I made a new friend yesterday, who may also soon be a new roommate, as we were meeting to see if I wanted to stay in his small, sometimes crowded, but incredibly positioned apartment overlooking the stunning Bahia beaches.
Together, on (painfully slow) buses and (comparatively fast) foot, we explored the Historic Centre of Salvador, and made our way through the streets to see how much Football Fever we could spot.
“You wouldn’t even know there was a World Cup in ten days,” he announced, and he was right.
No giant billboards, no football superstars staring down from advertisements, no noticeable increase in football jersey-wearing people on the streets, (bearing in mind a fairly large proportion of Brazilians already walk down the street wearing the famous gold and green of the Seleçaão, or one of the two jerseys of local rivals, Vitória and Bahía).
Magazines and newsagents at the prevalent kiosks seemed to be more excited than the people here, boasting front pages and football specials of everything from Neymar Jr. and Gisella on Vogue to articles on how there is actually going to be a great World Cup, (in answer to a popular hashtag #nãovaitercopa, or ‘There won’t be a world cup,’ which has been trending in Brazil for a while).
A Brazilian daily newspaper this morning sent a journalist out to discover if things were picking up: she concluded that yes, they are, because you can buy football jerseys and paraphernalia, and because some people have decorated the streets with green and gold pieces of paper.
(This was in the same section of the newspaper as a report that, eleven days before they are due to hold the opening match, Corinthians in São Paolo’s Itaquerao Stadium had to hold a league match there with only around 40,000 supporters, less than 2/3 full, due to the fact that, basically, the 65,000-seater venue isn’t ready yet).
Most worryingly for me is the fact that, a week and a half before kick-off, the place I plan to spend approximately 83% of my time in Salvador looks like this:
This is Porta da Barra, a major tourist beach and (hopefully) home of the FanFest.
But I was in Cape Town four years ago when it looked like nothing was going to be ready in time, from the stadium to the new train station, and we got through that one alright. I’m a natural-born optimist: I think things will probably be OK here, more or less.
And if they’re not, at least I have a place to sleep!