Friday, September 22, 2017

Brasil x England, May 1964

A PAPER CUP FULL OF LEMONADE ON A FLAT TRAJECTORY STRUCK HEADMASTER CASE-MORRIS ON THE BACK OF THE NECK. Lemonade fanned out laterally in an expanding shock-wave disk, and British School of Teresópolis athletes suddenly realized none of us would get out of Maracanã stadium alive...


Our humble beginnings...

It would, perhaps, be more informative and timeline-consistent to first discuss The State Track & Field Championship that got us into this fix in the first place. Suffice to say the Maracanã Brasil x Inglaterra game was God's punishment for Pride, that first and foremost among the Seven Deadly Sins celebrated by more-altruistic-than-thou Christendom. This was Armageddon at which track meet medal winners were certain to pay with our lives for the privilege of spectating--torn apart by an angry mob like so many Irishmen at a rugby match... The location was Rio de Janeiro, 30 May 1964. We, the victims-in-waiting were part of the British School of Teresópolis track & field team. Our sin was to have won medals at an inter-mural track meet against the Escola Americana and a huge Brazilian High School. 

Five to One, baby, one in five
No one here get's out alive now
You get yours, baby, I'll get mine
Gonna win, yeah, we're takin' over,
COME ON! --Jim Morrison

It began misting as the game began. Soot and grime coating the rough concrete terracing that passed for seating began absorbing moisture, oozing and accumulating into every slight depression in the uneven surface. Stray bits of newsprint, stadium leaflets and paper napkins strewn everywhere soaked up soot and moisture as the chilly drizzle increased. May in Rio is the climactic equivalent of November in Miami or Hawaii.

Each of us was decked out in a gray BST blazer with blue tie and dress shirt topping a wet-concrete-gray pair of trousers and shiny brown leather shoes. From our coat pockets blazed forth the coat-of-arms of the British School of Teresópolis--each a perfect beacon for cross-hairs--signalling ENEMY DETECTED... ZERO ALL ARTILLERY ON THESE MARKS. 

Imagine if you will a bearded Rabbi with long curly hair named Case-Morris flanked by an acolyte named Solomon Shrem. Following them, a pink-faced flock of well-scrubbed Bar Mitzvah celebrants, hair combed under their little yarmulkes with Star-of-David blazer emblems, filing like baby ducks into a row of stadium seats at the Nuremberg Nazi Parteitag of 1934 (or aboard a subway full of Chelsea fans). That mental image conveys how welcome we were soon made to feel at the Maracanã stadium. 

The drizzle increased ever so slightly, adding just the right touch of chill to the sense of grim foreboding. Our unwelcome alien-ness seemed to swell with the moisture as whispers spread outwards in an expanding circle centered about our position. Every carioca for at least a hundred meters in every direction appraised us with baleful eyes--eyes glazed like the lenses of artillery-spotter binoculars. Several thoughts competed with fear, dread and terror for my attention, thoughts like: What am I even doing here? I HATE soccer! and Pride goeth Before a Fall!

Suddenly Rinaldo scored a goal. The crowd rose in a great roar of delight, and glances toward us became more furtive, less hateful, more cheerfully condescending and... yes... pitiful. We are saved! thought I, and began for the first time to take an iota of interest in the wet and dreary game. At every opportunity I inched down the bench just a bit farther away from my outlandishly-dressed colleagues in the British Cheering Delegation.  

By half-time the field was muddy and so were many of the players. Disaster struck four minutes into the second half. England's Jimmy Greaves scored a goal, and immediately the crowd turned ugly. Sodden bits of paper were gathered into muddy missiles and projectiles. Hands were raised to summon over tea and lemonade vendors, each one lugging a nickel-plated keg of chilled refreshments. A white paper cup rose up into the glare of the floodlights in a lazy parabolic arch, and I realized none of us would ever get out of there alive

(To be continued...) 

1 comment: