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Sunday, August 28, 2011


After the furore surrounding the defeat to Uruguay, Moacyr Barbosa slowly resumed his club career with Vasco da Gama, and remained hugely popular within the club itself and among its supporters. He may have been in the Brazil side which finished as runners-up in the 1950 World Cup, but was a member of the Vasco side which won the Carioca state championship towards the end of the same year, and who won it again in 1952.

So good was his form at the time that he was selected for the Brazil squad which travelled to Peru for the 1953 Copa America and which finished runners-up to Paraguay. Just as the competition was the last time in which Brazil played in their all-white strip (in the period following the 1950 World Cup, the Brazilian football authorities decided to change the national team's strip as they had come to consider it a jinx, having associated it with the defeat against Uruguay; it was changed after this tournament), it was to see Barbosa's 20th and final appearance in a full international for O Seleção.

He signed off on a winning note, with Brazil defeating Ecuador 2:0 on 12/3/53. He was substituted in the 72nd minute, and his international career was over, a fortnight before his 32nd birthday. No other black goalkeeper would go between the sticks for Brazil in a full international until Dida made his début for the national side in 1995, a sure sign of the stigma attached to Barbosa's role in that defeat. Dida went on to play in, and help Brazil win, the Confederations Cup in 1997 and 2005, and play in the 1999 Copa America.

Barbosa was still first-choice 'keeper for Vasco; however, he suffered a career-threatening injury during a game against Botafogo in 1953 when he broke his right leg. However, he battled back, and two years later, he won yet another Carioca state championship. It was 1955, and after 10 years at the club, he was on his way to Pernambuco club Santa Cruz, where he spent the 1956 season before he was on the road again, this time back to Rio and one of the state's smaller teams, Bonsucesso, for the 1957 season.

He went back up to Santa Cruz  for a while again in 1958, but came back to Vasco da Gama later that year, just in time to win his sixth and final Carioca title at the end of the year. Barbosa stayed there for two years until the end of the 1960 season. He seems to have retired from the game for a year before coming back for a last hurrah with another Carioca club, Campo Grande, in 1962. Barbosa played his last game for Campo Grande - and his last game in football - on 8/7/62, in front of just 670 paying spectators.

His playing career over, he soon found himself a a supervisor in the administration department at the Estádio Maracanã; an ironic twist of fate of ever there was one. There is a oft-mentioned story, confirmed by Muylaert, that "when they removed one of the [goals at the] Maracanã, the administrator of the stadium offered it as a souvenir to Barbosa. It was the one in which Ghiggia scored". Barbosa took the set of goalposts home and burnt them at a churrasco (a type of barbecue) he had prepared for some friends. It was as though Barbosa was attempting to exorcise the ghost of the defeat against Uruguay, the demon which had ruined his life.

Muylaert found it "awkward" to discuss the story with Barbosa, though he actually did so twice, the second time with another journalist, Claudio de Souza. The tale of the set of goalposts caused some controversy in itself around the time of the launch of Muylaert's book on Barbosa, the author recalls, with one journalist accusing the incident of being little more than a piece of fanciful invention by the author, while Barbosa's team-mate in the 1950 Brazil side, described the story as a fantasy.

(To find out more about the story of both sets of goalposts used in the Brazil : Uruguay decider, please visit the following link:

Another (more than well-documented) incident occurred in 1970, when he was in a supermarket in Rio de Janeiro. A woman, shopping together with her son, spotted Barbosa, turned around to her little boy, who was all of ten years old, and said to him, "Look, my son, come here; this is the man who made all of Brazil cry." How would that kind of comment make anyone feel? As far as Barbosa was concerned, although he vigorously defended himself at the time and that this was far from the first time he had been accosted in public, this was the saddest thing that had ever happened to him. And this was 20 years after the 1950 World Cup defeat against Uruguay..

