Seb catches World Cup Fever
By Seb Contreras, Jul 15 2014 08:58AM
It was a trip I’d been dreaming about since Brazil was announced as the host nation for the FIFA 2014 World Cup 7 years ago. I couldn’t imagine anywhere more suited to host the competition. Whilst the Brazilians didn’t invent football, nobody would argue that they have not embraced the game with more love and affection, and play it better, than any other nation in the world (with the exception of this year’s semi-final). On top of this, Brazil is unique in its culture, drawing from its population, who are a colourful mixture of their many ancestors coming from all corners of the planet, be it the American Indians, the Portuguese colonisers, Italian & Spanish immigrants, West African slaves and the Japanese. Because of these factors, I knew Brazil would be the perfect stage for my first World Cup.
The magic started whilst my brother and I were waiting in the departure lounge in Madrid airport for our flight to Rio. The majority of the awaiting passengers were football fans in transit from all over Europe and Africa and were proudly wearing their nation’s spots and stripes. There were even football fans present whose national team had not qualified for this tournament (yes, I’m talking about the Scots), but they still wanted to be part of the party. The cameras were already out as people tried to capture these moments, taking group photos with strangers supporting opposition teams.
Our first experience of football in Brazil came as we walked along the famous Copacabana beach. Bronzed torsos, males and female were skilfully, yet casually playing on the beach volleyball pitches, using any part of their bodies but their arms and hands to keep the ball from touching the sand, whilst aiming to send it over the net. It’s no wonder that with a game like this that they are masters of ball control on a football pitch!
Being half English and half Chilean my brother and I had the added advantage of supporting 2 teams: - ‘The Three Lions’ and ‘La Roja’. Luckily we had secured match tickets for Chile vs. Spain, England vs. Uruguay as well as Belgium vs. Russia. The Chile vs. Spain match was the outright highlight of our trip. The iconic Maracanã, a stadium that to me resonates the design of a coliseum, was invaded by a mob of positively charged Chile fans. At least 60,000 of the 74,000 spectators were Chileans, and with their flags and red shirts, the inside of the stadium resembled a choppy red sea. The fans were hungry for the scalp of the world champions, and with their best team in a generation, had the belief that not only was this going to be their day, but their tournament. This belief was echoed in the singing of their national anthem. The noise was thunderous and no doubt intimidating to the Spanish. All Chileans bar none sang their heart out. They weren’t put off when the music was stopped after the first verse to speed up the formalities, instead the players and the fans went a cappella and sang louder still. The stadium now resembled a coliseum both in design and in atmosphere. Mexican waves rippled repeatedly around the stadium, as the red sea of fans heightened in the excitement of the occasion. The excitement was further fuelled by the 2 goals Chile scored to beat the Spanish. What a day! I don’t think I will ever experience such an atmosphere from a sporting event again in my life! (To see my actual video footage, click here).
There was disappointment for England, and after the highs of the Spain match, heartache for my beloved Chilean heroes when they were knocked out by Brazil via the lottery of penalties. Of course Brazil suffered the most of all this tournament, when the Germans didn’t follow the script, thrashing them 7-1, thus preventing them from bringing the World Cup trophy ‘home’.
The biggest question of the World Cup was eventually answered on Sunday, with the answer being Germany! The World Cup trophy stays in Europe for another 4 years.
I, along with millions of others can now start to recover from the symptoms of World Cup fever. The fatigue experienced because of the gripping late night matches, many of which went to extra-time and penalties and prevented me from going to bed at a reasonable hour on a school night. The morning headaches from drinking Caipirinhas, Brazil’s national cocktail. The stiff low back as a result of sleeping in the cheap bunk beds of one of Brazil’s ‘finest hostels’. And finally, the croaky voice that developed as a result of singing in the stands and shouting at the TV. Thank you Brazil, for hosting the best World Cup I can remember!