A to Zico: An alphabet of Brazilian football – Available now

I can proudly say that the ebook written by Mauricio Savarese and myself, A to Zico: An alphabet of Brazilian football, is now available on the Kindle store. The book is a primer on Brazilian football and culture, coming just in time for the 2014 World Cup, choosing one of the myriad subjects and themes for each letter of the alphabet. We cover such topics as the history of the Brazilian national team and their influence on the rest of the world of football, the people who made Pelé the legend he is today, the legacy of the Maracanazo (Brazil’s World Cup defeat in 1950) and how the military dictatorship exploited football for their own gains.

It is the culmination of months of research, hard work and sleepless nights. Special thanks go to my dad, Harry Marshall, for providing us with the excellent illustrations which appear throughout the book. For now, it will only be available in English and in ebook format, but any interested publishers should get in touch with Mauricio and myself through our respective blogs.

The following excerpt comes from chapter M… is for Maracanazo, and goes into detail about the infamous World Cup final of 1950 — which Brazil lost in front of their own fans — and its deep influence on Brazil’s self image. For the rest of this chapter and much, much more, get your copy of A to Zico: An alphabet of Brazilian football from Amazon today. If you like it, leave a review!

M1 M3 M2

The Museum of Football is a mandatory stop for anyone visiting São Paulo. Housed inside the charming Pacaembu stadium, it hosts a fascinating collection of photographs, artefacts and memorabilia from Brazil’s football history, including an impressive permanent exhibition that chronicles every edition of the World Cup to date. However, before reaching the more colourful and exciting parts of the museum, there is one room through which every visitor must pass.

It is a small, dark space, empty apart from a projection screen on one wall. On a loop, it plays black-and-white footage of Brazil v Uruguay – the decisive match of the 1950 World Cup. Brazil’s opening goal. Uruguay’s equaliser. Alcides Ghiggia’s winner. Silence in the Maracanã. Brazil 1-2 Uruguay. The Maracanazo.

Brazil’s defeat in 1950 was not just a sporting upset, it was a turning point in the country’s history, provoking a period of self-hatred and the birth of an inferiority complex that has yet to dissipate. In the Museum of Football, if you want to see the rest of the collection, you must first pass through the screening room and watch Uruguay’s two goals – there is no way around it. Equally, for those wanting to understand Brazilian football and culture, you must first go back to the Maracanazo and understand what happened that day – there is no way around it.

The 1950 World Cup was Brazil’s opportunity to establish themselves on the world stage. In Europe, the traditional footballing powers were in a period of reconstruction after the end of the second world war. Although it was also involved in the war, Brazil’s economy was booming in comparison. They had sent a force of only 25,000 to mainland Europe in the 1940s, suffering less than 1,000 casualties. Furthermore, Brazil actually received significant investment from the United States in exchange for declaring war on the Axis. On the football pitch, the Brazilian national team played throughout the war, facing only South American opposition and obtaining good results. In 1938, Brazil were one of the few countries to make a bid for hosting the planned 1942 World Cup, even though the strongest proposal came from Nazi Germany, who wanted to build on the success of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, all tournament plans were scrapped and the World Cup would not be disputed again until 1950. When Fifa got together in Luxembourg in 1946 to discuss their first postwar event, Brazil was the only applicant remaining.

With the opportunity to host football’s biggest prize for the first time, Brazil got to work on planning the tournament of tournaments. With a positive economic situation and an optimistic population (the country had just made the shift to democracy after fifteen years of dictatorship), there was a genuine feeling that Brazil would win the World Cup and consolidate itself as a leading power in the modern world. With that in mind, they began construction of a brand new football stadium in the heart of then capital city Rio de Janeiro. The Maracanã stadium would be built to hold 180,000 spectators, overtaking Glasgow’s Hampden Park as the biggest in the world.

When 1950 came around, the tournament went smoothly and Brazil were praised for their superb planning and organisation. They also gained admirers for their performances on the pitch after flattening Mexico 4-0 in their opening match. Some concerns crept in after their second game however, a draw against Switzerland in São Paulo. Despite the excellent performance against Mexico, Brazil coach Flávio Costa made several changes to his side to play the Swiss, bringing in several players from São Paulo in an attempt to appease the home crowd – a common practice at the time with the Brazilian national side. Switzerland played their characteristically deep and defensive formation, while Brazil’s novel starting lineup struggled to break them down and puffed and wheezed to a 2-2 draw. Faith was restored after their last group match, when the Seleção defeated a tough Yugoslavia side 2-0 to qualify for the final stage.

In a never-before (and never-again) used format, the 1950 World Cup was decided by a round-robin group made up of the four group stage winners. Brazil would have to overcome Sweden, Spain and Uruguay to get their hands on the trophy. The victory against the strong Yugoslavian team filled the Seleção with confidence and it showed on the pitch. They were ruthless against Sweden and Spain, beating them 7-1 and 6-1 respectively, playing some of the most dominant football ever seen at a World Cup. British football writer Brian Glanville described them as “playing the football of the future, tactically unexceptional but technically superb”. They went into their final match against Uruguay needing only to avoid defeat to become world champions …

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