On Friday evening, I took five friends, (an American, another American, an Ecuadorian-American, a South African and a Brazilian), to see Salvador’s first taste of the World Cup, (an hors d’oeuvres, let’s say), when Australia took on (competition openers) Croatia in local side Bahía’s Pituaçu Stadium.
An old friend, and current member of the Australian technical team, hooked me up with some VIP tickets for my friends and some inside information on the team, (apparently, they are young, and maybe not quite good enough to win the World Cup this year…)
The game, (described the next morning in the local newspaper ‘A Tarde‘ as ‘of the worst kind’!), was a feisty affair. Oz played well in the first half, before a slew of substitutions brought Croatia more into the game in the second half, driven by Europa Cup MVP Ivan Rakitić.
Croatia eventually ran out 1-0 winners, thanks to a goal snapped in off the underside of the bar, (from a suspiciously offside position and a rebound), by Hull City‘s Nikica Jelavić.
The Ozzies gave it their all, but the youth of the squad was telling, and either nerve or skill was at times so lacking that the fans at one point boo’ed them.
(That’s got to be a terrible feeling, being boo’ed by a crowd of neutrals).
Talking of the crowd, there were around 10,000 of us, an impressive turn-out considering most were locals and the tickets cost up to the same amount as locals have to pay for a real World Cup ticket, (although most of them got half-price tickets as students, or third-price tickets if they were members of either Vitória or Bahía).
In fact, something the teams during the World Cup may have to get used to, according to the local paper, is the crowd carrying out a back-and-forth of chants of opposing local teams, as occurred when the game flagged in the second half and Bahía fans had a chant countered by the equally prevalent Vitória fans.
What happened on the way home couldn’t detract from the fact that we’d had an enjoyable, warm, football-filled evening, leaving us with a taste for the main course to come on Thursday…
Incidentally, if you are wondering why the photos are so much more professional than the ones so far, it is because they were supplied (and copyrighted!) by a lovely lady I met at the match working for the Ozzie embassy in São Paolo, (hence the gold and green bias).
This is a tactic I may have to adopt for every game, befriending pro- and semi-pro photographers, as a middle ground between taking my expensive camera-phone with me, and taking average photos with my newly-bought cheap mobile phone.
All photos are therefore courtesy of Sheila Lunter.
(Ironically, with a name and a job like that, a Netherlander!)