54. They think it’s all over…

The adventure is (kind of) over; the signs have been ripped down by fans eager for souvenirs; the fake Brazil shirts are on sale ridiculously cheap in the streets of Salvador; and the 2014 World Cup is, officially, done.

As seems to happen so often, it was a game of twenty-two men, ninety minutes (and thirty more this time), and then Germany won.

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If this guy wasn’t actually German, it would have made it all the more amazing…

And Argentina lost.

And Messi didn’t Continue reading

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48. The Semi-Finals Await…

It’s time for another two-day break, and a chance to catch your breath before the semi-finals.
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After Friday saw the first semi-final decided, with hosts Brazil taking on the ever-consistent Germans, yesterday was the turn of Argentina and Holland to set up the other mouth-watering Euro-American last four.
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A meeting of minds…

It was a day of mixed feelings for me, as I was heading to possibly my last game of the tournament, and definitely the final one here in Salvador.

Continue reading

45. World Cup Live Match Report V: USA vs Belgium…

A gorgeous, sunny day; an old friend visiting from NYC who happened to show up for a USA match; another old friend racing back to see her country play; and yet another old friend back from his travels, all to be reunited in the gorgeous, gleaming Salvador stadium.

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Back where I belong…

Another friend didn’t have a ticket, but details like this didn’t seem to matter on this magical day: walking to the stadium three hours early to soak up the atmosphere, (and the Continue reading

41. World Cup Day Who Even Knows Anymore…

Finally, a final round of games which produced some excitement!

The late kick-offs were mildly tense, although sadly I was stuck watching the wrong match, The Red Devils of Belgium yet again proving to be horribly tedious, yet winning by a single goal, this time down to ten men against a South Korea side who proved to be even more dismal. Belgium next take on the USA, and will have to show a lot more devilry if they are to go any further in the tournament.

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The boys will have been wearing these jacket-jerseys with pride tonight…

That meant I was missing the Russia vs Algeria game, which saw Continue reading

27. World Cup Kits…

I have several addictions, from collecting books to Panini stickers to languages to countries visited, but one of my favourites is my collection of sports jerseys, 80% of them being of the footballing variety.

At the last World Cup in South Africa I carefully coordinated my day’s wardrobe to coincide with any teams that were playing, so I could support them in style.

The day Cameroon, Denmark, Japan and Italy all played, I was weighed down by four jerseys, (my FC København shirt, my fake Shunsuke Nakamura Japan jersey, my Indomitable Lions Cameroon strip, and my Fiorentina camiseta), which were peeled away one by one as the matches came and went.

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(Can you spot the subtle Japanese ‘peace’ symbol?)

I have one for every team I’ve ever Continue reading

26. The ‘beautiful’ game…

Last night, the World Cup began.

At last.

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.

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Bumped into an Argentinian who supports my team – Racing!

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Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie!…

And then that decision happened, and the World Cup was already a little bit ruined for me.

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6.0, 6.0, 5.9, 6.0, 5.8…

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.

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Fred…

Anyway.

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!!!)

Photo on 13-06-2014 at 12.16 #2

 

14. Benfica International…

I woke up this morning, (as I often do), and headed straight downstairs to breakfast in the youth hostel.

On the way, I bumped into two French guys who were in my dorm room, and who knew of my footballing passions due to a conversation we had had the night before.

“There’s one of yours down there,” one of them told me, happily.

(Except in French, of course).

I had no idea what he meant, but soon understood when, arriving on the ground floor, I was greeted by this guy:

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Glorioso…

The sheer ridiculousness of travelling halfway around the world to meet a Benfica supporter was added to by the fact that he was from Angola, (a former Portuguese colony).

And also that he, the African, was wearing a European jersey whilst I, the European, was wearing my Cameroon jersey, (my favourite African team due to the fact that I once, very briefly and very unofficially, worked for them).

This is football.

This is Benfica.

This is my life.