I’m in Brazil, and you might have heard that there is some kind of World Cup going on here. I love football, and there are few countries with a greater passion for the beautiful game than those in South America, especially Brazil. Almost anywhere else around the world, the opening game of the World Cup falling on Valentines day (12th June in Brazil) would cause arguments or worse. Here in Brazil, no problem seems to arise. Why? Because everybody wants to watch this match!
99% of the people that I walked past that day had covered themselves head to toe in yellow, green and occasionally a bit of blue. Even babies wore Brazil shirts, with the local shopping centre stocking tiny t-shirts proudly stating “My first Copa!”. What’s really amazing is the way that the Brazilians decorate the city each time a World Cup comes around, with the streets painted in bright colours, flags flying everywhere, and even the zebra crossings adorned with footballs. Make no mistake, they want to win this.
I sit down for Brazil’s opening game against Croatia in front of a tv perched in the middle of my street. A random selection of miniature eggs and sliced sausages fill plates on a table packed with beer. When Marcelo opens the game with an own goal, there is no sign of concern or worry: “I told you, we’re going to win 3-1”. One neighbour even celebrates the goal: “Goooooooooool do Marcelo”!
The moment that Neymar curled his shot in to the bottom right hand corner of the ex-Flamengo goalkeeper, Pletikosa’s net sent shivers down my spine. My street erupted. Simultaneously, every street on the whole block and beyond erupted too, with vuvuzelas, cheers and firecrackers that sounded like gunshots! The World Cup was finally underway, and Brazil had just begun their assault on the trophy.
A week later and I’m at the Maracanã for Spain-Chile. This is a pretty intense rivalry and it seems like half of Chile are milling around the stadium with only the occasional Spaniard popping up here and there. Most Brazilians were joining in with the shouts of “Chi Chi Chi, Le Le Le, Viva Chile!”, creating a cauldron of noise that must have been difficult for the Spaniards to ignore. I’d never heard the Chilean national anthem before, but I would sure as hell like to hear anybody try to out sing the Chileans. Once the music had stopped, they continued to boom out the powerful song for a good minute as if trying to scare their opponents in to submission (perhaps Spain should have just accepted their fate at this point).
And what about England? I don’t want to talk about it… I’m just sticking to my goal of trying to meet somebody from each country playing at the World Cup (you can check how I’m getting on over on Instagram)!