"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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