, Salem, MA


July 1, 2014

Letter: Against all odds

To the editor:

Some of my American friends were a bit disappointed the U.S. soccer team passed on to the next World Cup phase. That phase is the knockout one, called “mata-mata” in Brazilian-Portuguese. It means you kill or you are killed.

The reason it was a bittersweet victory is that the U.S. advanced after being defeated 1-0 by Germany, receiving its classification almost as a gift from Portugal. I could not disagree more strongly.

I am not a soccer expert nor do I pretend to appear like one. However, I am originally from a nation that is a five-time World Cup champion; I have lived with soccer since I used to wear cloth wipes. You can trust me, it was a long time ago. On Christmas, some American children get either a football, a baseball and mitt or a basketball. Sometimes, they have all of them together. In Brazil, our first Christmas gift is a single soccer ball. Maybe, if you are lucky enough, you could get something more, but a soccer ball is there always. Being cheap, it is a mandatory gift for poor children. Most of us would find one under the Christmas tree.

I lived during the reign of the King Pelé. He was known from the White House in Washington to rustic huts in impoverished villages around the world. When visiting the White House, President Reagan introduced himself, “I am Ronald Reagan, the president of United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who is Pelé.”

In 1970, I was a teenager when Brazil won its third World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, becoming the first nation to do it, and for that feat, it kept forever the astonishing golden Jules Rimet Trophy. I was fortunate to see the greatest players performance: “Dr. Subtle” Tostao (who is a real doctor), the “Smart Cat” goalkeeper Felix, the “Golden Lefty” Gerson and the “Lightning” Jairzinho. In 1970 World Cup final, Brazil easily beat Italy 4-1. The Brazilian team played as if it were listening to the New York Philharmonic performing the soundtrack of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

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