Football

World Cup Farken: The Guide to surviving Brazilian TV Reporters, U.S. Soccer Fans and the rare dull game

This piece was supposed to be about the Japan v Greece match I attended at the Arena das Dunas in Natal last Thursday night. I really can’t be bothered writing about what happened on the pitch because it was predictable and uninspiring compared to the veritable constellation of sensational matches being staged around Brazil.

What I will describe, however, is the action that took place outside the stadium before the game as it pretty much sums up what how the match played out only a matter of hours later. A simple matter of football imitating life.

Attending a World Cup match requires planning. You don’t want to be stressed or in a rush getting to the stadium and you also don’t want to miss the action of an earlier unmissable match, Uruguay v England in this case.

This conundrum is easily solved in Natal by the presence of a roadside restaurant/bar opposite the stadium where it costs $2.50 for an ice cold beer compared to the $5.00 FIFA-approved beer across the big road in stadium.

Here is a picture of me with Liam, an affable Pom off the boat who calls himself an Aussie until he watches England play and then regresses to his natural sad English football fan state; more importantly he’s an Adelaide United fan.

Anyway, here we are watching Uruguay v England before the Japan v Greece game. As you can see by his expression in the picture it was taken before Luis Suarez’s second goal.

liam and athas

The match concludes. Liam is a wreck and shows worrying signs of wanting to wander aimlessly around Natal rather than go to the game in the stadium across the big road.

But there’s an even bigger problem. I can’t transport myself seamlessly from the restaurant to the stadium via the overpass.

The military police are blocking our way. Surely this can’t be some exercise. The crowd below grows and grows as fans continue to stream in. Minutes pass.

The crowd gets restless. Some start asking the police why they can’t access the overpass in every language except the language the police understand. I squirm my way through the mass to gain a better view and I am not surprised by what I see.

Halfway up the overpass is a television journalist doing a live cross to the studio. No doubt he is using banal cliches about the pre-game atmosphere building nicely and avoiding any mention of how he currently is pissing off hundreds upon hundreds of football fans so he can get a nice picture of Arena das Dunas in the background.

bridge

After what seemed an eternity – more like ten minutes, but when your bladder starts feeling the pressure notions of time become a pretty fluid concept – the military police parted and a sea of humanity made haste for the stadium.

In the meantime, our friend the TV journalist had not moved. He just looked on with a gormless smile at the passing parade, that was until I stopped in front of him.

I assumed he understood English, unlike 99% of the Brazilians, as he worked in the media.

“You stopped people using the bridge for ten minutes just because you wanted a nice picture,” I said with just enough polite indignation to elicit a response.

“Who me?” he replied. “I didn’t stop anyone.”

“Then why were the military police stopping us from using the bridge?” I asked.

“I didn’t tell the police to block the bridge,” he maintained that gormless smile as he kept coming out with responses that would get him a job at FIFA.

“You don’t need to tell them. Who do you work for?” I asked.

“Spor TV.”

spor tv

Spor TV is owned by the powerful Globo Network, the second largest TV broadcaster in the world and bane of leftists in Brazil. Their offices in Rio de Janeiro were destroyed during last year’s anti-World Cup protests.

“The anti-Globo sentiment on the streets is so high that the network’s reporters who cover the protests have to work under strict security, sometimes even using microphones without the Globo logo in them.” Forbes reported.

You don’t need to tell them… indeed.

How does this parable reflect the Japan v Greece match as I mentioned earlier.

Simple. Everyone inside the stadium, bar the Greeks, was rooting for a Japan victory. The overpass was the goal. The military police, the Greeks. Even if one of the police decided to leave his post, just as Greek captain Katsouranis did courtesy of a red card, there was this gnawing certainty, that despite what a pretty blunt Samurai Blue could throw at them, the thin Greek blue line would not breached and there was nothing you could do about it.

One thing that did catch my eye at the Arena das Dunas stadium were the bandanas. They were everywhere. It was Hachimaki Central.

It wasn’t only the Japanese fans that tied the fandangled thing around their noggins. Everyone was doing it. Especially the locals, who have a soft spot for them considering there are 1.5 million people of Japanese descent in Brazil. Also getting in on the act were the thousands of Yanks who had not left Natal after the Ghana game and must have had this game thrown in as a bonus to their Spring Break World Cup package.

The only exception to this rule were the sad Americans who decided to support Greece as an excuse to wear the dry cleaned togas they threw up on during their last frat house party.

Football, sorry I mean soccer according to the paper of record, The New York Times, has become the hipster sport in the land of Uncle Sam.

‘Nowadays, smart-set types are expected to be conversant in European soccer. “It’s like the way you expect somebody to know what’s happening in ‘True Detective.'”

These same Americans probably think Lost in Translation is the coolest Japanese film ever. Yes, yes,  readers of Shoot Farken very well know that it’s an American film set in Japan. But when an American tells you the night before over dinner (this guy went to Rutgers and is now doing post-grad medicine) that Harry Potter is a foreign film, you can only assume the worst.

If only they watched films like Kurosowa’s Ran and if only the Samurai Blue penetrated like this.

After a night of having my football and cultural sensibilities jaded I decamped to a beach south of Natal. Pipa Beach.

It didn’t take long to find myself rejuvenated. A few hours on the beach and watching the inspirational Costa Ricans defeat Italy in a beach bar can do that to you. Bring on the Italy v Uruguay death match.

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