Fate and the defeat of Brazil

As their shock 7-1 defeat sinks in, debates rage here about whether or not Brazilian football is in crisis, and whether the blame can be laid at the feet of Scholari, FIFA or the President herself, Dilma Rousseff.

As their shock 7-1 defeat sinks in, debates rage here about whether or not Brazilian football is in crisis, and whether the blame can be laid at the feet of Scholari, FIFA or the President herself, Dilma Rousseff.

One viral text went round on social media, blaming "Brazilian trickery" on the team's loss, and praising the German commitment to working hard and studying hard, in contrast.

Certainly it looks like the German team had planned for a long time to win this World Cup, and are now well on their way to doing so. Their game is organised and tight, relying on strategy and team work rather than the prowess of one or more talented stars who will do unpredictable, brilliant things on the day. A friend of mine joked that Germany vs Argentina is the contest of the best team in the world against the best player, in Messi, and it remains to be seen if the Germans will still triumph then against that particular talent.

Brazilians I know have dealt with this defeat in the good-natured way I am used to seeing them deal with everything, and there is even talk of backing Argentina now, something I would have imagined impossible.

One friend told me that the problem was that the Brazilians are fatalistic, and accepted Neymar's injury as a fate to which they then gave in, as much as they caved into their emotions throughout the tournament; sobbing during penalities, sobbing during the national anthem, etc.

Inevitably, it focuses the mind on what this was all in aid of. If not to bring home a sixth World Cup trophy, then what was that £14bn spend of public money for? I don't think there is any way you can avoid questions like that.

The cup is effectively over now for many Brazilians, but what next?

I have previously wondered if it isn't a simplistic argument, that the money could have been used elsewhere, and certainly punishing people for enjoying the football is unfair, as it is perfectly possible to do that and still have a social conscience.

But events of the past few days have completely overtaken that.

I have been in Fortaleza, where I visited O Pequeno Nazareno, a project which works with street children.

In many cases, those children are on the street because it is actually better than being at home, with parents who are addicted to drugs, and where they are used by drug gangs to deliver and sell drugs, a lifestyle which all too frequently leads to an early death.

The state is shockingly absent here. If the child is on the streets due to abject poverty of his parents, the project will find out if they are entitled to benefits or training programmes which will allow them to escape that poverty. The state is not reaching these people or letting them know about these possibilities at all. They slip through the net in their thousands, and it is the children who suffer.

The most striking thing is that most children's homes are so often not suitable because they are so violent. One child, currently staying on their site out in the country, has a mother in prison and a grandmother who cares for him, but she lives in a house outside which the mutilated body of a woman was dumped only last week. How can he go home to that? He is nine years old, with family members who love him - though his own mother, addicted to crack, is not one of them - but there is nowhere for him to go.

Children of ten or younger are used to carry drugs, and are threatened or killed if they fail to do so. No wonder the street seems like a better option. Children of this age are literally walking out of their homes and living on the street to escape this reality. Their communities are no safer than a war zone.

Fortaleza is one of the murder capitals of the world, and people are accustomed to living with death. A woman who has buried two of her sons already told me yesterday that when God has decided it is your time to go, then it is your time to go. But is that true? Should we accept that every hour in Brazil, a child gets murdered?

Fortaleza's stadium cost $232.4 million, or £135 million, at no cost to FIFA.

Perhaps it is an emotional reaction to imagine that that money could or would have been spent elsewhere, but in some situations, an emotional reaction is the only reasonable one to have.

The Brazilian state wants to attract investors and tourists with a positive image of Brazil, but it is high time the energy went towards protecting and improving the lives of its citizens, including the most vulnerable.

In Brazil, people often say "se deus quiser," or "if God is willing". I don't know if it was this attitude which led to their defeat on the football field, but I think we have had enough of fatalistic attitudes in Brazil. The outcome that matters is the one which is in all of our hands.

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