G – Gooooooooooooool

Posted: 1 July 2006 in A-Z, joy, the fantastic
Tags: , ,

I love the World Cup. When I was first in training for the Foreign Service, we would bribe our Portuguese teachers to let us out early to go to a neighborhood bar and watch the games. We’d bring them any Brazilian treat we could think of, even going so far as to buy Romeu e Julieta from the expensive, import market near the school. We would almost never get out in time to see the first few minutes, in fact, I’d bike faster than I thought possible just to get to the meeting spot before the chance of an early goal. Arriving hot and sweaty didn’t bother me; the cold restaurant, the icy beer in the middle of the afternoon and the fact that all of my friends would be more interested in the game than the way I smelled assured that it didn’t matter if I arrived in a sheen of heat and bike dirt. Four year later, at a small town fourth of July parade, my childhood friends and I gathered around a fist-sized tv set to watch Cameroon shame a powerful European team as floats and bands trooped down Main Street. In Mozambique, while the early games were showing, I’d rush home for a long lunch and turn the TV toward the window so that the guards could watch the game as well.

This year, I’ve had to contend (pitifully) with a full time job. I haven’t been able to watch most of the games. I’ve tried to bring D. into the soccer fold, showing her how the game works and what to watch for, much like she did with me during the NFL season last year. Unfortunately, with most games falling during the week, we haven’t had much time to follow the teams. Of course, we watched the US avidly (that is until the riotously unfair calls by the ref in the Italy game and the subsequent stomping in the Ghana game) and we’ve followed Brazil for the sheer joy of it. We’ve missed most of their games, getting only to see recaps and watching the occasional Telemundo replay (even though we knew the score and none of us speak sufficient Spanish).

But my love for Brazilian soccer goes back almost a decade. My first assignment was to Brazil. I spent two beautiful years in Sao Paulo. I travelled extensively, had Brazilian friends and saw my fair share of local games. As an honorary Paulista, I cheered for the Corinthians and was firmly against the Palmeiras (sorry, links in Portuguese). The stadiums in Brazil are impressive. Huge cement structures with no chairs (why give anyone incentive to rip them out?), just cement risers appropriate for standing, singing and screaming. The Brazilians have a list of songs for every occasion, all memorized, none published. I think you must be born knowing them if you’re native to the area. Every match is a chorus of supportive song, each teams’ fans singing as loud as possible. There is nearly always showing off on the field (unlike in cup games) and there is inevitably an argument or two, if not with the ref then among players. Fans are fenced off from each other – each section is team specific, separated by high fences – to keep them from killing each other. At the end of the game, the losing teams fans are dismissed first while the winning teams fans remain kept in, chanting, singing and surging down the cement platforms to the front. This prevents fights outside of the stadium (in theory) but promotes trampling inside the stadium. Friends of mine bruised ribs underfoot, one broke a wrist. I always fled as soon as possible, in part because of claustrophobia, in part because of articles like this (English). I miss those events a little (saudades, nao e’?) but am getting my fix this year watching Brazil.

Bonus points if you, too, are cheering for Brazil.


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