The strength of his sobs shook his small body while tears streamed down his face. The little boy’s cries summed up the devastation of a nation. He stood among a crowd dressed in yellow at the Mineirao stadium and he couldn’t stop weeping. He and thousands of unbelieving men and women around him had spent the last 29 minutes watching Germany destroy their World Cup dreams. The little boy wailed. Brazil wept.
The semi final was 29 minutes young and Germany had scored 5 goals. You couldn’t say Brazil were going home as you would for other teams who failed to make it through the knock-out stages. Brazil were at home. This was their country. This was their tournament. This was meant to be their Cup.
I don’t know who that little boy in Brazil was. I don’t know how old he was or what his name was. But I know that in that moment, after watching his country well and truly thrashed, he was for me everything a World Cup should be.
That child in that stadium was, for every winning and losing moment of this World Cup, in love with football. With his heart and soul and every inch of his skin, he believed in a game which was played between two sets of goalposts. He was carried along on a wave of excitement which had taken the world with it. He wanted more than anything for his team to find glory during a tournament which brought the corners of the earth together. He believed completely that the Cup would belong to Brazil.
And this, this pure and innocent idealism, this was football. This unfaltering optimism, this unquestioning belief, this is what we adults lost somewhere, between World Cups, when we grew up.
At 5-0, or perhaps it was at 6-0 or 7-0, that little boy finally gave in and gave up. He realised it was over. The dream was no more. (He too grew up.) But until then, he believed there was a chance and he dared to keep dreaming. At 1-0 and 2-0 and 3-0, like a sorry Spurs fan who believes at the start of each season that this might finally be their year again, he believed. His sobbing shook his body with such vigour because he had truly thought this with all of his might.
That little boy had his heart broken. In a crowd of his country-folk, in a sea of dreamers who too had let themselves imagine they would achieve glory, he experienced crushing, unrecoverable devastation. He wept, of course. He sobbed, of course. A nation mourned the death of a dream. But last night, that little boy’s tear-stained face showed the world what it was to believe.