Divine justice and the Hand of the Emperor

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A popular self-depreciating joke about Brazilians has God talking to a bewildered angel at the time of creation. Amazed by the natural wonders of Brazil, he approaches his boss to ask about a supposed unfairness of the man upstairs with the other countries-to-be.

Angel: “Fantastic weather, beautiful beaches, giant forests, mineral wealth, no earthquakes or tsunamis... Oh God, why have you made Brazil so wonderful next to the nations with so many problems and natural calamities?”

God: “Wait to see the kind of people I’m putting there!”

I guess the same dialogue was heard in heaven when one complained to the almighty about Brazil’s infinite capacity of producing divine players and squads. Well, the kind of people he put in place to rule our football makes up for it.

This week the latest displays of idiocy from the men in charge, following Adriano’s handball goal in the São Paulo v Palmeiras 2-1 State championship semifinal first leg, have made God proud of the balance he created for the beautiful game.

The goal in itself, allowed by referee Paulo César de Oliveira and lineswoman Maria Elisa Barbosa amidst the choleric protest of Palmeiras players, isn’t the problem. It wasn’t the first time this kind of mistake was recorded – Maradona’s infamous Hand of God in Mexico is still on our minds.

But only in Brazil you would see the ensuing acts.

It all started on the touchline. Game over, reporters flock both to the referee and to Adriano.

With his shiny wooden face, referee Paulo César de Oliveira insists nothing wrong happened – at the exact same moment that the former Internazionale ace is admitting the foul on the other side of the pitch.

Paulo César de Oliveira: “It was a regular play. We would only call it if there was intention of touching the ball, and it wasn’t in that case.”

Adriano, hardly concealing the grin: “If Maradona did it, why can’t I? It was a goal with the hand of the Emperor.”

Fantastic. But, surprisingly, the worst was yet to come.

Adriano salutes heavens after Hand of Emperor goal

The head of the Refereeing Committee, colonel Marcos Marinho (yes, colonel. Do you know any place this job would be given to a retired policeman?), said the referee’s opinion was “interesting”, and that he was going to analyse the situation before taking any action.

Colonel Marinho had plenty of time to watch the replay at home, drinking coffee and eating donuts. And also to read the newspapers, which reproduced in capital letters the guilty declaration of Adriano.

But it wasn’t enough to restore him sanity. He announced early on in the week that everything was normal and, despite Palmeiras’ objections, Paulo César de Oliveira will be on the three-name ballot to referee the tournament final – presumably an award for his great performances with the whistle. The São Paulo State Federation endorsed his statement.

Around the world, referees get severe suspensions for much lesser sins. (Not to mention that in extreme cases like the Hand of God referee, Tunisian Ali Bin Nasser, who simply disappeared for good.)

In Brazil, the only recent serious referee ban I can recall was for competent lineswoman Ana Paula de Oliveira, who posed nude last year and spent months suspended by the Refereeing Committee. Any other mistake can be swept under the rug.

That’s how it happens in the brainsick world of samba football. If you shame yourself and your colleagues in front of the cameras you go to the final. If you show your talent to the lens, you get banned.

Happy now, God?