prison for murder. Much more time has passed since the final of 1950 and I still feel imprisoned, the people still think I’m to blame for our defeat.”

Among the humiliations dark-skinned Barbosa suffered was the fact that even in 1994, Parreira, the national team’s coach, forbade his goalkeeper, Taffarel, from making contact with Barbosa during a FIFA World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Uruguay. One Brazilian football official is even reported to have said that he should be ejected from the stadium: “Get rid off him, he is bad luck.” Another black goalkeeper wasn’t selected to play for Brazil until Dida was picked in 1998. Brazil is the only country to have competed in all 18 FIFA World Cup tournaments held so far. After 1950, Brazil won the FIFA World Cup trophy five times. But none of these triumphs could make up for the shame of Maracana.

Uruguay, Italy, England, Germany, Argentina and France have all won the FIFA World Cup trophy as hosts. But Brazil did not. In 2014, the FIFA World Cup finals will again be staged in Brazil. The “Hiroshima at Maracana” will once again be on the minds of all Brazilian fans.