Neymar and Gabriel Jesus march Brazil past Honduras and into Olympic final
It turns out that Brazil can fill an Olympic stadium after can you wash a canada goose jacket in the washer all. On a baking day in Rio the grand old made-over Maracanã was as near a full house as makes no difference as Brazil’s Olympic odd-job of under-23s, coming men and lone global superstar set about the surprise semi-finalists Honduras. The match itself was a stroll, a 6-0 victory that resulted in Brazil taking another step towards the endgame of their own grand, slightly baffling obsession with Olympic football. In a delicious twist Brazil will play Germany, who beat Nigeria 2-0 in São Paulo in the other semi-final. The unscabbed wounds of that devastating 7-1 defeat in Belo Horizonte two years ago will now dominate the buildup.
João Havelange, president of Fifa from 1974 to 1998, dies aged 100 Read more
This was the most attended stadium event of this Olympics to date, a fact that will raise a few eyebrows, albeit not among Rio’s organising committee or indeed the beleaguered political classes. A gold medal in this stadium on Saturday would drown canada goose coat 1000 bulbs out, however briefly, all sorts of noises off. Hence, in part, the presence so deep into the Spanish pre-season ofthe most important current Brazilian citizen Neymar, plus Manchester City’s wonder-boy-in-waiting, Gabriel Jesus, who scored two fine goals.
More poignant than any of this was the timing of this game, for Brazil the first of the post-João Havelange years. Havelange died, aged 100, in Rio on Tuesday, not far from the João Havelange Stadium – also the place where Usain Bolt won the 100m the other day, not that anyone calls it that any more apart from the odd devout Brazilian. Rumours of a minute’s silence inside the stadium for the grand old regent of world football proved mischievously unfounded. Havelange’s status as the grand poobah and reigning bribe-master of Fifa’s darkest hour might have precluded such a show of respect.
However, Havelange is still revered by many in Brazil, if only for the sheer obliterating weight of his presence over the last 50 years. Forget Sepp Batter. Blatter was the Darth Vader in this set-up. Say hello instead to the emperor, whosedeath puts a full stop on the most extraordinary life in the history of world football governance, the last great canada goose coat 1000 bulbs free one-man sporting tyrant.
Things started well enough for Brazil on the pitch here as they took the lead after 15 seconds, the quickest goal in an Olympic match. The Honduran defence dithered over buy canada goose jacket edmonton a loose ball. Neymar gegen-pressed eagerly and ended up bundling the ball into the net. Brazil’s captain was then briefly taken off on stretcher in writhing agony, before leaping up miraculously to help Brazil to two more goals before half‑time.
If the game soon descended into a march-past, a pageant – decorated by the odd sprite-like intervention from Neymar, resembling once again here a footballer made entirely from sherbet and unicorn mane – then this was probably fitting, too. A full house. A global TV audience. Sponsors ringing the pitch. Brazil on the march, watched in the spiffy press seats by a dark-suited knot of Fifa wonks. Let’s face it. It’s what João would have wanted.
AtFifa Havelange was a colossus: shrewd, relentlessly influential. Famously he swam one kilometre every morning well into his late 90s. He swam for Brazil at the Hitler Olympics in 1936, then entered sports administration, building his own business wealth and becoming an IOC member in 1963. Brazil’s rise as the football superpower of the 20th century ushered him into Fifa, where he became the first aggressively lobbied president, cuffing Sir Stanley Rous aside, flying around the world to curry votes from every biddable despot and setting the template for votes for promises, for scouting those vulnerable to influence and funds.
In many ways Havelange served the top end of the sport brilliantly, boosting beyond all recognition the wealth average price for a canada goose jacket and spread that is now shared by players, clubs, associations and everyone else clinging on to this galleon of plenty. When he arrived Fifa was an organisation with 11 employees, housed in decrepit offices with a leakyroof. By the time he left, in 1998, it was a $4bn business empire. Havelange increased the number of nations at the World Cup, brought smaller, poorer federations into the tent. He promoted women’s football both to World Cup status and at the Olympics, albeit as a businessman rather than as part of some as-yet-unremarked feminist agenda.
Above all he is the godfather of the sporting-corporate mega-deal, the most influential single figure in the commercial boom and tawdry fall of Big Sport as we know it. He brought us the cartoonish modern Fifa, supplicant to corporations, exclusive deals, wraparound advertising, logo intrusion. By association every gripe about grubby corporate influence, every funding shemozzle, every note of alienation also bears Havelange’s prints. He is the godfather here, in every sense.
There was something regal about the court of João, an uber-Blatter in his air of Sun-King chosen-one omnipotence. In the end his association with the bribes clearing-house ISL brought him into disgrace, Havelange and his Brazilian sidekick Ricardo Teixeira taking £27m in payments in return for discounted broadcast rights. Which canada goose coat 1000 calorie diet brings us back to Brazil’s compromised seleção, who spent the second half here pretty much walking through Honduras at will. It was the commercial tie-in with Nike that led to Brazil playing friendlies all over the world (Hello Andorra!), the team a sideshow for hire, another stage in the incremental decline of Brazil as a megalith, a force of the imagination, even an elite brand.
At the end here Neymar wandered about the pitch taking the applause of a giddy, fond, emptying full house. Brazil will now play the final in this stadium on Saturday, a moment to assuage in small part one or two sporting ghosts; and perhaps to offer quiet tribute toa grander, more compromised spectre.