It is 13 July 1950, and nearly two hundred thousand Brazilians, along
with a handful of foreigners, have crowded into the brand-new Mário
Filho Stadium, in the downtown Rio neighborhood of Maracanã, to
see a World Cup match between Brazil and Spain. The Brazilians are
coming o√ a 7–1 trouncing of Sweden and know that a victory against
Spain will put them one game away from the coveted Cup. They rise to
the occasion, playing their signature game of balletic grace and breath-
taking improvisation. The Spaniards are stopped in their tracks, hu-
miliated. Early in the second half, the score is already 4–0, the Bra-
zilians are playing keep-away, and the fans are shouting ‘‘Olé!’’ every
time a Spaniard lunges ine√ectually for the ball. And then the fans start
singing—first a few, then a section, then, improbably, the entire sta-
dium, belting out a string of percussive nonsense symbols from an old
carnival hit. ‘‘Boom parará chim poom boom, Boom parará chim
poom boom / Eu fui as touradas em Madri / Parará chim poom, boom
boom parará chim poom boom / E quase não volto mais aqui / Para ver
Peri beijar Ceci.’’ (I went to the bullfights in Madrid / and I almost
didn’t come back here / to see Peri kiss Ceci.) The gentlemen pull out
their handkerchiefs and wave, as if inciting a bull to charge. The fans
sing chorus after chorus, untiring, as the score runs up to 6–1. Millions
more listening at home on the radio feel the pull of Maracanã and
emerge into the streets to celebrate and sing along. No one knows it,
but this is the high point of national popular communion. As the fans
file out of the stadium, they breathlessly anticipate a final game against
Uruguay three days later. Surely, that will be the apotheosis—Brazil will
take the Cup for the first time and savor victory for four years.∞
Instead, fortune turned the other way. Uruguay won, 2–1, breaking
millions of hearts. Brazil had to wait eight more years for its Cup,
finally winning in Sweden, far from Maracanã and its cauldron of
popular energy. By 1958, the popular audience had splintered. Brazil
would be incapable of celebrating as it had celebrated after defeating
Previous Page Next Page