Football, Sport

World Cup Farken: The USA doesn’t need to win the World Cup, they have already won

The match was over. Team USA had lost to Germany 1-0 but had also won qualification for the knockout phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup courtesy of a result in another match in another far flung place in Brazil. As a result there were no losers filing out of the Arena Pernambuco in the outskirts of Recife, just winners. Especially American fans as they enjoyed the irony of being a loser and a winner at the same time. Some even smiled and laughed to themselves as they came to understand this sometimes, for them, notoriously obscure concept.

As if on cue, after 10 hours of a torrential downpour that had made lives of many Recifenses a bloody wet misery, the rain stopped as the “winners” in The Stars and Stripes walked to the bus station that was to take us to the train station that was to take us into town that was to take us to the taxis that was to take us to our accommodation.

Surrounding us on the walk, a phalanx of armoured security personnel from every conceivable unit the Brazilians could muster. Even our canine friends with their police minders looked on vigilantly. There was no chance in hell an American’s hair would be touched by a rampaging horde of poor locals coming over the hill from the nearby favelas…the Brazilian Walking Dead.

As we neared the bus station I heard the first screams. These were not the screams of panic or terror, but the screams of young teenage girls, you know, Justin Bieber screams, One Direction screams.

Surely a Brazilian Bieber was not among our throng.

At the bus station, barricades had been erected to separate the global privileged set from the local poor set. The screams continued incessantly. I then came to a startling realisation. There was no Brazilian boy band celebrity in our midst. The screams were for the fans of Team USA.

Just wearing The Stars and Stripes was enough to warrant a scream – a t-shirt, a scarf, some face paint or a flag would suffice. However, the decibel levels went through the roof when an American dressed up as a pop culture or historical icon paraded by.

The Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, The Lone Ranger, Abraham Lincoln and more, much more.

It was like surreal version of the red carpet at Oscars, but these kids who would never get a chance to scream and cheer at Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, et al, in the flesh did the next best thing…scream and cheer at American soccer fans in dress up.

Here was their chance to have a brief encounter with what the Americans sell so well – freedom. But not just any freedom – AMERICAN FREEDOM – and all it entails.

The poor German fans didn’t stand a chance. They are just as free as Americans but they don’t have what the Americans have – full spectrum pop culture dominance.

We passed the screaming kids and turned the corner only to be confronted by another group of locals behind the barricades. But these people were not screaming, they were begging. Begging for a piece, of anything us moneyed folk had come all the way over to Brazil for, but denied to them by circumstance, a piece of the World Cup action. And what they wanted most was just a plastic cup. An official Coca Cola or Brahma Beer or Budweiser Beer plastic cup sold at the venue with the match details on it to commemorate the occasion.

“If the government is going to spend billions of dollars on white elephant stadiums then at least I’ll have a plastic cup to show for it. May my World Cup Plastic Coca Cola Cup runneth over.”

When I was exiting the stadium I also happened to take a picture of a guy wearing the American flag as a diaper, for want of a better description. Everyone was taking pictures of him. I thought to myself how some people in the USA would be scandalised by such a sight. Actually, the same would apply if he was another nationality wearing the flag of his country.

As luck would have it, I happened to meet him on the bus to the train station. His name was Daniel. I asked if he was worried if how he wore the flag would offend people. It was pretty dumb question to ask as the answer was so bloody obvious. Of course, he didn’t care and neither did most of the happy Yanks leaving the stadium.

Daniel’s brother had served in Afghanistan, he was an American, he loved freedom and more importantly he loved soccer. He wasn’t only seeing the US in his Brazilian World Cup odyssey, he was getting in as many games as possible because he was also a soccer fan.

I liked Daniel. In our brief time we ended up swapping dune buggy stories from our time in Natal.

On the train ride back to town I surveyed Recife’s favelas. Unlike the romantic Rio version of favelas, they are not all built on hillsides with glorious views of the Atlantic. These favelas ran down to the train line which was passing overhead. And the water, all the water that fell out of the sky in those 10 terrible hours of rain, inundated the streets and houses at the bottom of favelas. A first world disaster, a third world inconvenience as the affected residents waded around the very modest dwellings knee deep in water.

Cyclist with umbrella tries to keep dry in downtown Recife during downpour. Photo: Athas Zafiris

Cyclist with umbrella tries to keep dry in downtown Recife during downpour. Photo: Athas Zafiris

I finally arrive at my temporary home in the historic neighbourhood of Olinda. Two hours to get out to the stadium, two and a bit to get back. Clockwork.

I check my social media to find an American anti-soccer article getting the viral treatment. “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay,” the headline read.

I read the xenophobic, misogynist piece of garbage by Ann Coulter and I thought of Daniel. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Here was a woman who represented the true dark festering heart of moral decay of Amerika – a warmongering neo-fascist with unfettered media access to spread her toxic bile. In her blinkered eyes, freedom loving Daniel should be locked up in Guantanamo and not just for incorrect use of the American flag, but for the greater crime of being a soccer fan.

What fuckwits like Ann Coulter should realise, and as I have described above, is that traveling American soccer fans are way more effective than any invading American fighting force.

And way, way cheaper than the trillion dollar military industrial complex she represents. They pay their own way.

The USA doesn’t need to win the World Cup, they have already won.

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