Some years later, having retired from his job at the Maracanã, Barbosa and his wife, Clotilde, decided to move to the coastal town of Praia Grande, as much to get some peace and quiet and for Barbosa to remove himself from the public eye as for anything else. The two of them had remained more or less inseparable since they married in the 1940s, and were childless.

However, they were not at all well off, and when Clotilde was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1990s, most of Barbosa's pension, which amounted to around 730 Real per month, went towards his wife's treatment and medication. He did receive financial assistance from the chairman of Vasco da Gama, Eurico Miranda, which amounted to paying the rent for the Barbosas' apartment. One could regard this as a magnanimous gesture, were it not for the fact that Miranda was, at that time, becoming embroiled in corruption scandals, which overlapped both football and politics. In the light of this, it could be reasonably assumed that Miranda was trying to create a benevolent image for himself, more than having a genuine desire to help the Barbosas. Only he knows the truth.

One of the great myths surrounding Moacyr Barbosa was that he was regarded as a pariah in Brazilian football circles. This was not entirely the case, as he still had a circle of friends from his football career and his life outside football,  in Rio de Janeiro, in São Paulo and now in Praia Grande, and, of course, he was still fondly remembered by a great many people connected with Vasco da Gama. However, there were those who still had a grudge to bear.

In 1993, he went to visit the Brazilian national team at their training camp in Teresopólis, but he was refused entry, by someone from the CBF who recognised him at the gate, for fear that his presence would bring bad luck to the squad. It has also been said that Mario Zagalo, the Brazilian manager at the time, sanctioned Barbosa’s exclusion from the training-camp. Barbosa was, allegedly, also approached with a view to co-commentating on a football match around the same time; this opportunity was also, so it seems, quickly taken away from him.

In spite of all his trials and tribulations, he was very well-regarded by those who knew him; it has often been said that he was an absolute gentleman, polite to a fault, had a cheerful personality and a good sense of humour. He was also a compassionate man; in his later years, he was involved in collecting empty beer tins in exchange for cash, which he would donate to an organisation raising money to buy wheelchairs for those who could not afford to buy one themselves.

Sadly, Clotilde Barbosa succumbed to cancer in May 1996 after a long illness. Moacyr still had some friends, but there was no-one to fill the hole left by his wife's death. Until, that is, he became friendly with the owner of a small beach-side kiosk in Praia Grande, Teresa Borba Barbosa (no relation). In time, the two of them unofficially "adopted" each other as father and daughter.

Teresa Borba recalls him coming to her kiosk virtually every day, though, at first, she had no idea who he was. She said that "he was an anonymous person, nobody knew him. My husband, Mauro, who is a Vascaino [Vasco da Gama supporter], recognised him." Her husband and Barbosa did not discuss the 1950 World Cup at first, but instead concentrated on Vasco da Gama and the Expresso da Vitória.

"He loved talking about his team, Vasco," Teresa continued. "That was logical; he said that football was his passion..[he] devoted his entire life to the sport."

The 1950 World Cup also featured heavily in conversations between Moacyr and Teresa, she said. "He told me that all was well with the team. [They prepared] in a quiet location where they were very content, winning every game; there were no journalists of politicians to disrupt their concentration. They had good water, good food, all the good things, but everything changed when they were sent to Rio, and [the tournament was being held close to] election time..all of the political candidates for election were coming and going all the time, along with journalists and fans, and it was a real mess."

"They [the players] neither ate nor slept undisturbed, they were tired without sleep and food. They stayed in their rooms neat the Maracanã like animals in a cage; there was a lot of pressure. The photo printed by the newspaper [which proclaimed Brazil as world champions before the game began] stirred the Uruguayans' pride. [Barbosa] said of Ghiggia's goal that he made the defence go the wrong way; Ghiggia made the 'wrong' move and it worked."

"I was always repeating that the longest criminal sentence in Brazil is 30 years, but mine has already been for 50." Thus goes perhaps the most-repeated quote from Moacyr Barbosa. He repeated it one last time to his biographer, Roberto Muylaert, shortly before his death, caused by a stroke on 7/4/2000, a couple of weeks after his 79th birthday.

