Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Laid up legend

The World Cup lost one of its star players to a nasty injury on Friday when Brazil’s striker and superstar, Neymar, left the tournament. Abeer Anwar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Neymar, Brazil’s inspiration and only consistent source of goals was carried off on a stretcher in tears after cracking his third lumbar vertebrae when battered from behind late in the second half by defender Camilo Zuniga.  

His World Cup was over. Brazil’s dreams of a sixth cup were threatened to be blown away with him on that stretcher.

Zuniga said, “I didn’t intend to hurt him but I was defending the colours of my country. I am sorry for his injury and I pray to God that he recovers very quickly.”

An x-ray clarified the split in bone, which needs to knit and repair before the Barcelona superstar can think of playing again. An initial estimate from a specialist in such injuries estimated that, as a young man, he could hope to be ready to restart in five or six weeks.

Brazil had leaned inordinately on the 22-year-old, without whom they would not even have been playing Colombia.

Neymar scored the goal which put Brazil ahead of Croatia in the Opening Match, then struck twice in the group-clinching victory over Cameroon. Next came his goal then nerveless penalty conversion against Chile in the second round.

The brilliance of Neymar is his simple love of the game. Hence his loss is not only a grievous loss to Brazil, but to the entire 2014 World Cup finals. It is as if a light has gone out and these headlamp-bright finals are suddenly dimmed.

The Barcelona forward is everywhere in Brazil, either on the advertisement hoardings or on the backs of fans’ shirts or in the popular “hairstyle” wigs and hats all over the streets. Manager Luis Felipe Scolari sought to explain this unique talent after the defeat of the Chileans in the preceding South American derby.

Felipao said: “He’s a simple boy. He likes playing football, so he does it as if he’s playing with his friends at Santos. That’s how he sees it because he loves his job. So when it comes to it he forgets it’s a penalty shootout at the World Cup and treats it as if it were a pick-up game with his friends.”

The injury will exacerbate discussion over levels and values of punishment. Zuniga did not so much as collect a yellow card for his violent assault though this, at least, left open the route for FIFA’s disciplinary committee to take unilateral action.

If Zuniga can get away with a physically harmful assault, which could even prove career-threatening, runs the argument, FIFA’s disciplinary authorities will find it difficult to justify a four-month ban on another player - Luis Suarez of Uruguay - for “merely” biting an opponent.

FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer has said that the disciplinary committee will gather, and assess, reports of the incident to decide whether to open proceedings against Zuniga.

But Neymar’s value was not only in his talent on the ball but the confidence injection his presence provided so that all his team-mates felt that, as long as he was on the pitch, nothing was beyond them.

Brazil forward Neymar says his dream of being a world champion is not over despite being ruled out of the rest of the World Cup because of his injury. The Barcelona player said his dream was “interrupted... but it continues.”

He added: “I’m certain my team-mates will do everything so my dream, which is to be a champion, comes true.”

Even supporters attending Argentina’s win over Belgium in Brasilia showed their support for Neymar

Neymar, speaking in a video released by the Brazilian Soccer Federation, added: “My dream was also to play in a World Cup final, but this time it didn’t work out. I am sure they will win this Cup and be champions, and I will be with them, and all Brazilians will soon be celebrating all of that. It’s a very difficult moment. I have no words to translate what is going through my head and my heart. I’d just like to say I will be back as quickly as possible; when you least expect it, I’ll be back.”

Brazil’s team doctor, Jose Luiz Runco, said there are no neurological issues and no permanent issues that may lead to future complications.”The only thing he needs is time for the fracture to consolidate, after which he will return to the pitch,” Runco said.

Crowds gathered outside Sao Carlos Hospital in Fortaleza, where he was treated before flying back to Rio with his teammates on Friday night. He was then taken by ambulance to the team’s training camp in the mountain city of Teresopolis.

Footage released by the Brazilian FA shows Neymar in a wheelchair on the tarmac at Rio airport with his emotional teammates giving him their best wishes. He left Brazil’s camp by helicopter on Saturday.

Brazil president, Dilma Rousseff, tweeted a message of support on Saturday and also sent a letter to the national football team, stating how the entire country is following their campaign.

She said:  “Your painful expression yesterday on the pitch at the Castelao [stadium] wounded my heart, along with that of all Brazilians. But what we saw was the extraordinary force of a great warrior who, even injured, will not allow himself to be disheartened.”

Brazil legend Pele believes the Selecao can still win the World Cup for a record-extending sixth time, pointing to his own experience in 1962.

He said on Twitter: “Neymar was raised in my Santos FC and it hurts our hearts to know that he can no longer defend Brazil in the World Cup.

“I was also injured during the 1962 World Cup in Chile, and I was out for the rest of the tournament, but God helped Brazil continue on to win the championship.”

Former Brazil players Roberto Carlos, Kaka and Gilberto Silva have also sent supportive messages, along with some of his current teammates.

Captain Thiago Silva urged Brazil’s players to win the World Cup for Neymar.

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo revealed he had also sent a message of support to Neymar, saying the country would dedicate a World Cup win to him.

“He has suffered a very heavy blow and I told him the whole country is proud of him, and that every effort will be made to win the World Cup in Brazil and dedicate it to him,” he said.

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