66. The Curse of Béla Guttmann…

I am just back from a visit to the disappointingly half-empty Stadium of Light last night with a group of wonderful tourists. We were behind the goal to see Benfica, currently struggling in the league, dominate and achieve a well-deserved (if unbelievably stressful) 2-1 Champions League victory of Galatasaray. This puts us on the edge of qualification for the knockout rounds of this years tournament, and seems like a good time to discuss The Curse which has been on the club for over half a century.

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In 1962, Benfica won their second consecutive European Cup, and may well have been the best team in the world. So, naturally, they refused to give their Hungarian manager, Béla Guttmann, a bonus. He quit in fury, allegedly leaving a curse that the team wouldn’t win another European Cup for 100 years. Luckily I don’t believe in curses…

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…but if I did, Benfica could be the reason. The penalty shootout against Sevilla in 2014 which I was (un)lucky enough to be present at was our 8th successive European Cup Final loss since then, and second in a row after an injury-time defeat to a Chelsea team we had outplayed even more than we had Sevilla.

Will we get a chance to cast the curse aside this year?

Either way, luckily for me I will still be a Benfica fan in 2052, when the curse officially runs out…

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BOOK UPDATE:

Writing has finished on ‘Benfica to Brazil‘ and I am currently editing the book. If you guys have half as much fun reading it as I am having re-reading it, (and remember, I already know what’s in it!), it should be worth the wait.

A month of editing, a few weeks of proof-reading, and then the logistics of turning the digital word into the physical form, and I hope to have the book flying around the world to you within a few months.

If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, contact me through this blog to reserve your book now!

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65. Benfica to Brazil the Book: UPDATE!

Over a year has passed since the glory days of Brazil 2014, and with FIFA falling apart around our ears, (although not quite enough yet); Benfica falling apart around the League, (although not in the Champions League); and José Mourinho and Chelsea falling apart in pretty much everything, I have been keeping busy turning my experiences in Brazil, and across the world and through the years, into a book.

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This week, I finished the first draft of ‘Benfica to Brazil,’ and for the next few weeks I will be editing, polishing, cutting and extending it to make it the best book you have ever read about football, travel, sports, Benfica, and life.

Check out the update here, and if you haven’t signed up for a copy in advance, there will be copies available when it is published, in physical and e-book form, in a few months: just drop me an email to reserve yours!

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62. Benfica to Brazil: the book is ready to launch!

A happy 2015 to all of you out there, wherever you are.

Whether you are a Brazilian football fan trying to forget that game, a Benfica fan trying to remember all of those trophies from last season (but forget that final, and that curse), or a follower of another team, or even another sport, (or none at all!), I hope 2015 brings you everything you hope for.

(Unless you hope for your team to beat one of my teams, of course.)

 

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One thing it may bring you is a copy of the Sports Book of the Year™ – ‘Benfica to Brazil.’ My first published work is now fully funded thanks to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, and over a hundred lovely people who want to read more of my adventures following football (and other sports, and fun, and languages…), around the globe.

If you read this before January 7th, you can join them in ordering the book and even having your name added to the back of it. Just go to the Kickstarter page, choose your reward, and sit back until March!

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If you’re reading this at a later date, there should be details of how and where to buy your copy of the book on the Kickstarter page…but you will have wait for my next book to get your name in the Thank You’s!

More football news in future blogs, but probably not as regularly as they used to be, as I may be a little busy writing in the coming weeks…

58. Benfica to Brazil…THE BOOK!

Sports-lovers, Benfica fans, travel addicts and readers,

Some of you may have heard the exciting news, but for others this is the first you will be hearing about the biggest literature and sports project of the year:

BENFICA TO BRAZIL IS FINALLY AVAILABLE AS A BOOK!

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Featuring travel, adventure, politics, danger, and of course football; from Europe to the Americas, from Africa to Asia.

Come enjoy the video, share with friends and family, and make sure to order your copy now!

Just kick on the K of the video below to visit the project’s home page!

56. Brazil’s Second Broken Heart…

We all know that Brazil had their hearts broken in the semi-final against Germany.

Well, more like they had their hearts swiftly removed, stomped on, kicked around and fired into the net seven times.

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Brazil’s worst nightmare…

It could even have been worse, with German defender Matt Hummels admitting in an interview that they decided at half-time to take it easy on the hosts after racing to a 5-0 lead.

How bad was the match? It was so shocking to the world that it became the most discussed sports match ever on Twitter, with 35.6 million tweets, and local newspaper Globo gave all of the Brazilian players, and the coach, 0/10 in their match ratings.

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Ouch…

This was the second time Brazilian football had found itself ripped to shreds, the first being the infamous loss to neighbours Uruguay in 1950. As the Guardian said of the Germany semi-final:

The Mineiraço, as it is already being called in an echo of the deep impact of the 1950 Maracanazo when Uruguay defeated Brazil in the final the last time the tournament was held here, was variously described as “the disgrace of all disgraces” and “a historic humiliation”. The sports paper Lance called it “the biggest shame in history”.

What most people don’t know, but I learned from Alex Bellos’s book: ‘Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life,’ is that the match in 1950 wasn’t actually the World Cup Final. The tournament in those days ended in a group phase, and it just so happened that Uruguay and Brazil were the only two teams left with a chance to top the group, and were playing each-other in the last game. That’s why even a draw would have handed the cup to Brazil, as they had won both of their games, (against Sweden and Spain), whereas Uruguay had only drawn with Spain.

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The lasting impression that match left on the Brazilian footballing mentality, (until being supplanted on 8th July 2014), has been beautifully  explained in cartoon format in this incredible New York Times feature.

Enjoy! And don’t forget to sign up for details of ‘Benfica to Brazil – the book’!

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54. They think it’s all over…

The adventure is (kind of) over; the signs have been ripped down by fans eager for souvenirs; the fake Brazil shirts are on sale ridiculously cheap in the streets of Salvador; and the 2014 World Cup is, officially, done.

As seems to happen so often, it was a game of twenty-two men, ninety minutes (and thirty more this time), and then Germany won.

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If this guy wasn’t actually German, it would have made it all the more amazing…

And Argentina lost.

And Messi didn’t Continue reading