Depth of Brazilian pain unfathomable

20:26, Jul 11 2014
brazilian fans
OH THE PAIN: These Brazilian fans would have been better off going to the dentist.

I knew who was in for the greater pain, and it wasn't me, even though I was the one in the dentist's chair.

In fact, even as I contemplated the prospect of shelling out $1000 for a root canal to save my munted molar, the bruising my bank balance faced wasn't the only thing making me feel a little light-headed.

When the filling in that tooth - placed there only seven or eight years earlier by a dentist in Ashburton - had come out, in several big chunks and countless smaller ones, on Monday, I'd jumped at the chance to see a dentist at 8.30am on Wednesday.

The sooner, the better, I'd naturally thought, reasoning that it would be a simple case of replacing the amalgam that had fallen out with something more modern.

It was all planned. As it happened, I'd booked my car in for a service the same morning, and I worked out I could drop it off early and comfortably make the dentist on foot by the appointed time.

The only hitch in the plan didn't occur to me until the next day, when I remembered with a start that there was a football game on at 8am on Wednesday, the small matter of a World Cup semifinal between Brazil and Germany.


I didn't even consider trying to change the appointment, though, knowing how tough they can be to get. I just hoped I'd be out of that chair not too long after halftime and able to hoof it home for the dramatic conclusion, possibly including extra time. I was even slightly excited by the idea, obviously aside from the fact that I was going to the dentist.

It was all going swimmingly, I thought as I strolled towards my appointment, ahead of schedule. It struck me I should check the score before I went in, and whipped out my phone, noting that Germany had scored the first goal through Thomas Muller. Nothing unexpected or untoward about that.

One of the first things I noted as I walked through the door of the dental practice for the first time was that there was a TV on the waiting room wall, and the football was on. Brilliant. Suddenly I wasn't so anxious to get in and out quickly.

The second thing was the smiling, friendly welcome I got from the receptionist - gold for any business but especially one where extreme reluctance is a widespread emotion among customers - who asked me to fill in a form.

You know the type of form I mean: personal details, medical conditions, whether or not you're likely to react badly to the anaesthetic, that sort of thing. Anyway, I started filling it in up at the counter, but things soon got complicated.

As in, I could hear the commentator's voice rising from a few metres to my right, and it was clear something major was happening in Belo Horizonte, a situation confirmed when one of the dentists wandered through in a free moment and said something like, "Oh, it's 2-0 now".

I don't remember what the score was by the time I took the form back to my seat in the waiting room, so I could follow the football, but by the time I took it back to the counter, it was 4-0, and tears were flooding from millions of Brazilian eyes. When the dentist summoned me to my fate, the Germans had five before the half-hour mark. Unbelievable.

I won't say I wasn't concentrating for the next 15 minutes or so, as the dentist explained why I had two choices, extraction or root canal, because the nerve was dead, then suggested I take some time to contemplate it. After all, there are significant long-term considerations involved.

But as I took the 10-minute walk home, I was still pondering the pain of the people of Brazil.

We all know the old saying "it's only a game". My dad used it often, many times to comfort me over a sporting disappointment. But I wouldn't recommend you use it on a Brazilian in the wake of a football defeat, especially not a 7-1 thrashing in a World Cup semifinal, at home, where they hadn't lost a competitive international match since 1975. Because it's not just a game, not for the passionate fans of the Selecao.

I wrote a month ago of the moving ESPN documentary about Moacyr Barbosa, "the man who made Brazil cry". Barbosa, the goalkeeper, was blamed for allowing Uruguay's winning goal in the deciding match of the 1950 World Cup, and was widely shunned for the rest of his life.

I hoped - especially having just returned from a visit largely spent in remarkable Rio - that 2014 would finally banish the ghosts of that tournament, which had continued to waft through Brazilian life in spite of their team winning five World Cups in the interim.

In the end, they were banished, but not because the team found redemption. Instead, they replaced the nightmares of 1950 with something worse, and I feel deeply for them for that, awful as they were on the night.

How Brazil will recover from this, as the reality of the country's many problems settles back in post-World Cup, is hard to fathom, but I fervently hope they find effective leadership, on the football field and in government, to confront the challenges ahead.

The Timaru Herald