Why The Brazilian Soccer Team Wouldn't Wear White - Until Now

Juan Alberto Schiaffino of Uruguay score in the 66th minute of the infamous 'Maracanazo' match
Juan Alberto Schiaffino of Uruguay score in the 66th minute of the infamous "Maracanazo" match

"In Japan, white is the color of mourning." So wrote Samuel French in his play All the Way Home. Or at least that's the line as I remember it from my high-school theater days.

White is also the color that the Brazilian national soccer team was wearing in the infamous "Maracanazo" match, a decisive showdown against Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup.

Playing in Rio de Janeiro's Estádio do Maracanã, the home team had the crowd in its corner and a one-point advantage in the round-robin phase then used to determine the Cup champion. Brazil didn't even need to beat Uruguay that day — July 16 — to hoist the trophy. All they needed was to avoid defeat.

The match was scoreless at the halfway mark, but shortly after play resumed, Brazil's Friaça snuck one past the Uruguayan goalkeeper to put the locals up 1-0. Uruguay equalized nearly 20 minutes later. But with the clock ticking down, Brazil still had the advantage.

Then, the unfathomable occurred: a 79th-minute goal by Uruguay's Alcides Ghiggia, who was the last surviving player of the Maracanazo when he died exactly 65 years later, on July 16, 2015. "La Celeste," as the Uruguayan team is known, went on to win the match and the World Cup — for the second time.

Brazil would, of course, enjoy its own success in subsequent World Cups, but the stinging loss to Uruguay in 1950 is still a bitter memory for the soccer-mad, Portuguese-speaking nation. The result was so agonizing, in fact, that the team stopped wearing white jerseys altogether, opting instead for the now familiar green and gold. White had become the color of defeat.

Nearly 70 years later, however, Brazil is ready to tempt fate, it appears. In June, Brazil will host South America's most important international tournament, the Copa America. And when they take the field, the Brazilian players will once again be wearing white, rising star and Real Madrid striker Vinicius Jr. revealed recently.

Why the sudden change of heart? For good luck of course (and perhaps to earn millions in apparel sales). It turns out that the new white jerseys are in homage to the team's 1919 uniforms. Brazil hosted the Copa America that year too — and won — beating none other than? You guessed it: Uruguay.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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