Review: Barbosa, the Man Who Made Brazil Cry (2014)

ESPN 30 for 30 (2014)

Barbosa, the Man Who Made Brazil Cry revisits the trauma bestowed upon goalkeeper Barbosa, who is often blamed for Brazil’s loss to Uruguay  in the Final of World Cup 1950 at the Maracana stadium. This match is famously known as the disastrous El Maracanazo.

“Brazil’s national religion is soccer.

And religions can bless and also condemn.”

– Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan journalist

Barbosa suffered the rest of his life, sadly taking employment at the Maracana, where he was daily confronted with the goal posts that defined him. According to the film, when the posts were replaced, he was allowed to burn them. But that provided no redemption. Matt Yoder has a nice synopsis of the documentary at awfulannouncing

It is striking to watch the game footage and realize that Barbosa did not use gloves. I don’t know how commonplace that was in 1950. In addition wikipedia says he was only 5’9”. 

Compared to Brazil’s loss at WC 2014

It is interesting to watch the Barbosa documentary in the light of two other moments at World Cup 2014. In perhaps a prophetic stroke, this ESPN documentary debuted just 2 months ahead of Brazil’s horrific loss at WC 2014. 

Hosting Germany in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte, Brazil literally came undone and was down 0-5 at half-time. They eventually lost 1-7. I never finished watching the game on TV because I could not stand to see the many Brazilian fans crying in the stadium. Even though I am not a fan of Brazil, that game was heart-breaking.

I don’t know if the Germany game will have the long-lasting impact of the Maracanazo. The immediate impact was a change in Brazil’s government as corruption was exposed and prosecuted. The Zika viral outbreak surfaced within 2 years and impacted the 2016 Olympics. By WC 2018, Brazilian fans seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for their national team, which was compounded by Neymar’s devolving from a star to a meme.

An American scapegoat

The other defining moment at WC 2014 was USA’s loss to Belgium in the Round of 16. USMNT was tied in a scoreless draw due to an amazing performance by GK Tim Howard. Chris Wondolowski had a chance to win the game in stoppage time. But from just outside the goal box, he missed a put away that he almost never misses when playing for the San Jose Earthquakes. Belgium went on to win in extra time, and for USMNT fans and pundits, Wondo became a target for derision and jokes for what has felt like an eternity. 

The only thing that has perhaps saved Wondo from ever-lasting punishment like Barbosa’s was the USMNT’s failure to qualify for WC 2018. That fiasco diverted attention to a larger slew of targets: Sunil Gulati, Jurgen Klinsmann, Bruce Arena, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. American soccer is still bruised, angry, and suffering over the failure to qualify. The only bright spot is the USWNT and their WWC 2019 championship.

Perhaps as a run-up to WC 2026 to be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico, ESPN will commission a few episodes about the 2014 events. It is interesting to watch Barbosa now and remember that few victims deserve to be scapegoats. 

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6