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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014

Brazil, where football is a religion

Rajendra K Aneja, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, June 12, 2014
First Published: 09:26 IST(12/6/2014) | Last Updated: 09:33 IST(12/6/2014)

My friend Elaisa was sobbing uncontrollably. Tears rolled down her pretty cheeks. “You are not a Brazilian. So, you do not know what football means to us,” she said.

Brazil had conceded a goal to France in the first half of the World Cup finals in 1998. Elaisa’s tears made me feel helpless. “Look, this is only a game, someone has to lose. Brazil has much more to it than only football. Why do you weep?” I asked.

“You do not understand, football is not just a game, it is our religion,” she replied. Then, Brazil lost to France. Elaisa was inconsolable. Of all the days I lived in Brazil, it was the most horrendous.

The Brazilians expected to win. They were playing pretty well. In Rua Oscar Frere where I lived, for 10 days before the match, restaurants were piling up inventories of beer, drinks and food. From my apartment, I could see trucks rumble in daily, laden with food and drinks for the celebration.

Everyone was gearing up for a glorious victory. Had Brazil won, there would have been a carnival.

People would have sung and danced endlessly.

Unfortunately, Brazil lost. The munificent preparations were wasted. The streets were deserted. The night was ghostly silent. There was not a car on the street. Not a leaf moved. I could not bear to be home with a depressed Elaisa. So, we went out. A pall of gloom had descended over the capital and the country.

Had Brazil won the match, the main Paulista Avenue would have had around five million people in it, celebrating non-stop for days. Now, Paulista was deserted. It hurt me to see how heartbroken the country was.

The Brazilians are passionate about football. They had won the World Cup five times. This is an enormous source of national pride.

When the World Cup is on, the country turns yellow and green, the colours of the Brazilian flag.

The colours of many buildings also change during the World Cup.

Everyone is glued to the television in their homes, offices and restaurants. Brazil as a country simply freezes for three hours when its team plays. Passion is one of the greatest drivers of achievement in any field. The passion for football is a key unifier of multifarious races and dialects in Brazil.

During the years I lived in Brazil, Elaisa and Brazil had taught me to adora (love) football as a Brazilian does. Elaisa’s tears had made the Brazilian team my team.

So I hope Brazil wins the World Cup this year. I do not want Elaisa to cry again.

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