Sunday 13th April was the day of Brazil’s state championship finals. All over the country, bitter neighbours battled against each other to claim the accolade of state champion and hold the bragging rights for another season.
Ituano’s victory on penalties over Santos in Sao Paulo and Cruzeiro sinking Ronaldinho’s Atletico Mineiro were highlights, but the biggest talking point came in Rio. With Vasco da Gama leading by a goal to nil, Flamengo needed one goal to secure the championship, after taking an advantage from the first leg. As the game went into stoppage time, Wallace rattled a header against the bar and Araujo gobbled up the rebound. Pandemonium ensued. The Maracanã was half jubilant, half deflated; ecstasy met agony in an emotional finale.
It was another example of just why we love football. The emotion it evokes when the stakes are so high is incomparable. The atmosphere inside the Maracanã was superb. Both sets of supporters were keen to make themselves heard and the result was a wall of noise from start to finish. But something was wrong. Araujo was a yard offside. In the competition’s final moments, a poor decision sent the title into the wrong hands.
In the short term, it means that Vasco, the perennial ‘vice’ champions, have to go another year without winning the Rio de Janeiro state championship. But it also gives rise to the technology debate. Brazil already uses some different technology to most European leagues, such as using spray paint to mark out 10 yards for a free kick. Now, there are tentative whispers from some and enraged roars from others, largely Vasco fans leaving the stadium, that more technology should be adopted.
And you can see their point. Eleven years on from their previous state triumph, the Vasco faithful were daring to believe, jumping and jubilant, until victory was incorrectly plucked from their grasp. When you experience it with these people and see the anger and gut wrenching disappointment, the importance of winning and losing is clear to see. Is there no way to alter these crucial decisions?
Of course, with the offside rule, there is quite literally a fine line between right and wrong. Bringing technology in to analyse every call would be unfeasible, but it is only a matter of time before a final that matters to even more people is overshadowed by an incorrect decision. What will FIFA do then?
At present, my thoughts are with Vasco fans, who will have to endure the taunts of their neighbours for at least another year. In terms of world football, this injustice will go almost completely unnoticed. But if it were to happen again, when the Maracanã hosts another final on 13th July, the uproar would be unimaginable.