The scapegoat of Brazil's infamous loss to Uruguay at the 1950 World Cup features in the latest of our series chronicling the extraordinary power of beliefWhen Uruguay winger Alcides Ghiggia burst forward in the latter stages of the 1950 World Cup final, fired the ball towards Brazil keeper Moacir Barbosa’s near post and saw the ball creep in to make the score 2-1 to Uruguay, he claimed to have done what only “Pope John Paul II and Frank Sinatra have managed to do – silence the Maracana in an instant.”
Still referred to as the Maracanazo (the Maracana blow or simply ‘the defeat’ in Brazil) supporters of the stunned hosts immediately looked for a scapegoat, and found one in goalkeeper Barbosa, who had been the star ‘keeper of the tournament up until that point. Hounded for the rest of his life for his error, Barbosa later commented: “Even a criminal when he has served his time, and paid his debt, is forgiven. But I have never been forgiven.”
|In Brazil, the most you can get for any crime is 30 years. For 43 years, I’ve been paying for a crime I didn’t even commit
His team mate Zizinho claimed that Barbosa was treated like ‘an albatross’ by Brazilian teams thereafter, and in 1994, the entire squad refused to meet him prior to the World Cup because, in Romario’s words: “We didn’t want to be cursed in our pursuit of success.” In an effort to purge himself of the curse of 1950, Barbosa later bribed a groundsman to smuggle out the offending Maracana goalposts, and invited his friends around to eat the meats cooked on the embers of the wooden posts.
Controversially, it was another 45 years before another black goalkeeper, Dida, was selected for the Brazilian national team whilst mediocre stoppers like Felix won the World Cup in 1970. Barbosa’s last public utterance? “In Brazil, the most you can get for any crime is 30 years. For 43 years, I’ve been paying for a crime I didn’t even commit.”
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