Football: Keeper carried can for Brazil shocker

"Look, my child. There is the man who made Brazil cry."

The target of the pitying words was Moacyr Barbosa -- the goalkeeper who let in the goals which gave Uruguay victory in the 1950 World Cup final at the Maracana.

Brazil's collective memory has no qualms in seeing Barbosa as the chief villain of the piece for a traumatic defeat which the country dubbed "Maracanazo."

Barbosa himself recalled the words of the woman who so indecorously pointed him out in a supermarket to her son fully 20 years after the final.

"The longest jail term you can serve in Brazil is 30 years. I think mine has exceeded that by 13," Barbosa mused in a 1993 interview with TV Cultura.

The black shot-stopper would die in 2000 damned by the criticism of his performance on that July day, although his daughter has striven to rehabilitate him.

The roof fell in on Barbosa's career in the 79th minute of the final.

Uruguayan winger Alcides Ghiggia, having provided the assist for Uruguay's first goal, then cut inside and beat him at his near post.

"Everybody thought Ghiggia was going to cut it back as he had done for the opener," Barbosa recalled in "Dossiê 50", a synopsis of the event written by Geneton Moraes Neto.

Barbosa therefore came slightly off his line and gave Ghiggia just enough scope to drill home.

Barbosa looked skywards but the footballing gods were against him.

Silence fell at the whistle.

But, afterwards, the accusations came thick and fast -- with four men in the media-created dock.

There was left-back Bigode, whom Ghiggia twice ghosted past, once to fashion an equalizer, once to score the winner.

Then there was coach Flavio Costa, who told his men to stand off their rivals in case they earned a sending-off, a tactic seen as inhibiting Bigode's naturally aggressive marking.

Another accused was central defender Juvenal for not covering his man as danger loomed.

But the man who took more flak than anyone was the goalkeeper, "crucified" by the press.

"The Brazilians forgot all about yellow fever, compulsory vaccination, the assassination of Pinheiro Machado (the president killed in 1915).

"But they never forgot Barbosa's mistake," noted writer Nelson Rodrigues.

Racism, institutionalized in Brazilian football since the start of the early 20th Century and traces of which remain latent, found an excuse to rear its ugly head.

On the street, there would be those who contemptuously spat the words "black goalkeeper" or who would rail at a "mixed" race team.

- Exorcism -

Barbosa had had a fine career, winning shoals of honors with Rio side Vasco da Gama in the 1940s -- but his 1950 misery overshadowed everything he had achieved.

"The ball went where it should not have," lamented striker Jair.

But Uruguayan matchwinner Ghiggia had sympathy.

"They heaped the blame on him -- but it's 11 who win and 11 who lose," Ghiggia told AFP.

"And they are pretty fanatical in Brazil."

Barbosa had some consolation in that a year later his Vasco side beat a Penarol side in a "revenge" friendly match at Montevideo's Centenario stadium.

He insisted he was proud to have played a part in taking Brazil to the final, laying some of the foundations for their eventual first win in Sweden in 1958.

Looking on the bright side, he once said: "Few people have gone down in history.

"With this July 16, 1950 match I shall always be a part of Brazil's footballing history."

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano noted in Sunday's O Estado de Sao Paulo how Barbosa had ritually burnt the goalposts between which Ghiggia drilled his winning goal.

"The cross of his martyrdom. Alone, he celebrated a ceremony of exorcism by burning the goalposts of his malediction.

"He was torn by the human necessity of finding someone to blame, even if experts recognised him as the best goalkeeper of his era."