"He who didn't have peace during his life, doesn't have it even after his death", said Gudryan Neufert, a television reporter working for the Brazilian television station Rede Record, referring to yet another tragic turn of events in the story of Moacyr Barbosa. Allegedly, according to reports, one of which appeared in the Brazilian sports magazine Placar in May last year, and one which Neufert compiled for the Rede Record's flagship sports programme Esporte Fantástico last year, São Vicente city council, who are responsible for the municipal cemetery where Barbosa's body is interred, threatened to exhume, burn and dispose of his body unless some outstanding costs, which amounted to 378 Real, were paid.

Tereza Barbosa and Moacyr's friends didn't have the money to pay off the debt; she was quoted in the article in Placar as saying "[the city council] called me saying that they required the 378 Real, but I am unable to pay; I'm unemployed and on medication for my kidney. People come from Japan to visit the grave. But the city does not value its idols." However, after Neufert's report was finally shown on Esporte Fantástico last November, the city council agreed to waive the costs, and Moacyr Barbosa can now finally rest in peace.

The fact that so many deplorable things were allowed to happen to Moacyr Barbosa, in life and in death, are a sad indictment of human nature in general, and of the higher echelons of Brazilian football and media in particular. Not only did the CBD/CBF (the CBF was formed in 1979 after FIFA demanded that the football wing of the CBD form its own organisation) hang Barbosa and his team-mates out to dry after the deciding match of the 1950 World Cup, but, Neufert alleges, they never offered them any help when they were in financial difficulties.

Nor did the CBF step in to pay for Barbosa's funeral expenses, when he died, or last year, when it emerged that there was still money owing to São Vicente city council from the time of his funeral. One can only feel sorry for Tereza Borba and her family and the rest of Moacyr Barbosa's friends; it must have been a stressful time for them all.

Why the CBF could not, or would not, have stepped in to help give someone, not just anyone, but a vice-world champion, and someone who played 20 full internationals for the national side, a decent send-off in the first place, and then pay off the outstanding debt, beggars belief. It would only have cost a few hundred US dollars to take care of the money owed to the São Vicente city council, and it would have been the least they could have done.

(In 1996, four years previous to Barbosa's death, the CBF signed a 10-year sponsorship deal with Nike worth some US$160 million. Since around the same time, the CBF have also been charging more than US$500,000 for every friendly played by O Seleção.)

No-one from the CBF attended Barbosa's funeral, either. For the purposes of this blog, the CBF were contaced with a request to provide answers to the following questions (Gudryan Neufert already took care of one of the questions):

Why didn't the CBD/CBF step in to shield Barbosa, Bigode and Juvenal from media and public criticism after the 1950 World Cup?

Did anyone from the CBF attend Moacyr Barbosa's funeral, and if not, why not?

Did the CBF help pay for Moacyr Barbosa's funeral, and, again, if not, why not?

Answers to these questions have not been forthcoming. It seems as though the CBF merely brushed what Barbosa, Bigode and Juvenal did for Brazilian football into a dark corner and left it there. Their attitude towards Barbosa, in life and death, has been nothing short of contemptible.

Moacyr Barbosa has been described in various quarters as a "pariah", a failure, someone whose story inspires only pity. In the view of this scribe, not so. Certainly, a great amount of sympathy should be felt for him with regard to how he was treated by a great many people, including, and perhaps especially, the Brazilian football authorities, but his story (not to mention his achievements) also inspires a great deal of admiration.  Not least from Dida, who in 2007 asked the Brazilian public to forgive Barbosa for what happened in 1950, asking them instead to concentrate on "all the good things he did". And, there were a lot of those to take into consideration.

He was, after all, voted best goalkeeper in the 1950 World Cup by journalists present at the tournament, he was a vice-World Champion, a Copa América winner, and he was someone who won a hatful of state championships and the one-off forerunner to the Copa Libertadores to boot. He kept on winning trophies, even after all he had been through. Not only that, but, apart from the fact that he was a superb goalkeeper, he was a compassionate man, a caring man, a humorous yet humble being. Moacyr Barbosa may well have died in poverty, but a failure? Some failure!


