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Brazil's painful journey from romanticism to humiliation

‘Wow’, is all I can say. I, like most of the rest of the football watching public, have been completely blown away by the match, team performances, and overall result in the World Cup semi-final last night between Brazil and Germany. Destruction. Annihilation. Humiliation. In the context of international football, and historically what we know and believe about the grand order of things, the script was well and truly ripped up. Just, wow.

In hindsight, I have been a little surprised that more people hadn’t seen something like this coming (although perhaps not to the extent of a 7-1 drubbing). For a few years now there has been a somewhat rose-tinted view of Brazilian football maintained within the media. In this World Cup in particular, most would agree that Brazil have not been performing that well. Perhaps the idea that they would sweep to the world title was always just misplaced romanticism.

Expectations of the team within their own country were clearly sky high. It is likely this rubbed off onto the players. As I have explained in a previous blog, high expectations induce significant pressure, which can also inhibit performance. It was readily apparent last night just how quickly the Brazilian defence completely lost composure, focus and concentration under the German onslaught.

Aside from the team and the game itself, I feel really sorry for the Brazilian public. It was moving, and somewhat uncomfortable, to watch the levels of emotion among the crowd at the game last night. Adults and kids alike looked utterly bereft. Perhaps supporters, caught up in national pride and emotion, had become giddy with optimism and blind to the deficiencies in their team. There was a significant emotional distance for them to fall from, and it looked really, really painful.

More broadly, football, and indeed sport in general, can occupy a curious position in our psyche. Looking at football objectively, it is of course ‘only a game’, but it amazes me just how emotionally involved we can get in something like that. Why does football matter so much to so many people? The answer to this question is complex, and it raises issues about identity, personal value systems, and how we choose to define ourselves and to be seen by others.

Of course, being a sports fan can be a lot of fun, and maybe the occasional highs, along with hope, celebration, camaraderie, and strong sense of identity and belonging make it all worthwhile.

However, when there is an over-investment in one area, as is often the case in football (trust me, I know!!), it carries risk and can leave someone open to the range of emotions many Brazilian fans will currently be experiencing. It is much like a grief process – shock/denial, anger, shame, depression, will all be experienced and expressed before supporters can fully accept what has happened and move on, perhaps with a more realistic, and less romantic view of their national team.

Their bubble has been well and truly burst.

Yours in psychology,


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