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Sorcery to conspiracy
- All tricks at full play, but Brazil unfazed

Is Ronaldo pregnant' demanded a headline in one of the German newspapers tossed on to thousands of doorsteps.

The question might have been raised for a string of reasons: maybe because he had been to hospital for tests for dizziness; maybe because he looks so tubby out there on the pitch; maybe because he was so lethargic against Croatia; maybe, indeed, because Brazil has achieved so many footballing miracles that nothing on this earth may be beyond them.

The truth is, of course, somewhat more prosaic.

For all the fun, festivities and goals at this World Cup, no one can yet see beyond Brazil as favourites to win on July 9 back in Berlin.

Not even hosts Germany, despite the momentum of its two, second-round qualifying victories; not even Argentina, despite the brilliance of its humiliation of a rank bad Serbia; certainly not England or Holland or Italy or fast-fading France.

Maybe the Czechs as outsiders but, with Jan Koller and Milan Baros injured, who will score their goals' Besides, look how they fared against Ghana.

No, the only hope left for anyone who desperately desires a non-predictable conclusion in three weeks’ time is to hope for some desperately unscheduled accident to befall soccer’s samba superstars.

Perhaps superstition might play a part, as it does in every match back in Brazil. Such as fielding a black goalkeeper.

This is not racism: this is fatalism.

Brazil fielded a black goalkeeper, Barbosa, in its shock defeat by Uruguay in front of 200,000 of their own fans in Rio’s Maracana stadium in the 1950 World Cup final.

Not until years later did Brazil bring a black goalkeeper ' Manga ' to a World Cup... and then it crashed out in the first group round in England in 1966.

Now it falls to Dida of Milan to prove that superstition is hot air. Even so, the macumba (a Brazilian cult or ritual) priestesses may be extra busy back home in the favelas (poor areas in or near a city) over the next few weeks.

Then there is the conspiracy theory: that European governments, politicians and lawyers have ganged up to bring the full weight of law to bear against Brazil’s genius.

That is why, so claim some Rio newspapers, long-serving captain Cafu has had to confront the fearsome prospect of a spell in an Italian jail for his involvement ' innocent, he has always insisted ' in a forged passport scandal. Cafu, his agent, his wife and various local government officials had been accused of creating false documents proving he had qualified for an Italian ' and hence a European Union ' passport.

Last week, on the eve of Brazil’s opening game against the Croats, Cafu learned that the charges had been thrown out by an Italian court of appeal. Good news but too late for the issue not to have affected his mood and focus during Brazil’s preparation for the German adventure.

Next came the row over Ronaldo’s weight, his war of words with Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, his substitution against Croatia and then all manner of insulting headlines and pictures in the German media with Ronaldo’s paunch pictured from a full 360 degrees at all the most unflattering angles.

“People will stop at nothing to try to unsettle us,” says Mario Zagallo, Brazil’s former champion as player and manager and now the national team’s coaching supervisor. “But they will not achieve anything because We Are Brazil!”

Yes, maybe now we have it. Hope at last. Doesn’t pride always go before a fall'

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