By 90Min
February 26, 2018

"Everywhere has its irrevocable national catastrophe, something like a Hiroshima", stated Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues. 

"Our catastrophe, our Hiroshima, was the defeat by Uruguay in 1950."

Moacir Barbosa Nascimento; a world-renowned goalkeeper, once recognised as the finest custodian across the globe for two decades, became the man who made Brazil cry. 

The stage was set. Selecao; the hosts of the 1950 FIFA World Cup, possessed both the vehicle and the opportunity to build their legacy in the world of football as nations around them attempted to rebuild their entire worlds. 

The country's day of reckoning was upon them: July 16. An occasion that was destined to create tales of legends; ones whom would be spoken of in the same breath as Pele in years to come; those who had led the South American entity to the pinnacle of the international game.

(You may also be interested in 'World Cup Countdown: 17 Weeks to Go - Alcides Ghiggia, the Man Who Silenced the Maracana')

Uruguay was the only thing standing in the way of the nation's first World Cup success. 200,000 natives looked on from every angle of all-new Maracana as the hosts walked their right of passage to glory. History would depict these selected XI as the first in a long line of world conquerors; there was no doubt. 


Due to the bizarre final process, a four-strong group battled it out to be crowned champions. Selecao needed nothing more than a draw against their continental neighbours to have their name etched into football folklore.

Friaça, a Rio-born striker, opened the scoring shortly after half-time. For those inside concrete colossus - the only 200,000 people on the planet who witnessed events unfold - their quest was complete. And why shouldn't it have been? 

FIFA's victory speech had already been penned in Portuguese, victory medals already crafted and engraved with the players' names; congratulatory gold watches handed out to each representative and headlines declaring Brazil as world champions already printed. 

“You, players, who in less than a few hours will be hailed as champions by millions of compatriots! You, who have no rivals in the entire hemisphere! You, who will overcome any other competitor! You, who I already salute as victors!”, the city's Mayor bellowed ahead of kick off. 

(You may also be interested 'World Cup Countdown: 17 Weeks to Go - 1950 Year in Review')

It was a foregone conclusion, until it wasn't. 

Juan Alberto Schiaffino latched onto an Alcides Ghiggia cross from the right-hand side to bring the scores level again. No matter, however, the result still declared Brazil as champions. 

But then came the moment the forged Barbosa's life; a split second that turned a human being who was adored by his country into an anti-hero. 

Ghiggia, again, attacked down the right with purpose in an almost carbon copied scenario to Uruguay's equaliser - almost. Instead of attempting to find a teammate, the winger capitalised on the Rio Branco-born man taking one step away from his post and buried his shot into the bottom right-hand corner. 

11 minutes remained on the clock, but no comeback came. Brazil had failed, and as seen through the wave of "disturbing and traumatic absolute silence" that washed over the Maracana on the full-time whistle, Barbosa had failed Brazil. 

The immediate fallout of the nation's tragedy saw Uruguayans taking it in turns to kiss English referee George Reader. FIFA president Jules Rimet, ushered onto the field by hysterically crying policemen, permitted captain Obdulio Varela to grasp the trophy, however, advised against raising it. The defeat symbolised a dying hope that Selecao would never be world champions.

(You may also be interested in 'World Cup Countdown: 17 Weeks to Go - 'Maracanazo', the Day Uruguay Silenced the Samba'

The natives needed scapegoats and, initially, at least, there were three. Centre-back Juvenal Amarijo, left-back João Ferreira and, of course, Barbosa. The trio all had something in common, not that they were all defensive-minded players, but that they were black. 

“Footballers in general, and black footballers in particular, were cast as psychologically dysfunctional and over-emotional, lacking the self-discipline required to perform at their best”, was David Goldblatt's explanation of the racially-charged chastising that took place. 

The onslaught of the Brazilian people was ruthless. The days of mourning catalysed by Maracanazo - The Maracana Blow - turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and unbeknown to the then-29-year-old at the time, months would turn into a lifetime.

Barbosa held the defeat around his neck for the 50 years that followed, but not before attempting to rid his sins through penance at the scene of his crime. 

Following the conclusion of his playing career in 1962, due to injury, in which he never represented his country at a World Cup again, the man who was eventually held solely responsible for the Maracanazo returned to el Maracanaço to work as an administrator. 

He would go on to serve his sentence at the sight of Brazil's tragedy for several years, however, in 1963, after FIFA's demands to update the stadium's goalposts, Barbosa was offered the white wooden beams as a gift. 

In a bid to exorcise his demons, Brazil's fallen son burnt what became known as 'Ghiggia post' over a barbecue, but his sacrificial offering, one he had hoped to release him from his chains of failure, changed nothing - his distressed legacy remained. 

This was no more evident than in 1970, when, 20 years after the infamous July 16, and in a summer of Selecao being crowned world champions with Pele, a woman in a market pointed at Barbosa, telling her child: "Look at him, son. He is the man that made all of Brazil cry.”

That was all that was left of the 1949 Copa America winner. A national hero once renowned as the greatest goalkeeper of his time, reduced to nothing but a catalyst of woe - a man who was rejected entry into Canarinha's 1993 training camp on the basis of the sorrow and bad luck he brought with him. 

“Under Brazilian law, the maximum sentence is 30 years. But my imprisonment has been for 50”, he said, penniless, shortly before his death in 2000. 

“He even cried on my shoulder. Until the end, he used to always say: ‘I’m not guilty. There were 11 of us'”, a friend of his said shortly after that day. 

Barbosa will always be known as the man who made Brazil cry, but, in truth, the guilt, neglect and outright hatred the entire nation placed upon a man who adored and proudly represented his country is the saddest tale of all. 

"Everywhere has its irrevocable national catastrophe, something like a Hiroshima. Our catastrophe, our Hiroshima, was the defeat by Uruguay in 1950."

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