FRAMINGHAM — With a berth in the World Cup final on the line for her beloved Brazilian national soccer team, Aurea Dornelas took off from work Tuesday afternoon to make sure she was among the faithful fans packed into the Tropical Cafe on Hollis Street to watch the match.
By halftime, with Germany leading host country Brazil 5-0, the certified nursing assistant joked wryly that she might have to go on duty.
“Look around you,” she said, feigning a swoon. “I think people are going to start passing out. . . . We all came into this game a little scared because of Neymar’s injury. But this is worse than anything!”
Where Dornelas employed dark humor, others in the cafe quietly wiped away tears and hung their heads, declining to comment on what they were watching.
And while the mood overall was glum, it was driven by much more than a losing score.
Elton Francisco, 28, who moved to Medford from Brazil in March to pursue his PhD doctorate in history at UMass Boston, said Brazilians draw inspiration from matches like this one.
“I came to Framingham to watch the game because it is the epicenter,” Francisco said. “But the mood you see here is because soccer is what we have in Brazil, all what the regular people take pride in. Not participation in major politics, not great business opportunities. Soccer, specifically our national team. So this is a bigger letdown than a loss.”
Peter Chisholm, who works at Framingham State University and volunteers in town as part of a campus initiative, helped with crowd control at Tropical Cafe Tuesday.
“I noticed a pretty marked change in the crowd from start to finish,” Chisholm said. “People at the beginning of the match were buzzing about strategy. By the end, they seemed weary and grateful that Brazil was able to score just one goal” in a 7-1 loss.
Robin Swift, 38, lives in Somerville, but he drove to Framingham to watch the match at Tropical Cafe because “I knew it was where I would get the best feel of the heart of our local Brazilian community during the match.”
“I don’t have Brazilian family roots,” Swift said. “But I used to live in Framingham, so I know how big this was and how much hope was behind it. I just feel terrible for everyone here. After the fourth German goal people were pretty crestfallen. And I know that part of it has to do with what it means to their families back home in Brazil.”
A mile-and-a-half away at WSRO AM 650, a Brazilian radio station that broadcasts in Portuguese, the mood was somber as well.
“You think people are sad here? Back home in Brazil people are really crying, crying big tears,” said Frelei Bras, a host at the station who was in the broadcast booth with co-workers calling the game. “You will hear people compare this to big politics. It is not an exaggeration to say matches involving the national team — especially this one since Brazil is the host country — are as important to people as presidential elections. It’s that big. People don’t feel like they have a voice for president. They may not have a voice with the national futebol, soccer team. But they feel like they do. And that’s important.”
As patrons filed out of Tropical Cafe, owner Soulange Moura consoled them, patting some on the back, playfully punching others in the arm, and even hugging strangers who looked especially sad to her.
‘You think people are sad here? Back home in Brazil people are really crying, crying big tears.’
“It’s not what most expected, but we are Brazilian,” she said. “We absorb this and we regroup and we move on to the next round.”
Whenever a patron grumbled too loudly or appeared on the verge of tears, Moura would remind them that the Brazilian national team will be playing exhibition games in the United States later this year, in Florida and New Jersey.
“Maybe some will see their team in person and be rejuvenated,” she said. “But either way, the most important lesson of all here is it really is a game at the end of the day.”
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