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Brazil’s World Cup defeat hits home in Lebanon

Beirut (AFP) – Brazil’s surprise defeat in the World Cup has stunned fans in the Lebanese capital Beirut, where football supporters have long put their hopes in the Latin American side.

“We are all Brazilian, we all love Brazil to death whatever happens,” said Ali, dressed in a skin-tight shirt, after seeing his heroes lose 2-1 to Belgium on Friday and crash out of the tournament in Russia.

The 24-year-old watched the match in the Shiite outskirts of Beirut, where Brazilian flags hang from buildings and shop windows are filled with life-size posters of players.

“A supporter who loves his team, it’s in victory but also in defeat,” said Ali, who works in deliveries for a multinational firm.

Millions of Lebanese have emigrated to Brazil since the end of the 19th century — including the family of Brazilian President Michel Temer — ensuring enduring support when it comes to football.

Haydar Baddar, 38, installed a projector on his doorstep, which attracted dozens of fans for the tie with Belgium.

Many in the male-majority crowd donned Brazil’s yellow jersey for the occasion, while families watched from their balconies as the sound of drums and vuvuzelas filled the narrow street. 

“Here in our part of town we see Brazil, the neighbourhoods and the streets of Brazil, and it’s like our home,” said Baddar, a shop owner with a neatly trimmed black beard.

In Beirut’s southern neighbourhoods, “children play ball on the street. There’s no football ground — when the evening comes, you see them playing everywhere,” he added.

Brazil’s defeat by Belgium brings tears to the crowd, met with mocking wails from some women at the end of the street. Baddar opts for firing his pistol into the air. 

With residents enduring economic woes, inadequate public services and widespread social inequality, football is a welcome distraction from daily hardships. 

“We’re in a country where the situation is bad. This neighbourhood is very poor,” said unemployed Hussein Mohamed.

“Football makes you forget. When you’re suffocating, you go to the stadium and you forget,” said the 25-year-old, who explained he dropped out of school because of his obsession with football.

Mohamed rallied the neighbourhood’s youth into hanging Brazilian flags along the multitude of electricity cables that fill the street.

The result is an explosion of colour, with the distinctive blue, yellow and green banner eclipsing the drab concrete buildings.

“There are more than a thousand… It’s Sao Paulo,” boasted Mohamed.

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