By Jim Stanford on July 17, 2014
Photographs by Wyatt Roscoe; for more, see his blog, Immaculate Chaos.
Story by Miller Resor
It ain’t easy to sum up the World Cup. I’ve been back from Brazil for almost two weeks, and piecing together the confluence of soccer fans from six continents and a million perspectives amid the beauty and the chaos of Brazil has made it difficult to write about.
Now that it’s over, I can say smart money was on Germany all along, Brazil never looked that good, and I wish an American (North, South or Central) team had won.
Brazil deserved to be the best venue for a World Cup ever. Unfortunately, Latin American politics reign supreme, and even the Brazilians had a hard time supporting such a top-down fiasco.
Many Brazilians connected the success of their own national team in the World Cup directly to the prospect of regime change. After having their homes demolished for the sake of cronyistic contracts, it was hard for many Brazilians to be truly enthusiastic about hundreds of thousands of raging fans descending on their country for the sake of a favorite pastime.
But it was still an amazing experience, and as the group stages progressed even Brazilians were caught up in the rising tide of excitement.
My group had chosen Natal, Brazil, as our vantage point. When we rented our apartment a year before, not knowing who would play where or even if we would be able to obtain tickets, we figured being situated in the “City of Sun” and between two other host cities, Fortaleza and Recife, we would be well positioned to see a bunch of games and spend a bunch of time on the beach.
That is pretty much what happened. A typical day generally started with breakfast, followed by a dip in the ocean, a round of Cachaça Coladas and the opening game at 1 p.m. Between games it was back to the beach, and then perhaps to our favorite bar to watch the second match of the day at 4 p.m. At some point we would scrounge up dinner or return to our apartment and cook ourselves, but inevitably we would find ourselves watching the third game at 7.
In all I saw five games in person, including a round-of-16 game in Fortaleza.
Mexico vs. Cameroon kicked things off in Natal, and with the opening whistle came torrential rains that lasted for three days and caused landslides and flooding in outlying areas of the city. In the moment it only added to the excitement.
Next was USA vs. Ghana. I watched from just off the right goalpost as Dempsey slipped through the Ghana defense in the opening seconds of the match and gave the USA an important advantage.
Japan vs. Greece was next, and finally there was the now-infamous Italy vs. Uruguay game where Luis Suarez bit somebody again!
By staying in one city we were able to witness fans from eight teams descend upon Natal. For me this was the true beauty of the World Cup. I’m an internationalist. Nationalism is for fascists. Taking the opinion that your country is better than any other because you’re better at a ball game makes you dangerous to world peace in my not-so-humble opinion. The World Cup is beautiful so long as it brings the world together.
That said, the Mexican and U.S. fans really did bring their A game. Aztec kings and American superheroes stole the show momentarily. Brazilians showed their dedication by wearing yellow jerseys, as did the Uruguayans with their celestial white and blue.
We rented a car and drove to Costa Rica vs. Italy in Recife, the murder and traffic capital of Brazil. Stuck in mind-numbing traffic only kilometers from the stadium, we were going to miss the entire game, so we turned to Google Maps and found some back roads through a favela. When the road spit us out magically at our destination, the look we got from the policemen who were guarding the road (that was for buses only) was priceless. The return trip was no easier, but it was definitely one of the best adventures of the trip.
Finally, only days before we would have to say goodbye to Brazil, and only one day before the first round of 16 game in Fortaleza, an American family offered us tickets to Mexico vs. Holland. It took back-to-back overnight buses to make it happen, but it was the best game we saw, although neither I nor our southern neighbors are over the horrible penalty kick awarded in the 94th minute. (I’ve never seen so many grown men cry at once.)
Now that it is all behind me, and I have returned to a sports world where the most important thing is where Lebron James will play next October, it all feels like a dream. It is hard to believe that I was there, that it actually happened. The energy created by the biggest tournament in the world and the millions of fans worldwide who viewed it is pretty incredible.
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