The first day of the second week of the World Cup began in incredible style for me when I received a message from a journalist back in Portugal who, I had forgotten, had interviewed me by email and then written a massive and flattering article for maisfutebol, one of the biggest websites in Portugal, about my love of Benfica and my passion for following World Cups across the globe.
Anyone who wants to practice their Portuguese, or enjoy a couple of pictures of me, can see the full article here.
To jump forward to the end of the day: after England were all-but mathematically eliminated from the World Cup by a double from England-based ‘craque‘ (as a star player is called here in Brazil), Luis Suarez, a friend emailed me to ask if I was sad that they had lost.
The answer was: no. I was expecting it for so long, and it happened with far less pain than usual, (no false hopes, no penalty shoot-out losses), that I had all but forgotten it by the time I was in Salvador’s historic centre later that evening, watching Japan struggle to a terrible 0-0 draw against 10-man Greece.
Uruguay had managed to get past England despite having Benfica star defender Maxi Pereira suspended, captain Diego Lugano injured and, most seriously of all, a distinct lack of dulce de leche (South American caramel) after their stash of it was refused entry into Brazil.
It was Premier League player of the year Suarez who netted either side of Wayne Rooney’s first ever World Cup goal, but that probably won’t be much consolation to him. Even Rihanna knew who the dangerman was, if our defence didn’t. Maybe we could naturalise her and have her play centreback?
Earlier in the day, Colombia had won a cracking match beating African hopefuls Ivory Coast 2-1, a late Gervinho golazo not being enough to keep the South Americans from booking their place in the next round already after two impressive victories.
My evening ended…strangely. Today was a national holiday, (Corpus Christi day, apparently), although unlike days when Brazil are playing none of the shops seemed to be closed for it. Instead in the Pelourinho, (Salvador’s famous, and famously sketchy, historic centre), there was a late-night festival.
From 7pm when I arrived with a co-worker from Japan I hadn’t seen in four years, the streets were heaving with locals and a selection of ‘gringos‘, (mainly French and Swiss here for tomorrow’s match). There was a huge stage set up for a concert at 9pm, but by the time I had somehow managed to meet one friend, and completely failed to meet another, you could barely move in the streets.
People tried to either get nearer to the stage, or away from it if they had any interest in breathing freely, and all the while hands were everywhere, forcing themselves into your pockets and trying to make your life easier by relieving you of any heavy objects which may be weighing you down, like a phone or a wallet. I felt bad that all I had to offer was a packet of peanuts.
Never have I felt so violated.
Eventually, we popped out by a police checkpoint, where several people were laying unconscious or receiving medical attention. My friends estimated there to be around 50,000 people in the crowd, and seemed surprised that I decided to fight for a taxi home rather than risk another lap. It turns out that I enjoy breathing more than I enjoy people trying to rob me in massive crowds.
It’s good to learn new things about yourself.
Tomorrow, as I’ve mentioned, is Match Day 3 here in Salvador, and like Cinderella, I don’t have a thing to wear! I am supporting neither France nor Switzerland, (although I will probably root for France, since a) I did live there after all, b) I can cheer/swear better in French than in German, c) they play more interesting football then Switzerland generally, and maybe most importantly, d) they have the cooler jersey).
I guess I will go for a neutral shirt, maybe South African or my newly acquired Germany jersey.
How is everyone out there enjoying the World Cup? Send me your thoughts and comments!