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Neymar’s Inferno

September 18, 2010

Neymar: from Divine Comedy to Hell

He was universally praised for snubbing one of the most powerful football clubs in the world.

He became a patriotic God overnight for deciding to play at home.

He was seen as the fresh embodiment of what Brazilian football is all about: showmanship, skills that bend Physics and pure joy.

He scored goals beautifully, he assisted beautifully, he danced, sang, delighted the fans in every match he played, and he displayed a kind of ease that made everyone in Brazil forget about the country’s poor performance in South Africa.

He won both the Sao Paulo State Championship and the Brazilian Cup.

He performed beautifully in his debut with the Brazilian national team in the match against the USA, scoring a goal and playing with confidence – and with an impressive level of maturity for an 18 year-old.

But then, suddenly, like Dante, Neymar found himself in Limbo. The first Circle of Hell.

Without rhyme or reason, the young footballer’s star began to give signs that it was already going supernova.

Indeed, as the Bard would say, sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines, and often is his gold complexion dimmed.

And every fair, from fair sometimes declines…

After Santos’ 2 x 1 loss against Ceara last week, Neymar was involved in an on-pitch argument with opponent João Marcos, accusing his team mates of excessive violence during the game. The Santos players were forced to calm Neymar down, now entering the second Circle of Hell, lustful to jump into a fist fight with Marcos, police officers and even reporters that stood by the pitch. The cameras caught everything very clearly; suddenly Neymar was no longer that player who always smiled. He was capable of anger and frustration after all. And he also seemed to have a very ‘rich’ and colourful vocabulary indeed.

He lashed out on his Twitter account, saying that he was “tired of if all”, and then engaged in a public and heated argument with one of his press agents. Next, it was announced that Neymar’s Twitter account was going to be “censored” and monitored, and that Santos had hired a psychologist to help him deal with his temper.

Neymar then skipped the Gluttony Circle and entered the Fourth, Prodigality. He recklessly wasted his new status as a star, and was beginning to neglect the responsibilities that it demands. He seemed extravagant in destroying his public persona.

Immediately, his on-pitch performance began to crumble. Neymar missed the two penalty kicks he took in the last two weeks. Both kicks were lazily taken by the young star, a la Uruguay’s Abreu versus Ghana in the World Cup – the so-called “cavadinha” (the “little dig”) – only they were taken poorly; they were predictable. Lacking focus. Neymar’s frustration grew, and he became more human than ever – a handicap for a Brazilian footballer.

But Neymar was just midway on his hellish journey; he was about to find himself in dark woods; the right road lost.

In this week’s match against Atletico-GO, during one of his classic step-over plays inside the box, Neymar suffered a foul and went down. Penalty. Quickly, without even thinking, he got up, went back to the Third Circle, and gluttonously grabbed the ball. He was getting ready to take the shot. But then, instructed by Santos manager Dorival – who was shouting by the sidelines – Neymar’s team mates approached the young star and delivered the horrific news: “sorry man, Dorival is saying Marcel will take this one”. Ouch. The look on Neymar’s face was of disbelief. Absolute disbelief. He was no longer the team’s penalty taker. And his disbelief quickly transformed into something more serious…as he stepped into the Fifth Circle…


Dorival wanted to spare the bright star from a possible third penalty miss. He wished not to expose the player so much, as his temper had recently flared up and his concentration was lacking. But Neymar had no time for Dorival’s act of mercy. Neymar wanted answers. Neymar wanted to express his feelings. And so he threw a fit. As Marcel was getting ready to take his penalty shot, Neymar turned his back on the game. He went over to the Santos bench, throwing his arms around, complaining to Dorival; he grabbed a water-bottle, drank from it, and tossed it to the ground angrily. And then he spewed some of that (now) well-known vocabulary, embracing the Sixth Circle of Heresy. Indeed, Neymar’s behaviour was beyond unorthodox for a professional footballer.  It was violently shocking. Already sinking into the Seventh Circle, he publicly, and loudly, insulted both his team manager as well as Captain Edu Dracena. The cameras didn’t even bother to catch Marcel’s penalty kick. They were too busy focusing on the show Neymar was putting on by the sidelines.

After everything was said and done, and the match resumed, Neymar spent the rest of the game refusing to pass the ball. Every time he had it, he held the ball eternally; he would try to dribble past opponents by dancing around the ball,  provoking both his mates and the adversaries with incessant step-overs to the point where someone would become just frustrated enough to commit a foul and take him down. It was the most immature and embarrassing display of lack of sportsmanship of the season.

In the post-match interview, Atletico’s manager Rene Simoes stated that Neymar’s attitude was unacceptable. And that Neymar must be educated soon. Simoes then fired the last deadly shot: we are creating a monster. Neymar is not a man, nor is he a great player.

Regardless of what Neymar really is at this point, or of what he has become, this is where he finds himself right now: stuck in the violent Seventh Circle of his personal hell. The image of the happy and laid-back boy has been consumed by the fires. He now must reinvent himself.

Santos has already fined the player, and Dorival has asked the board to keep him out of the team for the upcoming matches. No one knows when he will return to the squad. It’s now been reported that he will not even practice with his mates during this week. He will practice alone instead.

The end of the Brazilian euphoria and the celebrations that followed Neymar’s decision to stay in the country could not have happened more bitterly. But frankly, is it fair to expect so much from a kid, given the Age that we live in?

This is the era of Twitters and Facebooks and the High-Def exposure of the embarrassing.

No other era has simultaneously produced and destroyed heroes and Gods more quickly – and cruelly.

It is simply impossible for one to fulfill the expectations we now have of  those considered special. Mozart would have failed. Shakespeare would have fumbled. Pele, today, at 17, would have been massacred.

We see our stars for what they are too clearly. We follow them too closely.

It’s not that the cracks are deeper, or the flaws more evident. It’s just that now it is possible to notice them. And what’s worse, we almost enjoy noticing them.

It is simultaneously satisfying and deeply disappointing to know that our “Gods” are simply people like ourselves.

However, in Neymar’s case, the deep and final disappointment will come if he indeed ends up stepping into the Eight Circle of Hell…


Despite all of his mischiefs, Neymar is still seen as the personification of the beautiful game. He is the current symbol of what the Brazilian national side is striving to become again: magical.

The best thing we can do at this point is to leave him alone. Alone at practice; because if we don’t allow Neymar to find the right road again for himself, and he – together with the Brazilian team – fails to live up to the success we expect from them, an entire nation will succumb to despair and into the depths of the ninth and final Circle of hell in 2014…



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