Brazil lose: a dark day in Dahiyeh

In Dahiyeh, Lebanese mourn the loss of the nation's favorite team after Brazil were unexpectedly knocked out of the World Cup.

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On the night that Brazil lost to Croatia during the World Cup quarter-final, supporters of Germany paraded in Dahiye’s streets. Germany fans streaked past teary-eyed Brazil fans in a procession, honking on their motorcycles and waving their team’s flag in glee at the loss.

The long-time rivalry between two of the teams, who are often the best in the world, is tangible and magnified in Lebanon’s landscape of bewildering national identity and diehard confessional allegiances.

For Germany fans in Lebanon, the most ardent adversaries of the Brazilian football team, it didn’t matter that their team had not even played the match: it was enough that Brazil had lost.

For Brazil fans, it was like mourning the loss of a limb.

Nowhere is the passion for Brazil more palpable than in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh, with a reputation for extreme displays of celebration when the team wins. And nowhere else do Brazil's leave fans feeling so destitute after a loss.

There were no goals during the first half of the Brazil-Croatia game, despite expectations Brazil would outplay their rival. Croatia put up a strong and unified defence, leaving the cafe-goers anxious. And as the second half also dragged on without a goal, fans were visibly frustrated.

When Croatia narrowly missed a goal, the crowd collectively exhaled in relief.

“Alhamdulillah!” a woman exclaimed. “Thank god!”

A few minutes later, Brazil’s Neymar scored in extra-time after a heated duel with a player. The crowd exploded into a prolonged and passionate cheer. Just outside the cafe, celebratory gunshots streaked across the night sky.

But that happiness was short-lived as Croatia scored, leaving Brazil’s fans depleted of hope.

Ultimately, the game finished 1-1, with Croatia winning 4-2 on penalties.

After the game, the customers of the cafe — easily two hundred people, many of them entire families — gathered their flags and filed out in dejection. If Brazil had triumphed, they would have run into the streets in celebration. Fireworks and gunshots and car honks would have been heard throughout the large suburb. Young men would have paraded on motorbikes in excitement.

“What do you want us to say? I don’t want to see the rest of the World Cup any more,” said the 24 year-old Zahra, clearly upset.

Some of the fans were still sitting on their chairs in stunned disbelief.

Tahani, 20, was in tears. “I have been supporting Brazil since I was a child, it is like a tradition in my family”, she said.

“I’m heart-broken, they are the best team.”

Lebanese are known for being passionate Brazilian supporters. Dahiyeh is no exception.

“Maybe three-quarters of the people in my neighbourhood are with the team,” Tahani said.

Some have family ties in Brazil, which explain for some part the unconditional support. The small Mediterranean country has a long history of immigration in Brazil, with the Lebanese diaspora estimated there between seven and 10 million people.

“My brother lives in Brazil so it is also a bit personal,” Tahani's friend Nour said.

Others don’t have any familial relation to explain their love for Brazil.

“I was born supporting Brazil,” said Yasmine, 16. “And I’ll be with them until death.”

No one in her family resides in the large South American country. But she is nonetheless dressed head to toe in Brazil’s colours, with a Brazil flag turbaned around her head and another one cloaking her back. A tear falls down her face.

“My whole family supports Brazil. It’s just always been this way."

But Morocco's historic win over Spain, which became the first Arab country to reach the World Cup quarter-final, could be a consolation for the heartbroken fans.

“They are the team I’m going to support from now on,” the 20 year-old Tahani said.

Updated: December 12, 2022, 10:56 AM