I should probably start by saying I’m not one to get exited by football. Maybe that has something to do with being English and England never really giving us anything to get excited about… However this summer I found myself addicted to the game and being called a football fanatic.
I landed in South America in May ready for three months of adventures. A large part of this would include; discussing, watching and even playing, football.
The continent is obsessed at best of times, even more so this summer, given that its largest country was hosting the World Cup during our stay. Every taxi journey and every conversation we attempted to have in Spanish, included a few sentences about football. Were we going to Brazil? Would we watch a game? Who did we want to win?
We reached Brazil a couple of days before the beginning of the World Cup. The first game we watched we were lucky enough to be amongst a group of Brazilians. We saw their excitement as Brazil won the all important first game. We moved North up the coast, celebrating wins and getting used to every match day being a national holiday; streets were deserted two hours before the game and every bar became swamped. My favourite moment though was definitely on Ilha Grande. We celebrated amidst the samba beat, as Brazil passed the group stages.
In Rio we stood on Copacabana beach, alongside thousands of tense Brazilians and a handful of hopeful Chileans, as Brazil narrowly beat Chile on penalties. The atmosphere was electric! When Brazil scored that deciding penalty there were jumps, cheers, tears and fireworks. Samba music delighted the crowds in the street late into the night.
Whilst on a cowboy camp in Uruguay we heard on the radio the Brazil were through to the semi finals – minus their boy genius: Neiymar.
It was in Argentina that we watched their (pretty embarrassing) defeat. Sat in a café with some gleeful Argentineans, we looked on astounded as goal after goal went in. The Argentineans celebrated loudly; even though they were yet to beat Holland. People in the café read out messages from friends mocking Brazil, and the owners showed each other memes that had already appeared on Facebook.
In a busy pub, packed with blue and white t-shirts, we sat down to see how Argentina would fare. Every shot was met with shrieks of excitement. When Argentina’s offside goal went in one woman didn’t realise for a few minutes, and took a while to stop jumping with joy.
Then it was time for penalties. The pub erupted with every Argentinean goal and you could have heard a pin drop with every Dutch goal. When the final penalty went in everyone jumped up, hugged the nearest person and someone threw their beer everywhere in all the excitement!
Buenos Aires held a street party that would make Rio jealous. The Obelisk, normally found in the middle of 14 lanes of traffic, was now surrounded by joyful crowds. They climbed traffic lights, riot barriers, and a bus that had someway found its way into the middle of the madness. They banged drums, shouted chants and sold posters of Neiymar crying.
Okay, so they didn´t win the World Cup but the lead up was pretty spectacular in itself and I have finally found a team worth supporting.