Brazil’s Defeat as Explained by a Greek Grandma

It’s okay, Grandma still loves you

Oh Brazil, Brazil. What went wrong?

We can sit around all day analyzing the match, Brazil’s behavior, accusations of over-lenient home referees and the mistake of building a team around one or two players, but all of this can be very simply explained using one key take on the issue, a thoroughly Greek perspective belonging to a very specific niche.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I give you Brazil’s defeat explained in tribute to my Greek grandma.

First some background. Yiayia, that’s Greek for grandma, is sadly no longer with us. She was my husband’s grandmother, an incredible, formidable woman who was four feet tall and as tough as nails. She made it to almost 100 years old. She was the classic twinkly eyed, rosy cheeked, adoring grandmother of fairytales. Every summer she would reside in her own house in Larissa, and every winter we would drag her to Athens, kicking and screaming, to spend winter with the family, which she despised as it cost her her independence.

Greek grannies are great. They do anything for their grandkids. A local radio station is currently running a contest inviting users to take a selfie with their Yiayia dressed as a rock star. And I know that those Yiayias will let themselves be dressed up without complaint.

She was not my actual grandmother, but she was my number one fan and would repeatedly tell me never to give up, that I could achieve anything I wanted to. She gave me a lot to believe in and some precious life lessons in the brief few years I had the privilege to know her. Whenever anyone else asked for her recipes, she claimed to have forgotten them, but she always gave them to me.

As I watched the goals rain down on Brazil, a thought flashed through my mind and suddenly it was as if Yiayia was sat on the sofa with me, smacking her gums, slapping her knees and saying “Those poor kids. It’s the mati. All that talk about success ate them up in the end.”

I will now tell you how Brazil’s defeat can be explained, as understood by Greek grannies everywhere.

Two Greek Granny theories would have combined to produce the results that we saw. The first is that of the mati, the evil eye. The cult of the evil eye is found in many countries, including Greece, where rituals on how to remove it vary from village to village, even from family to family.

The evil eye is generated by several things. This could be envy, jealousy, an overly enthusiastic compliment or genuinely wishing bad luck to befall someone. Brazil would have attracted copious amounts of evil-eye producing bad energy in the buildup to the world cup. Brazil is an emerging market, a strong presence in the international finance markets, but not exactly dripping with money.

The extortionate price tag of hosting the world cup, combined with a lack of addressing issues such as poverty and corruption, has generated a lot of bad feeling at home. Winning the world cup at home would have gone some way in compensating this, but now things are about 324% worse. The price tags on a lot of the match tickets were well out of the reach of ordinary Brazilians.

My husband who has travelled extensively in the country, found it strange how the crowds at the football matches seemed to be almost universally Caucasian. Live in a favela? They’ll be knocking that down to build a stadium. Thanks for that! But if you think you can afford a ticket, keep on dreaming.

If not responsibly removed, the mati has to manifest somewhere, either making you feel unwell or bringing you bad luck. So there we have the first Yiayia element of Brazil’s superbly bad performance – they had banked some serious evil mati points.

The second element is that, Brazil being Brazil and everyone expecting them to win and so they got eaten up by their own good luck. My Greek Yiayia would have said this: they got eaten up by all the big talk. A simple phrase exists in Greek for this – tous glosofagane –  but not in English.  There is no exact translation, the closest I can come is to say that when you glosofao someone, you have cursed them with their own good luck by talking about them.

A bit hard to grasp, but if you’re Greek or Catholic you’ll get this straight away. This is why we’re always told not to show off, not to laugh too much and not to go on about how happy we are in case it attracts talk.

So there we have two very Greek, very granny elements, the mati and being eaten up by all the talk about you, which combined into a kind of supernova of bad energy and resulted in a game that was sensational for all the wrong reasons.

And that’s the results as interpreted by a Greek granny. If any sporting pundits out there are looking to hire me, I’m all yours.


  1. Great post, thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The concept of glosofagane brings some interesting memories of Italy. I don’t know if it’s something spread to the entire country, but in the north-west corner of the country they use a similar concept to define when your demise is caused by your own luck. In this case they’d say that someone has “called” bad luck upon himself, “te la sei tirata” they’d say.
    That’s why it’s a common thing for Italians, during sport events, to say they expect their team to lose. It’s all about attracting Lady Luck and shying the other one – the one who sees very well – as far as possible!

  2. Mati and glosofagane are very Indian concepts as well.reading about a similar concept in Italy proves the fact that both these frightful life truths are universally dreaded for their propensity to wrec the best laid plans.
    nice twist to the ‘shame of shames’ at Belo Horizonte.
    interesting read.thanks.
    see if you can check out
    Brazil…O Brazil.Its still a beautiful game! !!on my blog

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