Rio de Janeiro, a city notorious for its curving golden beaches, lush landscape and charming locals, sits below the towering “Christ the Redeemer” statue.
A day in Rio is a surfer and beach bum’s paradise. The bohemian Carioca [a native of Rio de Janeiro] lifestyle means soaking in rays while sipping on agua de coco (coconut water) or playing futevolei (a blending of soccer and volleyball) with friends. The tropical city revolves around the beach, so it makes sense that the city shuts down when gray clouds and rain roll in.
My first trip to Brazil was roughly four years ago. Since then, I’ve been five times. I’d consider the visits a process of cultural assimilation, blending a Gringa [native English speaker] to the Carioca lifestyle.
Moreover, my “Things to do in Rio” bucket list is almost entirely checked off. I stand up paddled in Copacabana beach, got tipsy off caipirinhas (Brazil’s national cocktail), attempted to dance samba in Lapa and hang-glided around the iconic Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountains. Almost every box has been checked but one, and that’s to visit the Maracanã stadium during the 2014 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup.
For non-soccer fans, the FIFA World Cup is an internationally watched soccer tournament. The qualifying teams represent their country while fighting for the World Cup Champion title.
I am lucky enough to have three World Cup tickets in my pocket – the electricity running through Brazil and Rio also runs through me.
Regardless of the protests against the corruption and FIFA, the “Christ the Redeemer” glowed bright green on the eve of one of the tournaments, as streets, pubs and homes began to raise their Brazilian flags and stick streamers and jerseys along walls and ceilings. Boys and girls played Brazil versus Argentina (which is a total war-like rivalry), and women flaunted their green and yellow dental floss thong bikinis.
Whistles and horns accompanied the growing anticipation for the World Cup kick off game, Brazil versus Croatia.
June 12, 2014
The day of the inauguration game, my alarm went off at 6:30 AM, I threw on my Neymar Jr. jersey, slathered on sunscreen and headed towards the FIFA Fan Fest inauguration located on Copacabana beach. FIFA Fan Fest locations are official spaces for public viewing of all World Cup games.
Upon arriving, my cousin and I found passed out partygoers from the night before, and a still drunk Chilean. To kill time we laid out on the beach, cracked open some beers and worked on our tans. It wasn’t long till a line began to form at the entrance.
While waiting in line, many others and myself were entertained by a Brazilian woman dressed in typical Carnival fashion, showing off her heavily ornate headset and glittering bra-like top and skirt. Another source of entertainment was music beating from speakers playing cover songs such as the official World Cup song “We are one” (also known as Ole Ola) and Shakira’s hit song “La La La” while caipirhinas, beer and water were sold by entrepreneurial salesman.
The kick off inauguration opened their doors at noon, and quickly became an ocean of green and yellow with speckles of different countries centered on a colossal sized screen. Flags like Brazil, Argentina, the United States and France rippled in the air as famous Brazilian performers Sorriso Maroto and Naldo performed on stage.
The scene was incredible as countries of differing languages, cultures and beliefs joined together for one event, creating their own language – soccer.
The Brazilians came away with a 3 to 1 win over Croatia, and the city was bursting in celebration. Men and women, Brazilians and foreigners, either continued pounding beers in hole in the wall botecos (Brazilian pubs) or paraded on the streets.
June 15, 2014
I was one of the 80,000 faces in the crowd at the first game in the Maracanã. Tonight’s game was Argentina versus Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Arriving to the stadium produced jolts of various emotions – astonishment, exhilaration and an “I can’t believe I’m here” feeling.
The hovering lights illuminated the field and the people who brought the stadium to life.
Argentine fans took over, painting the stadium in white and baby blue while booming with crazed love and passion for their team. As I scanned the stadium I couldn’t help but think of the stories I had heard of the Argentines traveling in caravan groups all the way to Rio.
“I’m sleeping in a van with three other friends, living off hot dogs and beer,” said Alejandro Torres, an Argentine fan.
That is serious dedication.
They rocked the stadium like jumping beans, chanting “Volveremos, volveremos a ganar otra vez,” in other words – they hope to be World Cup champions again.
As I snaked my way around fans and sales guys, I was going to soon discover three things:
First, the beers would be hands down the best I’d ever have, incredibly refreshing and delicious. Second, Argentines love to talk shit. Seriously, fights everywhere. Third, I would be so close to the field that I could literally see the muscles on the players ripple as they cannoned the ball across the field.
Argentina ended up beating Bosnia 2 to 1, with a devastating auto-goal for Bosnia and a brilliant goal by the one and only Lionel Messi. Yes, Messi who is much faster and shorter in real life, just by the way.
This is only the beginning for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Who are you cheering for? Viva Brasil!
By Maria Victoria Creamer
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Mace & Crown