I’ve stopped going to Fan Fests. I’m tired, I didn’t pace myself. A month is a long time, and new arrivals seem to come every day. World Cup tourists have an endless number of substitutions. They’re always feeling fresh for the party. The knock out stages start soon. Big European teams – former American colonizers like England, Spain, Portugal – will start going home, and American teams like Chile, Costa Rica, and Colombia will be on top. Somewhat knocked out by the party, I too will be leaving at the end of the week.
Last night I went on the town to see the U.S. v. Portugal. There were so many U.S. fans that the Fan Fest sold out. I’m not sure that’s happened for any other match but the home team’s. The traffic back up passing the Fan Fest made me miss the first 30 minutes of the match.
After the match I met a Cameroonian-American. I felt for him. His Lions seem like the least deserving team to be out here. Today they play Brazil in their last group game. I hope Brazil can use this match as a way to build some momentum for the knock out stages. My Cameroonian friend lives in D.C., and he’s one of a few visitors I’ve met that seem to have a genuine interest in exploring Brazil beyond the Cup. He took Portuguese classes before coming, and we talked at length about politics and social issues amidst the Belgian and U.S. revelry. It’s unfortunate he came here during the Cup because there aren’t as many ways to experience Brazil beyond that right now. At least in Zona Sul, normal life has gone on holiday.
It feels strange how much of an international city Rio has become. It feels like New York right now. It didn’t feel that way before. Hip kids from the states are here throwing private, corporate-sponsored DJ parties – they don’t really seem to care that much about football. The two parties I went to this weekend weren’t showing any of the matches that were happening simultaneously. It felt like SXSW. A parallel leisure global tourism is happening underneath the shadow of the sport infrastructure.
My favorite days here are when Brazil plays. Every time the Seleçao is on the entire country goes on holiday. Last week I watched Brazil v. Mexico from a favela in Zona Oeste. Again, it was a festive atmosphere. Average Brazilians are very much enjoying the matches in their normal ways: at home, in bars, fireworks, and Neymar shirts. Even though it was a scoreless draw, the bar I watched it in partied the night away to pagode, funk, samba, and charme. I hope there are lots of fireworks today.
Christopher Gaffney hopes otherwise. He thinks that if Brazil goes out early it will force a national reflection on their deal with the devil. It’s an interesting proposal. Read his highly informative post on the state of the protests in Brazil, which continue despite the lack of coverage in international media. Whatever happens on the pitch, after this Cup experience I want Brazil to win more than ever.