It would take 12 years after the Maracanazo of 1950 for the “mutt complex” to be buried once and for all. After the dramatic loss at home the Seleção changed its uniform (never again dressing white jerseys) and did much better. In 1954 it played quite well until crossing path with the fantastic Hungarians led by Puskas.
It was in 1958 that everything started to change. The 18 year-old Pelé and the misaligned legs of Garrincha took the world by surprise, not only winning the World Cup for the first time but doing so with an elegance and a parlance that turned every game of that campaign legendary. The rough video tapes of those time cannot quite capture the magic of Pelé doing hat tricks before scoring at the very final game against the mesmerized Swedish hosts.
Four years later in Chile they would repeat the performance. Here I should correct myself: Garrincha repeated the performance for Pelé got injured. The Brazilian mulatos had won not one but two consecutive championships and by doing so inscribed themselves into the soccer pantheon.
At home things also seemed to be going well. The 1950s was a time of economic growth, the golden years of Bossa-Nova, of Brasilia and of course of World Cup championships. In terms of housing the federal government built over two hundred thousand units, enough to house 10% of the country’s urban population.
But the same modernization that was fueling the economy was also inducing migration to the big cities. It was during the 1950s and 60s that most poor peasants moved to the Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte in search of better opportunities. Two hundred thousand units was not enough to make a dent in the growth of the favelas. In the 50s the economic growth and political stability opened space for important movements such as the Leão XIII foundation for favela upgrade. The soccer heroes of 1958 were received by an optimistic society.
That model collapsed in the early 60s under mounting social pressures, a stagnant economy and mounting inflation. In Rio the conservative government of Carlos Lacerda was ramping up the removal of favelas in areas deemed worth of development while in Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul the social movements succeeded on setting up land reform and communal housing experiments such as Cajueiro Seco (photo). But the erratic presidencies of Janio Quadros (1961) and João Goulart (1961-64) set up the volatile scenario that ended with the military coup of 1964. The soccer heroes of 1962 were received by an anxious and quite divided (along ideological lines, not soccer allegiances) society.