ESPN Soccer Stories: Barbosa – The Man Who Made All of Brazil Cry (2014)

Directed by Loch Phillips

While watching this film, I couldn’t help but think about Alex Gibney’s Catching Hell and the Zimbalist brothers The Two Escobars, which are two of the better entries in the ESPN Films documentary canon. Focusing on the Brazilian goalkeeper, Moacir Barbosa, Brabosa – The Man Who Made All of Brazil Cry, while a bit wordy title, captures many similarities to those two films. Barbosa was a famous goalkeeper for the Brazilian national team around 1950. He was one of the very best in the world. When Brazil was set to host the World Cup in 1950, the country was hopeful that their powerful team would steamroll the other teams to victory. Barbosa was a big reason why they were confident. But after coasting through the opening matches of the tournament, where Barbosa was not placed in any tight game situations, the Brazilians squared off against the Uruguay national team for the right to call themselves World Cup Champions.

What happened next, as you can imagine based on the title of the film, is Barbosa allowed what some have called a “soft goal” and the Brazilians were defeated by a score of 2-1. Perhaps unfairly, the Brazilians blamed their goalkeeper for the lose, despite the offense only mustering a single goal in the title game. The idea of scapegoating is very well examined in the aforementioned Catching Hell, and while the idea is not expressly explored here, one cannot help but think about the implications and stigma placed on such a position in sports like a soccer goalkeeper. Much like the closer position in a baseball team’s bullpen, the goalkeeper is rarely applauded (unless your Tim Howard in the 2014 World Cup, but then again the Americans look for anything to cheer about with their soccer teams), and often it is the position that fans are first to blame when a team loses a game they feel they should have won.

The heartbreak experienced by the Brazilian fans have been felt by pretty much every fan of sports, as inevitably your favorite team will lose in heartbreaking fashion at some point in your time as a fan. But Barbosa has carried this with him his whole life, as a burden much like Steve Bartman has for his role in the Cubs losing in the NL Championship Series. If you have seen The Two Escobars, you know it was not a burden carried for very long by Andres Escobar, who inextricably scored an own goal to help bounce his favored Colombian team from the 1994 World Cup. What Loch Phillips’ film does is help bring light to the humanity behind athletes who are often cheered too much when they win, and hounded far too harshly when they lose. Catching Hell and The Two Escobars may present the material in a superior manner, but Barbosa is an interesting watch all the same.

*** – G00d

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