1982 Brazil – The Glorious Failure by Stuart Horsfield – Review
By Karl Hornsey
There are certain teams or players of whom sports fans will always hold special memories, because of the joy they’ve brought through the lives, or because they formed a major part of their introduction to the emotions that sport can invoke. Everyone has their own reasons, but there are two teams for me that I’ll never forget. One is the West Indies cricket team that toured England in 1984 and produced such a feeling of awe in my then 10-year-old self that I will always be able to reel off the names of Greenidge, Haynes, Gomes, Richards, Lloyd, Dujon, Baptiste, Marshall, Harper, Holding and Garner, and hark back to a summer of carnage for English cricket. I was young enough not to have an inkling that you were sort of supposed to support your home nation, and instead simply loved what the Windies were capable of. The same followed in 1988, but my other team was one that flitted into my life in 1982 for just five incredible matches in the balmy climes of Spain.
Timing is everything, and there’s always something special about the first football World Cup that you can remember. For me that was as an eight-year-old running home from school to catch the 4pm kick-offs from Spain, and initially of England beating France courtesy of a couple of goals from my boyhood hero Bryan Robson, made even more special by the colour TV that has been bought for my bedroom just for the occasion. As an avid Shoot! reader, I had all of the facts I needed and my wallchart was up and ready to be filled in. Again, I wasn’t overly patriotic and was only interested in England because of the likes of Robson, Ray Wilkins, Steve Coppell and Glenn Hoddle, but as soon as I clapped eyes on the Brazilians, it was love at first sight. Being allowed to stay up that bit later on a school night to watch their first match against the USSR is something I’ll be eternally grateful to my mum for, as it set in motion a love affair that continues to this very day. I could wax lyrical for hours about the tournament and Brazil in particular, and Stuart Horsfield has done just that here.
When I heard about Horsfield’s book 1982 Brazil – The Glorious Failure, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I’m delighted to say that he has produced a fabulous book that does justice to Tele Santana’s magnificent players, who are held in even greater awe because they ultimately were failures. There’s something about winners that the British are generally resistant to, so the plucky underdog or the valiant failures seem to be remembered much longer than those that actual won silverware or dominated their sport. And so it is that Brazil joined the likes of Hungary 1954 and the Netherlands sides of the 1970s in being the best team in a tournament, but ultimately ending it empty handed.
Close followers of World Cups or international football in general know already of how the team of Waldir Peres, Leandro, Junior, Luisinho, Oscar, Cerezo, Falcao, Socrates, Eder, Serginho and Zico thrilled the world in their matches against the USSR, Scotland, New Zealand, Argentina and Italy, but as time passes and facts fade, everyone has their own rose-tinted way of looking back at what went wrong. Horsfield very cleverly takes each match and dissects the glory of the victories and the heartache of defeat to Italy, but squashes a few myths that have built up about why Brazil ultimately failed. By showing such a depth of knowledge of his subject, he is able to put those myths to bed, and the reasons are more varied and nuanced than is now believed, which makes their defeat even more annoying, even if it’s almost 40 years in the past.
There are chapters that deal with the years building up to 1982 that help to put into context why this particular Brazilian side is still held in such high regard, but the other chief reason why this book works is the personal aspect that Horsfield adds. Frankly, many people could write about what the 1982 Brazilian team meant to them, but he ties it wonderfully in to his childhood and his tales of family and friends and the impact of the tournament on his life at the time. This elevates the events to a whole other level and makes it one that I can relate to very easily. I may well be biased, OK, very biased, but this book managed to reignite my love of that team and that tournament, while also putting me right on some of things I’d not realised about the greatest team ever to grace the field.
‘1982 Brazil – The Glorious Failure’ by Stuart Horsfield is published by Pitch Publishing, £16.99 hardback