FIFA World Cup

Fifa World Cup moments: Uruguay’s Alcides Ghiggia silences 200,000 at the Maracana

The incidents of 1950 will be remembered as a defeat for one of the World Cup’s finest teams and the stunned silence inside the Maracana.

“Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II, and I.” – Alcides Ghiggia, on scoring the goal that would give Uruguay their second World Cup in 1950

It took 64 years, but Joachim Loew and his Germany team did enough in the space of 28 first-half minutes to rip Brazil’s heart out at the Mineirao in a 7-1 demolition of the home team in 2014 and consign 1950 and Ghiggia, to second place on the list of the Selecao’s footballing ignominies.

But the effects of the Maracanazo (Maracana blow) have rarely been forgotten despite five World titles and it is rare that Brazil will take any victory for granted after that fateful day seven decades in the past.

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First post-war tournament

The country had bid for the cancelled 1942 World Cup and had re-confirmed its interest at the 1946 Fifa Congress. They were duly awarded the tournament as world football’s governing body set about trying to get all of the top teams in world football to participate.

Germany and Japan had international sanctions slapped on them as a result of the war, and therefore were ineligible to participate but Italy, as a result of being defending champions, qualified automatically for the World Cup. As a result of the 1949 Superga air disaster that claimed the lives of several Torino players, Italy travelled to Brazil by boat.

The French refused to travel as did India, citing high travel costs – no fancy tales of barefoot obduracy involved. England, winners of the five-team tournament, became the first team from the United Kingdom to enter the World Cup after previously deeming the tournament unworthy of their participation. They would face ignominy after a shock 1-0 defeat to the United States.

Uruguay, who had refused to enter the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, finally entered their second tournament and were still technically unbeaten in the World Cup. The late withdrawal of three teams meant that while Groups 1 and 2 had four teams each, Group 3 had three and Group 4 had Uruguay squaring off against Bolivia in a single match for a knockout berth.

Brazil stroll towards trophy

Fresh from winning the Copa America of 1949, where they scored 39 goals, Brazil would go into the tournament with the trio of Zizinho, Ademir and Jair who struck 21 of those goals. Tesourinha, who scored seven of his own, would get injured prior to the World Cup and would be a big miss for the home team.

Nonetheless, Brazil would saunter through the group, only slipping up against the Swiss, conceding a 88th-minute equaliser. They beat Yugoslavia and Mexico easily to top their group, with five points to their name, in an era where a win would earn a team two points.

Sweden and Uruguay also went through as group winners to a final group of four, where a round robin format would be followed to decide the winner – the only World Cup to not have a *final*, per se. Uruguay slipped to a 2-2 draw against Spain in the opener, as Basora’s brace was cancelled out by Ghiggia and captain Obdulio Varela.

They barely scrambled past Sweden, as two goals in the last 13 minutes by Omar Miguez spurred them onto victory. Brazil, on the other hand, steamrolled Sweden 7-1 and dealt a 6-1 humbling to Spain. It all boiled down to the last matchday, where the hosts only needed a draw and Uruguay a win to claim the title. Not a final by name, but a fitting finale nonetheless.

Carnival and complacency

Brazil’s head coach Flavio Costa would later say, “Destiny laughed in our faces. The fans, the press and the officials all thought the World Cup was ours, and that’s what did it.” Zizinho signed close to two thousand autographs with the words ‘Brazil, champions of the world’ on them.

Newspaper O Mundo had ran headlines that morning declaring that Brazil were champions of the world. The general mood was one of complacency. There was no doubting the pedigree of the Brazilians as Pele would later declare Zizinho as the greatest player he had ever seen and the footballer on whom he had based his own game.

Varela, the Uruguay captain, had asked his team to urinate on the newspapers and had mentally set himself up for a tough game. Brazil began the match at break-neck fashion with their deadly trio and Friaca tormenting the opposition. The first half ended goal-less but nothing could dampen the spirit of almost 200,000 people present inside the stadium on that day.

La Celeste keeper Roque Maspoli was a sitting duck as Brazil attempted 17 shots but Uruguay’s last line of defence held firm till the end of the first half. It took the home side just 78 seconds to break the deadlock as Maspoli, so reliable till that point, let a tame shot from Friaca squirm into the bottom-left corner. That goal was supposed to give Brazil a cushion, but in truth, with the incredible noise and the flair at their disposal, it egged them on.

Fatal mistake

Costa asked his players to relax after the goal, in the hope that Uruguay would attack and that the hosts would finish them off on the counter. What this did was however, release Varela from his screening duties and allow him to roam forward.

Ghiggia meanwhile, had tormented the left-back Bigode (literally ‘moustache’) all game and beat him again, crossing it into the path of Juan Schiaffino, who slammed it past Moacir Barbosa in Brazil’s goal. Ghiggia, Schiaffino and Varela, all club-mates at Penarol, would have a significant influence on the outcome.

Brazil however knew only one way to play and kept streaming forward but were all over the place. As Costa explained earlier, the first goal toyed with his team’s psyche because they were terrified of losing. They were listless by the time that the death blow was struck.

Bigode was a spent force, and was once again torn a new one by Ghiggia who kept charging up to the byline. Barbosa calculated that he would pass it to Schiaffino in the middle and stepped forward to try and block the cross. Ghiggia, who had other ideas, shot ferociously with his left foot and it went in at Barbosa’s near post, as the Maracana turned from a carnival to a graveyard.

Shock and disbelief

The home team attacked but to no avail, as the damage had been done.

An entire nation united in grief, as Fifa president Jules Rimet recounted in his book The Wonderful Story of the World Cup, “Just a few minutes from the end, with the score still at 1-1, I left my seat in the president’s box and, with the microphones at the ready, went down to the dressing rooms, the deafening shouts of the crowd ringing in my ears ... I walked towards the pitch and at the end of the tunnel that jubilation had given way to a desolate silence. There was no guard of honour, no national anthem and no ceremony. There I was alone, in the middle of the crowd, being pushed here, there and everywhere, with the Trophy under my arm. I eventually found the Uruguayan captain and, virtually out of sight of everyone, I handed him the trophy.”

The custodian Barbosa was a pariah for life and was squarely blamed for the defeat. He was not allowed inside a Brazilian training session years later and was disallowed from commenting on a Brazil game in 1993, due to the fear of him being a jinx. He was presented with the wooden posts from the final, which he burnt.

The white shirts with the blue collars that the home team had worn were termed ‘unpatriotic’ and thus came into existence, the yellow shirts with the blue shorts.

The incidents of 1950 might be remembered as a defeat for one of the World Cup’s finest teams but it should not be forgotten for the extraordinary courage of the plucky outsiders to snatch an improbable victory. Varela had rightly told his team, “Boys, outsiders don’t play. Let’s start the show.” They didn’t start it, but they did end up stealing the show.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.