Brazil soccer gold will be the memory Rio never forgets

Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:54pm EDT
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By Stephen Eisenhammer

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - In Brazil it will be the Olympic moment everyone remembers.

Not Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, not American swimmer Michael Phelps, not even Thiago Braz da Silva falling from the night sky as Brazil's surprise pole vault champion.

It will be Weverton, an almost unknown goalkeeper in Brazil who was selected at the 11th hour, diving to his left to stop a penalty from Germany's Nils Petersen, a save that helped win Brazil's first Olympic soccer gold.

It might also be the moment that changed Brazil's relationship with the Games and the way it will be remembered.

"In 30 years, when people think of Rio 2016 they will think of this moment," said Paulo Kappel, 67, his eyes moist with emotion as he stood in the stands of the Maracana while chants echoed around the spiritual home of Brazilian soccer.

Around him fans embraced, cheers rang out and even Olympic volunteers lay on the ground and wept.

Olympic organizers always knew they faced a challenge in getting soccer-mad Brazil enthused about the huge spectrum of sports at the Games.

The country is not an Olympic powerhouse and empty seats plagued multiple venues from athletics to canoe slalom.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Soccer - Victory Ceremony - Men's Football Tournament Victory Ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 20/08/2016. Neymar (BRA) of Brazil (2nd R) and teammates pose with their gold medals during the medal ceremony. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger