It’s opening day! I visited the Fan Fest area late this morning and was impressed that they had everything put together and ready for the Brazil – Croatia match which was to begin at 5pm. Having time to kill, I wandered back to the apartment.
I returned around 3pm and found myself at the end of a very long line of people waiting to get in. While the Fan Fest is free, you do need to prove you aren’t bringing in any weapons and a person can be scanned so fast by a handheld metal detector.
By chance I was in line behind a couple of kids who spoke English and the young man was wearing a t-shirt indicating that he’d done a run through the Cincinnati Zoo. I introduced myself as a Buckeye and we got to talking. He’s in Salvador for the summer doing public health research.
While we were talking a storm blew in and you’d have thought these people had never been in the rain before. I’ve only been here three days and I know it rains every afternoon. This helped speed my way to the front of the line and rain had stopped before I was scanned.
The crowd at Fan Fest was impressive. I wandered around taking pictures (there are more on Facebook) before settling in front of one of the auxiliary screens. As the teams emerged from the tunnel a surge of emotion overcame my mind. It was a totally unexpected feeling of joy, I think from the realization that I’d made it to my sixth World Cup. There was even a wee tear to be brushed away. I like to pretend that my mind is in control of the brain and body but sometimes I surprise myself.
When it came time for the Brazilian national anthem, I tried to sing along. They even put the words as captions on the big screen but I couldn’t get the cadence right. Near the end, it seemed like the music stopped but crowd on the television, the players, the coaches and the crowd around me began singing even louder. The waves were crashing around this little peninsula but they were dwarfed by the waves of pride given full voice by these beautiful people.
I’m no football reporter. You can find plenty of game reports, if you look. When Brazil conceded an own goal early I was surprised at how subdued the crowd’s reaction was. I would’ve expected a more vocal expression of frustration but, while obviously disappointed, they seemed to take it in stride. I suppose having won five titles already grants a little serenity in the face of adversity.
Another rain blew through midway through the second half and that sent people running for shelter. It really wasn’t that bad. I wanted to lead a chant of “RailHawks love the rain” but I doubted that anyone would join.
On the way back to the apartment I ran into some guys from Nottinghamshire, England and we had a nice chat about our favorite clubs. They were in line ahead of me at a little street food vendor who was making espetadas. These are Brazilian shish-kabobs and mine had some sausage, maybe chorizo, a couple of chunks of beef and a leg of chicken. Very inexpensive too!
In case you don’t know or haven’t guessed, Brazil defeated Croatia, 3-1. I assume the celebrations will last long into the night. I can hear the revelers singing from a couple of streets over and there are more firecrackers going off than usual. Some of these explosions sound more like small bombs echoing through the hive of apartments but I haven’t heard any screams nor seen anything collapse yet.