Every team needs a hero, a poster boy who signifies victory, signifies success. A star on whom the media can focus its coverage. Every successful campaign has one. Pele for Brazil, Maradona for Argentina.
But then some are not so lucky, there is Tendulkar – until he won the cup in 2011, Jayawardene – until he won the T20 World Cup in 2014, and then there is a Neymar.
A couple of days ago, ex-Brazil coach Dunga stated that Neymar “was too raw to play in South Africa”. And yet, in the span of four years, Neymar rose through the ranks at the Santos; soon came into the media limelight and hence caught the eye of ‘Big Phil’.
A rampaging Neymar was then the talk of the town in 2011 Club World cup against Barcelona. On a high, he then came to the Confederations cup and won many accolades.
In a clinical performance, he scored in every group-stage match, assisted the all-important goal against Uruguay in the semi-final before scoring against Spain in the final.
Since that day things have gone uphill for him till only recently when he lost his place in the team, thanks to an ugly tackle from behind which broke his vertebrae, and shattered a World Cup dream.
While talking about poster boys, we too, at India had one.
Remember the then 23-year-old young Sachin Tendulkar, who took the World Cup by storm in 1996. During the competition, which was held in the sub-continent, he amassed 523 runs at an a staggering average of 67.
However, fate, like for Brazil in 2014, had other ideas for Tendulkar in 1996.
While Tendulkar went to fulfill his World Cup dream in 2011 – where India lifted the trophy after 28 years, Neymar’s already illustrious career is yet to get the Cup sheen.
Brazil’s 2014 campaign, too, was nothing short of India’s 1996 World Cup campaign. A constant chord – both teams suffocated under a million hopes.
While India, then, pinned their hopes on Tendulkar, the 198 million Brazilians focused their attention on Neymar.
The Indian dream, back in 1996, was over when Tendulkar was smartly stumped off Jayasuriya but Brazil lost half the battle after their star Neymar was ruled out of the semis clash.
Scenes were not violent at Belo Horizonte though, but an NYT report said: “The aftermath of Brazil’s defeat could turn ugly. There were reports of a mass robbery at a fan party in Rio de Janeiro and of fans setting fire to Brazilian flags in the streets of São Paulo even before the match was over.”
Sports has always been a way of entertainment for the ordinary people in Brazil or the aam aadmi in India who fights corruption and nepotism, and returns home as a failure everyday.
For people like them, sports is, and always was, a way of looking at life positively. And with time cricket and football – the two major sports in India and Brazil – have grown in stature with players becoming larger than the life.
Going by how Indians coped, and recovered, from the broken dream in 1996, it seems Brazil will also follow suit.
Aditya Iyer, who is covering the FIFA World Cup for The Indian Express, writes, “A day before Brazil’s opening clash agaist Croatia ,Scolari, Brazil coach, lost his nephew in a car crash. Yet, he claimed today (the loss 1-7 loss against Germany) was the worse.”