Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter! This week, with Brazilian TV showing reruns of classic matches, an interesting debate on style v. results has been reignited, using the 1982 World Cup as a backdrop. Meanwhile, we have the latest on Ronaldinho, out of jail, but still in Paraguay. Happy reading!
Nostalgia on TV reignites old Brazil debate
It may shock Brazilians to know that outside of its borders, the most famous and adored Brazilian World Cup side by some distance is Telê Santana’s 1982 team. Equally, it may shock foreigners to know that in Brazil, the 1982 side is often ignored, cast aside in favor of the teams of 1970, 1994, or 2002.
- The deciding factor in Brazil is clear: the country won the World Cup in 1970, 1994, and 2002, while in 1982, they were eliminated at the second group stage. Therefore, there can be no comparison for Brazilians. The disappointment of defeat clouds any debate over the magic and importance of the 1982 side, heralded by non-Brazilians as one of the most exciting football teams of all-time ever.
- As we mentioned last week, Brazilian sports channels are filling up space on their schedules by airing reruns of classic matches. And it is in this context that the 1982 side is beginning to have something of a renaissance, with an entire generation of fans seeing Zico, Socrates, and co. for the very first time.
How good were they? Over the years, I have watched Brazil’s five 1982 World Cup matches a number of times. The midfield quartet of Cerezo, Falcão, Socrates, and Zico is perhaps unmatched in world football history. The way they exchange positions instinctively and appear to waltz past opposition defenses is just as thrilling now as I imagine it was at the time.
The magic. Brazil’s group games flew by like extended highlight reels. The Soviet Union and Scotland both managed to take the lead, before being overwhelmed in second-half flurries. Zico, Socrates, and Eder combined to score an impressive average of three goals a game.
- Yet, as good as they were in possession, there was always a certain defensive vulnerability about Brazil in 1982. The Seleção’s marauding fullback pairing of Leandro and Junior were feared in attack but hardly watertight in defense. The flexibility of the team’s shape came with trade-offs: coach Telê Santana employed a rudimentary man-marking system for whenever Brazil lost the ball, and it meant that one mistake, or a piece of individual skill from the opposition, could see their entire defense cut open.
The Tragedy of Sarriá. Needing only a draw against Italy to progress to the semi-finals, Brazil were — at the time, inexplicably — defeated 3-2 by Italy and thus sent home. The pain of this defeat was immeasurable, and its fallout prompted a change in philosophy for the national team. Despite having received all of the plaudits for playing such attractive and involving football, Brazil were eliminated early, by an Italian team that was unfairly seen as weak.
- The conclusion back home was simple: the captivating, “organized mess” of Brazil 1982 may have been pretty on the eye, but it was not enough to win trophies. Brazil went back to the drawing board and tore up all of the 1982 blueprints, the embarrassing defeat would usher in decades of defensive and cynical Brazilian football, with the final result taking precedent above all else, above form, finesse, and fame.
Ronaldinho leaves jail and goes under house arrest
After a month behind bars for carrying a fake Paraguayan passport, former Brazil star Ronaldinho and his brother Assis have been released from a maximum-security jail in Asunción, and are now officially under house arrest. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the pair will remain under lockdown in the luxurious Palmaroga hotel, close to the Asunción bay.
The case. As we explained some weeks back, Ronaldinho and his brother were taken into custody after Paraguayan police found them in possession of fake passports, which suggested the pair were naturalized citizens of Paraguay. Despite pleading ignorance — saying he thought the passports were a “gift” — Ronaldinho and his brother were sentenced to remain in jail until their trial.
- After many appeals, Paraguayan courts finally allowed the pair to leave jail, accepting bail of USD 1.6 million as a guarantee they would not leave the country. Surrounded by members of law enforcement wearing protective masks, a grinning Ronaldinho was filmed walking free from an Asunción police station, on his way to the hotel. There was even time to sign a quick autograph before he was ushered away. Ronaldinho will now remain in house arrest until his trial, which is expected to take place in September.
Hard life. Ronaldinho, Assis, their lawyer, and a personal assistant are now the only guests at the luxury hotel. As opposed to a jail cell, the former World Player of the Year will now be able to enjoy a king-size bed, a 55-inch 4K television, and a jacuzzi. There’s also a rooftop pool, and a fully equipped gym to help Ronaldinho stay in shape.
But … As a result of Covid-19-imposed social isolation measures, Ronaldinho’s lifestyle is potentially more restricted now that it was in jail. Members of law enforcement are deployed outside of his suite 24-7 and the World Cup-winner cannot receive any visits, due to the ban on public gatherings.
Furthermore, with most of the hotel’s staff furloughed, enjoying the four-star amenities may not be so straightforward for Ronaldinho. All facilities outside of his personal suite require sanitization before and after use, and he will need to phone ahead if he wants to use the gym or swimming pool. Perhaps the football tournaments in prison weren’t that bad, after all.