It has now been almost one year since Brazil took the world stage, hosting the 2014 World Cup. Mistakes were made, and also a lot of strengths were realized. Brazil was a place of conflicted emotions for many. On one hand, you have a country that refers to soccer as “the beautiful game” or in Portuguese “o jogo bonito”. It is also said that soccer is Brazil’s official religion. And then on the other hand the country was full of protestors fighting against corruption, all for a better Brazil. During this time, people showed intense pride in being Brazilian and a passionate love of all things soccer, and yet most people supported the protestors, even the Brazilian soccer players. How is it possible to live between two opposite perspectives at the same time? Well, Brazilians manage to live daily in an equivocal state, and it is truly difficult to understand unless you happen to live alongside them and see if for yourself.
A lot of controversy shrouded the host Country of the World Cup. Brazilians were angry and remain angry, all for good reason. The price tag of the World Cup reached around 11 billion dollars. Services like transportation, education, and healthcare in Brazil are horribly underfunded. Poor people were evicted from favelas by the police and private security firms to help keep poverty out of the sight of the tourists. A stadium was built in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Manaus. The total cost of this stadium was around 300 million dollars, and the lives of 3 construction workers. It was used for only 4 games during the World Cup. This stadium now sits empty in Manaus and is essentially unusable. Not enough people reside in this area to even come close to filling this stadium. To say the people of Brazil were pissed is an understatement and I don’t blame them one bit, because if this was my country I would be pissed too. Brazilians are still talking about the amount of money spent during the World Cup, at times with humor over how ridiculous this was, and other times in anger.
Today, you can hear similar grumblings about the Rio Olympics from both Brasileiros and foreigners alike. The Brazilians are wondering if it is worth the expense. The foreign press corps is constantly concerned about the readiness of Brazil for the Olympics. These were some of the same stories we heard about the World Cup, however, despite the controversy and frustration, Brazil managed to host one of the most exciting World Cup’s in history, as well as show a tremendous amount of support for their team and pride in all things Brazil.
When we arrived in Brazil at the end of May, 2014, every store, gas station, and business was draped in Brazilian flags and Brazil colors. Dale and I were quickly swept up into the excited frenzy of the World Cup. Two of our first purchases were U.S.A. and Brazil World Cup t-shirts.
Moving into the month of June, the watch parties began. In Brazil, soccer is also a social event. Families and friends gather to watch the games at the house of the person who owns the largest screen T.V. Every time Brazil played, companies would let employees leave work early so that they had enough time to get home before the start of the game. Everyone would rush to the bus stop or drive home in frenzy; Brazilian flags flapping in the wind outside the car windows, horns honking in excitement, people cheering as they drove down the street. In short, it was amazing and impossible not to join in the festivities. Once at home, we would break out a few bottles of beer, fire up the BBQ grill and enjoy the game. Every goal scored by Brazil and our entire house would shake with fireworks going off all over town. You could hear everyone in the neighborhood screaming and cheering. It was a great feeling.
We were very fortunate to be able to attend a game. Curitiba, one of the host cities, is only 1.5 hours from our house. As Dale was new to his job and could not yet take a full vacation day we decided that Curitiba was our best bet at being able to watch a World Cup game live. We would have loved to see one of the major powerhouse teams’ play, however we did not have much of a choice due to responsibilities of work. So we purchased tickets for the Ecuador vs. Honduras game, a hotel room, and set off on a Friday for Curitiba.
Dale is not the stereotypical American, as he used to play soccer and follows the sport. I on the other hand knew very little about soccer. Let me say though, I have learned a great deal while living in Brazil. Watching one of the biggest sporting events in the world live was an amazing once in a lifetime experience! Just walking up to the stadium in Curitiba was exciting. The Ecuador and Honduras fans were everywhere, chanting, singing, dancing, and of course drinking. Brazilians were there too, proudly wearing their Brazil jerseys and sweatshirts. There were costumes, capes, flags, faces painted, and overall elation in the air. Words cannot express the fervor and emotion of the World Cup – it is something best experienced in person. It was felt by the fans in the stadium, fans who have traveled from all over the world, including a family we met from New York, just to watch this one 90 minute “beautiful game”. In short, it was the coolest sporting event I have ever attended! The pomp and ceremony of the game well made up for the fact that we were not watching major players in the World Cup. When the players and children took the field with the FIFA flag and country flags, and then when they played the national anthem of each country, it was difficult not to explode with excitement. I think my allergies were bothering me because my eyes suddenly began to water and there was a lump in my throat.
After the game we attended live, we were only half way through the World Cup matches. We watched the rest of the games in our town of Joinville. Some we watched at home and sometimes we would go out to a restaurant that had big screen T.V.’s. It was always entertaining and always accompanied with a lot of snacks and a few beers. I think I gained about 5lbs during the World Cup! We all had our favorites. Dale’s favorites included Argentina’s Messi and Colombia‘s James. I loved the muscles of the Uruguay team, rooted for Colombia, a country close to my heart (it helped that they were underdogs), and of course cheered for Brazil and U.S.A. every time they played! I had a serious crush on Hulk from the Brazil team.
Everyone in town would wear their yellow Brazil jerseys on the big game days. Small business owners became annoyed because on game day, no one would show up. Students would not show up to class, and they gym I worked out at, was usually empty on game day. It was a very exciting time for Brazil.
Then suddenly, the frenzy in Brazil came to a screeching halt. The Brazilian team had a horrible upset. During this game, you could feel the silence and tension in the air. It was very awkward and uncomfortable. Video cameras focused in on crying fans, including a child, and it was heartbreaking. Social media sites were full of jokes about the huge upset. Following the game, the next day, Brazilians were talking about it, at the grocery store, at work, the gym, everywhere. They were disappointed and embarrassed, but quickly they began to return to normal, everyday life. People once again returned to the gym, small business owners were happy. You see, Brazil was beat badly, however I feel that Brazilians should be proud despite the performance of their soccer team. They managed to take the world stage. The spotlight was on Brazil and many questioned if they could pull this off. Brazil not only managed to pull it off, but they managed to show the world that Brazilians are a force not only in the soccer arena but in the global economy. They showed a great passion and pride for their country, and for once people were able to get a glimpse of the true Brazil.
Brazil and the World Cup made quite an impression on me! Despite being shrouded in controversy, and justly so in my opinion, Brazil managed to pull off one of the most exciting World Cups in history, with a lot of upsets, underdogs shining through, and last but not least the intense pride of the Brazilian fans, always willing to support their players regardless and showing great enthusiasm. Brazil proved that as a people and country they can handle and succeed at hosting a grand stage world event. We are looking forward to the Olympics in 2016 and are positive that Brazil will shine there too!