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Soccer and The National Character

There is no other sport in the world that's so tide to a nation's history and sense of identity. New York Times columnist Michael J. Agovino talks about how a country's response to their national soccer team's performance reflects its national character. If losing, finger-pointing, weeping, stewing, and stoicism are universal reactions, it's the way in which a country collectively does this that's unique. For example, Barbosa, Brazil's goalkeeper during the 1950 World Cup, which was hosted in Brazil, died in abject isolation 50 years later because Brazilians took to blaming him for the country's loss. The media's scorn for Barbosa endured through his death. How could they hold him personally responsibleand not forgive him 50 years later? "Brazilians are bipolar," one Brazilian anthropologist said of his country. "Everything is either the best in the world or the worst in the world. They have a superiority complex in terms of football, yet the flipside is a developing nation's crushing insecurity complex." Meanwhile, the Netherlands has never quite recovered from losing both the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals. Said one Dutch sociologist: "The defeat of 1974 is the biggest trauma that happened to Holland in the 20th century apart from the floods of 1953 and World War II." How did they respond? They "go numb and pretend it doesn't matter. They shrug and don't talk."

Read the whole story at The New York Times »

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