AUTHOR'S NOTE: A huge debt of thanks is owed to Roberto Muylaert, author of "Barbosa - Um gol faz cinquenta anos" (published shortly after Moacyr Barbosa's death in 2000, and available only in Portuguese), who kindly provided many fascinating answers to, and showed a lot of patience with regard to, my questions.

Deep appreciation also goes to Tereza Borba Barbosa, who also showed just as much patience as Roberto Muylaert, for her help and comments. Many thanks also go to Gudryan Muylaert and Luiza Tanabe Novaes from Rede Record TV's Esporte Fantástico, not forgetting Juca Kfouri and, last but by no means least, Antonio Napoleao from the CBF for providing help with statistics.

Apologies to all if the translations contained in the blog are a little inexact. An online translator was used.

It is hoped that this blog has done justice to the aforementioned people, and, above all, to the memory of Moacyr and Clotilde Barbosa.


  1. Thank you. Enjoyed it :-)

    They should make a movie about that Brazil-Uraguay game in '50 ya know. It has all the drama hollywood needs. I wish Roberto Muylaert's book on Barbosa was available in English.

    I am thinking of starting a football blog chronicling Ethiopia's improbable and on-going run through the African world cup qualifiers. Your blog has inspired me. If Ethiopia makes it to Brazil 2014, I will definitely be there and visiting Barbosa's and Garrincha's grave is on my list.

    Thanks again. Good blog

  2. PS - I am an Everton fan....grrrrr

  3. Da_cynic, thanks for your comments, and I have no problem with you being a Toffees fan! It's a shame that Roberto Muylaert's book is unavailable in English (though it is, apparently, available in Spanish); you should have a go at writing a blog on Ethiopia's attempts to reach the World Cup.

    Even if they fail, you could still write a blog on Ethiopian football (I assume you're from Ethiopia) as there aren't any very good blogs on the game there..but do so because you enjoy writing, first of all, and send me the link should you decide to start. Good luck!

  4. from what little I know about this tragic tale, this is a story MORE about a country full of over zealous "idiots" than a condemned national hero banished to a lifetime of hell. The Brazilian journalists should have attempted to right their wrongs of "blaming" only one person for the loss. It's a TEAM game, the TEAM lost.

    Shame on you Brazil

    The TRUTH is that Brazilians were so over confident BEFORE the Final - they forgot the main thing about sport - you have to play and WIN it. Just because you build the world's biggest stadium and EXPECT to win, does not mean that you do.

    Last time I checked, soccer was a Team game - what happened to the Brazilian mid field and defenders to ALLOW these shots on goal anyway

    How CRUEL the Brazilian public & journalists really are to CONDEMN a man for LIFE. That's NOT what sport is all about

    When i found out about this story down here in sports mad Australia - it made me feel such sadness - that a man - who LOVED representing his country so much so, he purchased the actual goal posts and burned them to try and exorcise his own demons of sadness.

    Barbosa was a one of the best goal keepers in his day - the forefather of the modern goalkeeper by extending his range - who represented his country with distinction. Yet is treated like a pariah

    In 1993, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, Ricardo Teixeira, did not allow him to be commentator during the broadcast of one of Brazil's international matches. He was also turned away from a Brazil training session on one occasion out of fear of his being a jinx for the team.

    I was once a FAN of the Brazillian soccer team - with all the apparent smiles and fun that goes along with it - now I know the "dark side" of your national obsession - I want NO part of it.

    Not any more - how can you be so cruel - I will not be supporting Brazil in 2014 and beyond

    An elderly Barbosa lamented, ‘In Brazil, the most you get for any crime is 30 years. For 50 years I’ve been paying for a crime I did not commit. Even a criminal when he has paid his debt is forgiven. But I have never been forgiven.”