Beauty and the Beast

The crowd held its breath. The chants of ‘Julio Cesar’ had died down. The Chilean, Gonzalo Jara, placed the ball on the penalty spot – stamping down on the turf before walking a few yards back – turning, and exhaling. He had to score. Thousands of Brazilians packed into Rua Alzira Brandão held their breath.

Moments later his shot crashes back off the post and cannons  out. The crowd erupts, the air is filled with beer – arching in all direction before splattering down into the delirious spectators below. Strangers hug each other, people high five – the elderly women standing in front of us who had spent the whole penalty shoot out praying is on the verge of tears.

The relief was unimaginable. Brazil had come deathly close to an unacceptable early exit from its own World Cup – a few inches here, a few inches there. Both sides had the share of woeful penalties.

We had tickets to the Columbia vs Uruguay game at the Maracana, which kicked off in less than an hour, so we began to quickly weave our way through the crowd. One Brazilian grabbed me and asked angrily why I wasn’t celebrating – I was wearing a Brazilian shirt, and was covered in beer – I felt I had done my part.Since an incident where the Chilean fans stormed the press area at the Maracana stadium the security has been at a war like level. I suspect there are American bases in Afghanistan that are less heavily defended.

The military police stand in a series of lines, checking tickets, bags – hearts and souls. Some look friendly enough – others carry a fearsome glare. Occasional they are backed up by the riot police, who look like Robocop – which is fun to see, but I always worry they are itching to crack a few heads – just for fun. I’m not entirely sure if they are human.

We made our way into the stadium, our route winding high up into the stands. The view from the seats was spectacular. Unfortunately for the Uruguayans, Brazil play in the same color as Columbia – most of the stadium was a vibrant, shimmering yellow – with only the occasionally pocket of blue and white.
We were sat next to one of these pockets. It is of course brand an entire nation by the actions of a few, especially football fans, but the behaviour of the Uruguayans was awful. They arrived angry and feverishly drunk. Alcohol had been banned in many South American stadium prior to the World Cup because of fan violence, but FIFA’s love interest with Budweiser meant that the Brazilian government had been bullied into amending the law.

The supposed injustice of having their finest player banned for attempting to eat an opponent was clearly evident in the angry faces of the Uruguayans. They had no intention of enjoying their time there – even refusing to participate in the Mexican waves. They people on a shameful display for their country.

 At the last World Cup they progressed at the expense of Ghana thanks to a handball on the line. This time around the country has shamed itself in its response to the Suarez biting incident – and here, in the Maracana, they sunk even lower. Many of them wearing vampire fangs – their eyes blood shot and wild. Time and time again the police was called into to break up fights – or drag the worse offenders out. Half way through the first half a young Brazilian, who can’t have been more that ten, sat in tears behind us – one of the worst offenders sat right behind her.

It must be said that the Brazilian police and stewarding in the stadium borders on the insane. It was often up to a spectator to go and fetch somebody to alert them of a problem.

I am happy to say Uruguayans where completely over run by the Colombians – with James Rodriguez scoring twice, his first perhaps the goal of the tournament. Everybody in the stadium, bar the Uruguayans, was Colombian for the day. The roar of appreciation was magnificent.

Justice was done. The country that is battling back from the depths of cartel hell continues on. The country that now has less friends than that fat kid who used to bully people in school – and can be happily reunited with their flesh eating hero – and surely rage angrily about the monumental injustice that has been handed to them. Pathetic. Good riddance.

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