Copacabana was a hedonistic and lawless state that balanced a symphony of cachaca, coconuts, footballs and bandits
RIO DE JANEIRO — “It makes me laugh, it makes me laugh, it makes me laugh that you compare Messi to that male whore Neymar,” is the chant Argentines are howling through the Brazilian corridors these days.
What a journey! It’s my seventh straight World Cup and Rio has been a spectacular destination. In the past three weeks, I ducked from favela rifle shots, waded knee deep in a flash flood, leapt from a brawl at an outdoor café and hung out with an NFL quarterback. And those were just the average days.
Perhaps my best memory is of the Argentina fans. More than 100,000 supporters crossed the border to cheer on La Albiceleste, with a big contingent carousing on Copacabana beach. As waves crashed into the shoreline, a massive hoard of them sang and danced madly splashing in the ocean for days. The mood was euphoric. They teased the Brazilians with their now famous Bad Moon Rising tune, taunting “how does it feel to have daddy in the house.”
Argentina fans sing on Copacabana beach ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final match against Germany on Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Up to 100,000 Argentine fans are expected to arrive in Rio for the final match at the famed Maracana stadium on Sunday. (Mario Tama, Getty Images)
For Brazilians, it is their worst nightmare to be spectators at this most beloved celebration, especially with the success of their despised neighbour. “They’re arrogant and loud,” is what I’ve heard consistently from the locals. “We will be cheering on Germany, they are a better team — a more complete package. Argentina only has a few good players.”
Apparently the mayor of Rio said he would kill himself if Brazil ever lost to Argentina in the final. He dodged a bullet.
Reeling from Tuesday’s 7-1 drumming, Minister of Sport Aldo Rebelo said: “That wasn’t the Brazil or Germany on the pitch. It was a surprise, a terrible blemish. We have won 12 times and lost four times, we are superior to German soccer. It is a deep scar.”
Like them or not, the Argentinians will save the party, because the host nation is popping Prozac into their Caipirinhas. The Germans walloped them — “they lost by a Brazillian” is the online joke. I was outside the Fan Fest during the execution and watched stunned fans tear up in disbelief. If it wasn’t for a washout storm that hammered Rio by the time of the final whistle, the prospective riots may have ensued. Thousands of fans including the Vancouver family I stayed with, scattered in disarray as gunshots were fired airborne and thieves went on a rampage 30 minutes into the match.
A young Brazil fan forlornly watches a giant video screen on Copacabana beach as his team’s fortune unfolds at the FIFA World Cup. (Carrie Serwetnyk photo)
The samba was demolished.
But it was nothing compared to the palpable fear that Brazil would turn into civil war. A resident told me “that will come after the World Cup.”
Instead, most of us just lost a few personal possessions. My iPhone was pickpocketed and my shoes were swiped at the beach. Others lost cameras and wallets. Copacabana was a hedonistic and lawless state that balanced a symphony of cachaca, coconuts, footballs and bandits.
Now it’s time to focus in on Maracana Stadium. All the pundits including 10-year-old FIFA Electronic Arts experts are analyzing the tactics. I’m leaning towards Argentina and their superstar Lionel Messi. They have the emotional home-continent advantage not to mention the pope secretly praying for the Holy Grail. Perhaps a call to the hovering Redeemer Christ will be answered.
Quite frankly, I expect it to be a dull affair with an ulcer. Except for the German trouncing, the knock-out games have been cautiously defended — unless there is an early goal it could be another snoozer. The best deal in town may be the Brazil vs. Holland third-place match where a spirited Pentacampeões desperately needs to save face. With the riveting orange attacking machine creating a constant threat, back-to-back action will likely steer an epic affair.
A Brazil fan sleeps it off on Rio’s Copacabana beach during the FIFA World Cup. (Carrie Serwetnyk photo)
All in all, the World Cup has been outstanding. There was a ton of scoring in the earlier rounds and we found ourselves rooting for surprise teams like Costa Rica who left their souls buried on the pitch.
My favourite moments were the small details like the Hulk who looks like the Hulk. Or discovering that the Algerians played through Ramadan — if only talented artisans like the French could have such heart. Drinking Cachaca on the beach like Kool-Aid from dodgy vendors also gave a local mysterious flavour. Hearing cuss words in all languages brought me closer to the action. We also learned it is far worse to chomp on a shoulder than break the back of a superstar, given the four-month suspension to Luiz Suarez and the pass given to the Neymar-cracking Colombian. Learning that fans positioned their head or hand on an Adidas poster ad of an open-mouthed Suarez gave us the biggest giggle.
The World Cup is winding down to the final staccato and a catapult of legendary stories that will galvanize our collective memories for generations.
Who will have the last laugh? I’m counting on Messi and company.
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Vancouver’s Carrie Serwetnyk is the first female inductee to the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, a former national team member, founder of EqualPlayFC.com and now attending her seventh straight FIFA World Cup. Serwetnyk’s trip to Brazil is sponsored by flightcentre.com and the B.C. Government Employees Union.