The Party Begins

 The waiting was over. Through demonstration, tear gas, and angry murals – Brazil had wobbled unsteadily towards the World Cup – but it was time. 12th June 2014. Brazil vs Croatia.

Fans poured into the Fifa Fan Fest which sits towards the top of Copacabana beach. We were greeted by a nerve testing line. Thousands had arrived before us. We inched slowly forward – only 20,000 would be allowed in. As we crossed through the holy arch our relief sky rocketed.

Inside people danced, they laughed, they ate – they drank. The crowd pulsed with a thudering samba beat provided by the band on stage. Three dancers pulled from carnival itself gyrated wildly, the TV producers obliged with numerous slow motion hip thrusts.

The TV screens showed a never-ending stream of beautiful people in the crowd. Couples kissed, people screamed in delight – scantily clad woman sat on shoulders, their flags flapping behind them. One man came into view, he looked like Gollum – if Gollum had taken acid and had gone to the World Cup. The crowd collectively giggled.

 A pair of immaculate Argentian buttocks came into view. The kind of buttocks that makes you doubt any of this evolution nonsense – because surely they have been crafted by the hands of a great buttock master.

And then it was time. The main event. The crowd roared in unison – then everyone sat down quietly – it was an odd moment.

  Ten minutes in the collective air around Brazil became less. Croatia had the audacity to score. Eyes widened in horror – this simply would not do. The crowd lept back to their feet. The roar intensified – this battle was for real. This would not be easy pickings. Croatia would not be the field mouse to Brazil’s eagle.

The game surged back and forth. The Brazilians knew a defeat was unthinkable – as was even a draw. Have any players in history felt such a weight on their shoulders?

The world exploded on the half hour mark, as Neyamar equalized. Fireworks crackled the sky, strangers hugged and vocals cords were torn apart.

Half time arrived – breathlessly. Thousands attempted to go to the toilet, while thousands sat down blocking their paths. The Fan Fest turned into a complete Shit Fest. The layout is absurd. Toilets are a scarcity – and unless you have chosen to watch the game at the back, to the right – an awful mission to get to. Couple it all with hordes of intolerable football fans from around the world it became a nightmare.

The game thankfully resumed. Then on 71 minutes a Brazilian penalty. A soft penalty – Dejan Lovren’s hand must weigh several metric tonnes if Fred’s collapse to the ground was anything to go by. Neymar scampered up to it like a dog looking for the best place to pee – and barely scored. The whole incident was not a piece of Brazilian beauty – but the crowd didn’t care.

 If the penalty incident left a bad taste, the final goal did not. Little Oscar danced through the Croatia defenders before poking the ball with millimetres to spare into the left hand corner. Brazil had wobbled, but prevailed. Thoughts of the carnage that a defeat would have brought were laid to rest.

The horde poured out – or rather poured to the turnstiles then was brought to a halt as only a few were open. Anger began to rise. Chants began to be hurled at the staff, and people started to climb over. Common sense prevailed and the staff moved aside to let everybody through. Outside riot police dressed for war kept a stern gaze as we moved past and into the Rio night.

As we made our way home we looked to the heavens to see Christ the Redeemer above us – now bathed in a warm green and yellow glow. Brazil had won. It hadn’t been pretty, or entirely fair – but for the sake of the World Cup – and the country, definitely much needed.


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