“There was a lot of controversy about the opening ceremony on social media last night. What did you make of it?” Asked the BBC York presenter interviewing me live on the radio.
It was the morning after the first Brazil game, and I’d not really been up very long. If I’m being honest, I was still trying to piece together what had happened the night before myself.
“Well I don’t really remember” I remarked.
“Oh right” she laughed.
As soon as those words came tumbling out of my mouth I realised exactly how that comment had made me sound. So I hurriedly added; “I was out on the street, there were so many people, so much noise and I was busy soaking up the atmosphere!”
“Well Andrew, it sounds like that wasn’t the only thing you were soaking up!”
BOOM! This radio presenter had just confirmed what I had suspected…that I’d made myself sound like some sort of Ibiza Uncovered wannabe!
What I hadn’t really considered doing before going on the radio, was pointing out just how different the experience of watching World Cup is over here compared to how it is back home. So what I’ll do with this blog post is give an account of my experiences during the first Brazilian and first English game of the tournament.
Watching Brazil vs Croatia
Being in Brazil during the World Cup is like nothing I’ve ever known. When it comes to the Brazilian matches, everything comes to a complete stand still. When I say everything, I really mean EVERYTHING! Offices close early, shops shut and streets that are usually full of people are eerily deserted.
São Paulo was playing host to the opening ceremony last Thursday, so a holiday was declared in the city to ease the roads. Of course it was! Brazilians LOVE their holidays! One of my favourite things about living in Brazil is the amount of holidays they have here. Although on reflection, after the second Brazil game on Tuesday in which many people missed the first half after they’d underestimated the traffic, I can see why this was a good idea!
My friends and I had been deliberating on where to watch the opening match for some time. We knew that a number of nightclubs were opening their doors specifically for the event, with the promise of a party starting immediately after the final whistle. But instead we decided to watch the match on the streets in the lively Vila Madalena neighbourhood. Having watched the Confederations Cup final there last year, we knew it would be busy…but we’d not realised just how busy it would be! We could barely move! These streets were rammed full of people wearing a mixture of yellow, green and blue shirts, people blowing horns and those screaming at the huge TV sets. Beer vendors on the sides of the street were swamped with people waving notes at them too, waiting to have their cash exchanged for ice cold beers.
After about ten minutes, myself and my friends decided to go and find some place a little quieter, a place where we wouldn’t be elbowed so often! So I only caught a glimpse of Jennifer Lopez during the opening ceremony, but knowing she is partly responsible for that god-awful World Cup song, I wasn’t too disappointed abut this! For a country with such a rich musical heritage, I’m pretty surprised that J-Lo and “Mr Worldwide” were chosen to perform at the opening ceremony at all!
A block or two away we found a bar that gave us the opportunity to enjoy the rest of the match…and there we weren’t stood on as often by women with ridiculously pointy heels either. Every time Brazil scored fireworks pounded against the sky alongside a chorus of cheers and screams. When the final whistle blew, a real carnival atmosphere enveloped those on the streets. It wasn’t until the next morning as I was about to go live on the radio I realised I’d allowed myself to get a little carried away by this, and I drank a little more than I should have!
Watching England vs Italy
The day I’d been waiting for had arrived! I’d managed to recruit a Dane, an American and a couple of Brazilians to support England with me, and we all headed over to the Fan fest area just in time for the English national anthem. I belted this out with gusto, and I noticed I wasn’t alone; there were at least 100 other Brits I could almost hear singing too.
Then the Italian anthem started, and things took an unexpected turn. It was as if EVERYONE else was singing along to this, waving their Italian flags. But then São Paulo is home to a huge number of Brazilians of Italian descent, and for some reason, I hadn’t even thought about this before arriving. To make things worse, there was a group of big, burly Italians stood by us, clearly very passionate about this song and the team.
Admittedly, this wasn’t an ideal situation for any Englishman to find himself in on this day! However I took some comfort in the fact there were police nearby on raised platforms (who I imagined could protect me if turned ugly…when when England kicked Italy’s ass!). But literally as soon as this idea came creeping into my thoughts, I looked over and immediately realised they might not be a lot of use. To my surprise, far from casting an intimidating eye over the proceedings….they were huddled together taking selfies on their phones.
Naturally, I panicked!
I had a secret weapon in one of my friends though, an attractive, single Brazilian woman. I’d noticed this group of Italians looking over at her before the game had started, so I did what any good friend would do in the same situation to ensure we were all on friendly terms…first I introduced myself to them, then I introduced them to her. That’s right guys, I pimped my friend out for a little piece of mind!
A few minutes into the game England shot at goal that hit the side of the net. From where I was stood though, I thought we’d scored. I’m not sure what the Brazilian equivalent to Spec Savers is, but maybe it’s time I paid them a visit! I was jumping up and down in celebration, thinking it was strange that my friends weren’t even cracking a smile in my direction. It wasn’t until one of them gently put their hand on my shoulder and told me England hadn’t scored, I stopped. With my dignity slightly ruffled I looked over at this group of Italians and noticed them smirking at me, their eyes laughing intensely!
I don’t need to give a blow by blow account of what happened next, but safe to say I found myself drowning my sorrows with my friends in a now infamous bar VERY close to the Fan fest!
Are you in Brazil for the World Cup? What do you think to it so far?