FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Brazilian fans held their heads in their hands, threw up their arms in despair, pulled their hair in anguish, and stood in shock and disbelief as they watched Germany crush their beloved soccer team in a humiliating 7-1 defeat during Tuesday’s World Cup semifinals.
The scene took place nearly 5,000 miles away from Brazil, in the eastern Massachusetts town of Framingham, home to one of the world’s biggest Brazilian communities outside the homeland.
With its vibrant “Little Brazil” boasting bakeries, restaurants, jewelry shops and clothing stores, Framingham is known to throw a heck of a World Cup celebration.
That’s why friends Vilson Branco and Romulo Sousa, both from Worcester, Massachusetts, came here to watch Brazil take on Germany and join the revelers who have packed Tropical Cafe since the tournament began in mid-June.
“We were hoping to celebrate after the game,” said a dejected Branco, who was wearing Brazil’s bright yellow jersey. “It was supposed to be a party.”
“It feels like a funeral,” Sousa quipped, outside the restaurant decorated with balloons and Brazilian flags.
It felt that way for about 1,500 fans Framingham police expected to take part in street celebrations, as they have after previous Brazil victories in the tournament. Twenty-five police officers and up to eight state police troopers were designated to manage the crowds and traffic, Deputy Police Chief Steven Trask said before the game.
In the late 1990s, when Brazilian immigrants took to the streets to celebrate their team’s wins, police thought it was a riot. Now they know better, and every four years, make plans for how to handle the crowds.
“It’s a happy, joyous crowd,” Trask said. “We’d let them celebrate one hour or so and then we’d ask them to disperse. Our job is to make sure that everybody is safe and the town continues to function.”
But alas, all the preparation this time wasn’t necessary. Barriers to contain revelers on sidewalks and prevent them from spilling over the roads sat unused. Fans who in past celebrations crowded the streets cheering on their team while cars flying Brazilian flags and honking horns circled around downtown, as in a Brazilian carnival, were nowhere to be seen. The streets were empty, traffic snarled as usual, and the atmosphere was gloomy.
It was a dark contrast to previous celebrations, where thousands of Brazilians fans from all over Massachusetts came to join in the street party, halting traffic for hours and covering downtown with a sea of yellow jerseys.
This is a town of just 68,000 people. Boston researcher Alvaro Lima puts the number of Brazilian residents in Framingham at 10,000, although official counts are lower. They began coming here in the 1980s, mostly from the city of Governador Valadares, escaping their country’s economic upheaval. Now they’re Framingham’s largest ethnic group.
The researcher counts as many as 250,000 Brazilians in all of Massachusetts — the largest concentration in the United States and bigger than the Brazilian emigre communities in any Latin American, European or Asian country.
This time many fans here walked out during the game — just as some spectators did at Brazil’s Mineirao stadium where the match was held, in disgust at what sports commentators are calling the country’s worst World Cup defeat.
Those who stayed at the Brazilian cafe until the end went home dejected. Amanda Santos was among them. “I’m going home to cry,” she said. “I have no words. Soccer is everything for Brazilians.”
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Mara Rubio, who wore a Brazilian jersey, green and yellow earrings and a matching bracelet, felt the same way. “I came to celebrate,” she said. “But this was a humiliation, an embarrassment.”
Antonio Daldon, who has lived in Framingham for the past 15 years, was too shocked to talk. “The only happy ones are the police in Framingham,” he said.
Not really. Before the game, Trask was asked whether he’d rather Brazil lose to Germany to avoid the extra work. He hesitated.
“My son is watching the game, and he’s rooting for Brazil,” he said. “We’d be happy if Brazil wins.”
But it wasn’t meant to be. Friends Branco and Sousa, who came to Framingham hoping to join in the street celebrations, walked down the desolated sidewalks, feeling sad and sharing the pain of Brazilians back home.
Summing up the sentiment of Brazilian fans in Framingham, Brazil and elsewhere, Sousa said, “My heart is broken.”