Last night, the World Cup began.
I joined 10,000 other fans at Salvador’s FanFest, (serviced by a whopping five toilets: for anyone visiting, I recommend not spending too much time at the top of the beach nearest the FanFest…), and people drank, danced, and got soaked as we spent three hours waiting for the game to start.
Three hours during which apparently they decided not to show us the Opening Ceremony on the giant screen.
Oh well, I got about a third of the way through my regular World Cup Challenge of taking a photo with a fan from every country in their national jersey, (and a few in team jerseys from around the world, too), and the party spirit was, finally, high.
And then that decision happened, and the World Cup was already a little bit ruined for me.
I was wearing the Brazil jersey I’d bought in 2006 in the joy of going to my first ever World Cup match, the same fixture in Berlin. After seeing the replay, I took it off in disgust and refused to wear it again for the rest of the evening.
It felt dirty, (in every sense).
The crowd reacted awkwardly, the locals, (about 50% of the crowd), cheered the penalty a little shamefacedly, thre rest of us soon turned our support to Croatia, hoping for them to score a deserved equaliser.
People, from the Croatian players and manager to the press are blaming the referee.
It may have been a terrible decision, (made not only by a referee, by the way, but by a linesman and an ‘additional assistant referee,’ the man whose job it is to stand on the goal line and…well, I’m not sure. (S)he no longer has responsibility for goal-line decisions, since FIFA finally allowed technology to take care of that. But from two metres away he failed to spot the worst dive I’ve seen for years in a football match.
But if referees are making decisions like that every five minutes in matches, as players spend more time rolling around on the floor and waving imaginary cards at officials as they did last night, (wasn’t that made a yellow card offence in itself?), what chance do they have of getting every decision right?
We should stop blaming the referees, and start blaming the people who are obviously to blame: the diving, cheating, scumbag players.
It was great to be at the World Cup again, meeting people, taking photos, discussing memories from past events.
The evening ended with a gig by local percussion band Timbalada, followed by a DJ set from local favourite Fatboy Slim, (or Fachi Boi Slimi, as he is brilliantly pronounced here!).
For now, I am off to watch Mexico vs Cameroon, switching between my Cameroon and my UNAM Pumas jerseys, and then heading to my first live match of the 2014 World Cup: a category 1, halfway line ticket to see a rematch of the last final, Spain vs Holland!
(Dressed in my Barça shirt: Forza España!!!)