After several visits to the Games podium but none to the top level of it, Brazil’s young footballers finally managed it in Rio last summer – and it had to be Neymar
With its epicentre at the Maracanã, the guttural roar of release that greeted Brazil’s opener rolled out in all directions across Rio de Janeiro and beyond, making quite the mockery of folk who sniffily claim that, in the cosmic scheme of things, the Olympic men’s football tournament is rather trifling and inconsequential. They are, of course, entitled to their wrong opinion but at 5.57pm on 20 August it became abundantly clear that for the people of Rio nothing mattered more.
Despite having been sent out to the countryside to cover golf, I figured that with a fair wind I could make the stadium in time for the football final unless everything went hideously wrong. My planning had been meticulous: imagine a strung-out Henry Hill in Goodfellas trying to fit in the preparation of his ziti with meat gravy around the unloading of the guns Jimmy didn’t want while organising the package for Lois to take to Pittsburgh. That was me.