Some find that second birth in Christ or some other ethereal figure, some otherworldly experience of fire or water. But some of us need something concrete, something tangible that we can sink our teeth in.
For Thiago Neves, it was the Flamengo jersey.
Sure, he was a star player for Fluminense a few years back, and was even thought as a possible National Squad player. But he was despised by a Nation, a Red and Black Nation, and a player like that will have an unfortunately incomplete life if he has never worn the magnificent colors of Flamengo. So after going to the Middle East to make boatloads of money, he came back and joined the light side of the Force. And in his second game, did a goal so magical, so beautiful that much of the old rancor and distrust was shed away from the minds of millions of flamenguistas in an instant.
The game was again our ex-rival Vasco, a team battered by three losses in a row against teams significantly inferior in resources both financial and of skill. The coach had just been fired and two players were suspended (for sucking so bad). A shadow of the team that was fun to beat – now it’s almost sad.
Flamengo played a decent first half, which looked a lot better because Vasco was practically not in the pitch. The Scarlet&Black squad danced around what passed for a defense for the other team, but without incisiveness, without bringing heat. But the superiority of Flamengo was so that even without really trying the opportunity came knocking with a pass by Thiago to Leo Moura. Our winger and Captain kicked the ball violently, as if just aiming at the general direction of the goal, but Deivid, finally in the right place at the right time, pushed the ball into Vasco net.
Then with a touch of geniality, Renato sees Thiago ready to jet and taps the ball gently over Vasco’s discombobulated defense. Thiago bolts, the ball firmly in his possession as the baffled defenders just look at him. Vasco’s goalie Fernando Prass ran desperately at Thiago, only to be humiliated by Thiago tapping the ball over his head and push it nto the net with his thigh. Flamengo 2-nil, and Vasco destroyed – end of the first half. The TV camera showed the Vasco fans, many of them leaving the game right then, heartbroken.
But we got complacent, believing that the third goal was right around the corner. We would try always one extra dribble, got negligent with the passing and by sheer desperation, Vasco grew on the game. At 30min. of the second half (75min. for the americans), they scored, and some of the their belief returned, and for fifteen, nay, twenty, for the ref gave another five frikkin minutes, the game got tense and open, with Vasco charging and Flamengo counter-attacking. When it was over, Flamengo coach allegedly berated his players in the locker room.
He was right. This game should have easier.