The Final Adventure – FIFA Football World Cup, Brazil
The Rio Olympics is on, but all I’ve been thinking of is another trip down memory lane, another Brazilian gathering of elite athletes…Today I want to get into the meaty parts of the 2014 Football World Cup.
Football has been a massive part of my life for the past 11 years, but I can honestly say that I only became interested in it because it happened to be at a football game that I met my husband, Ryan. I had a boyfriend at the time, and when my ‘then’ boyfriend asked me to a football game, I assumed he was talking about the NRL…nowadays I’m a little ashamed to say that I was disappointed to find out it was soccer not rugby! But if I’d never gone, I never would have met Ryan, and as they say…the rest is history.
I didn’t realise how big a part football would play in my life since that day. As his girlfriend I attended his matches, helped out in the canteen at the clubs that he played at, cheered him on and commiserated with him the (many) times that he injured himself. I became an A-League fan, attended Roar matches, getting season passes and cheering with absolute abandon every time the Roar won the A-League Grand Final. As his fiancé I completed the weekly Saturday night ritual of attending his games, becoming part of the community that was his club (I don’t want to say WAG but…if the shoe fits!). As his wife, I took a trip with him and two of his mates across the globe to attend one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and attended all three of the Socceroos matches.
Even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of football to begin with, no-one can go to a World Cup and not be swept up in the atmosphere and amazing culture that is the World Game. They say 90 minutes, 90 emotions – three weeks of football fever would be enough to turn even the coldest spectator hot-blooded. If you haven’t read yesterday’s post yet on our first week in Brazil, head over here, but for the real meat of the final days of our trip, read ahead. I’m a little sad that the journey has come to an end, but not so sad to say goodbye to my pre-splendid life terrible writing!
And the World Cup continues…
“Our second city, Porto Alegre, was the polar opposite of Cuiaba. Where Cuiaba had the hot, dusty feel of a much poorer city, Porto Alegre was definitely one of the more privileged of the Brazilian cities we had been to. A lot more locals who speak English, which is excellent as I’m really struggling with the Portuguese language (nothing like Spanish unfortunately)! Again, our bus driver drove around for close to an hour looking for our hotel (GPS is apparently a no go). When we arrived we were ecstatic at the quality of the hotel… Finally, we feel like we’re getting our money’s worth! Maybe the Fanatics gave us a shit first hotel so that anything we had next would be putting us in a much better mood?
We ventured out for a traditional Brazilian meal (chicken breast, with rice, fries and black beans) before heading back to our hotel to wait for Chubba and Lloyd, having a few beers in our hotel bar and then hitting up a nearby street with heaps of bars for a night of more beer and, you guessed it, football! We stopped off in a restaurant for dinner at about 11pm…the place was packed. Most people in South America don’t eat until very late… Some restaurants don’t even open til 8pm. We weren’t particularly hungry so we ordered a share platter – another very common dish in a lot of Brazilian bars and restaurants is a platter with olives, gerkins, calabreza sausage, and chicken hearts… I was not a fan of the chicken hearts or gerkins, however I was very impressed by the ‘filé’ that we also ordered… Brazilians sure know how to do diced steak!
It was so exciting to walk down the street and see the posters for the impending games…every bar, every restaurant was full of tvs playing the matches from all over the country – you couldn’t escape it, and to be honest, I’m not sure why you’d want to!
We spent the next day in Porto Alegre exploring the ‘rich’ district (where the boys’ hotel was – they paid for the 4 star package) and found another great street full of bars, and our first all you can eat Brazilian buffet (this is a very popular trend in Brazil – possibly another reason for my new Brazilian booty). We headed out to a bar called Thomas bar and befriended a Brazillian girl who had been stood up by her friend – this was testament to the friendliness of the Brazillian people – no matter where you went, everyone was so incredibly friendly and kind, even if they weren’t the biggest fan of the World Cup. Lots of drinks later, we danced until I made Ryan take me home. I knew I’d definitely had enough when I rolled my ankle and started crying on the walk home!
The next day Ryan and Chubba, despite being a little worse for wear, played a friendly game organised by the Fanatics against a local over 35s team – despite having several teams worth of players and a whole team changeover every five minutes, the Fanatics still managed to lose 3-1…a little embarrassing to say the least but we’ll blame it on the terrible pitch! It was a great feeling to watch everyone have a go and a good time, especially as ex-Socceroo stars Mark Bosnitch and Stan Lazaridis joined in. We headed back to the hotel as that night the Fanatics had planned an Aussie ‘supergroup’ band – consisting of members of the Powderfinger, Jet, SpiderBait, You Am I, and Electric Mary. Despite waiting over an hour and a half for a burger in the bar across the road from the venue (they obviously hadn’t anticipated being set upon by hundreds of hungry Australians on a Tuesday night), the burger finally arriving and it being the wrong one (I was too hungry to care at this point), not recognising any of the band members when they finally came on stage, and being too hungover to enjoy a beer, the band itself and the atmosphere was great. They played some great Aussie rock songs and were all fantastic musicians in their own right, it made for a fun night.
The next day Ryan and I headed to the stadium with quite a few of the other Aussies to welcome the Socceroos to their final training session before the big match tomorrow. We were entertained by a Brazilian band and dancers (with very little clothing) while we waited, and even though we didn’t actually get to see any of the team other than the tinted windows of the bus as it drove past, we got an email from the manager of the players to say how much we had boosted their spirits.
That afternoon was another massive game – Brazil vs Mexico. We went to a bar and met up with a group of Brazilians that Lloyd had made friends with, and that made watching the game even better. They were all really lovely and, even though only one of them spoke English, we were all great friends by the end of the nil all draw (made for a slightly disappointing game unfortunately.) After the game we went back to Thomas bar for more caparinhas (those things are deadly) and dancing.
The next day was a big one – Australia vs Netherlands. We caught a taxi to the stadium and met up with Chubba (poor Lloyd had stayed out later than us – we were unsure as to whether he’d make the game or not – he managed to scrape it together and arrived minutes before kickoff but did not look very fresh.) Even though Australia lost this game as well, it was obvious that we belonged there – the quality of playing was amazing and the chance of Australia winning looked very realistic right until the final whistle. We decided to have a quiet night and headed off to find some BBQ. In Brazil we discovered there is an amazing thing called a churrascaria – that is an all you can eat BBQ. You get whatever salad and sides you want from the all you can eat buffet, and then waiters come around to your table with all varieties of meat on a spit or in a tray. They ask if you want some, slice off a chunk and you wait till the next meat arrives. As much as you want! It was very tempting to just eat until we were sick, the meat was that good.
The next day we headed by bus to Florianopolis. We had been told that this was the surfer heaven of Brazil – when we arrived after a nearly 8 hour bus journey we discovered that we were staying at a holiday resort – the kind with 7 restaurants, a health spa, football pitch, hairdresser and cinema… Yes, a cinema. We would be here for the next 3 nights. The next day was Ryan’s birthday – despite the cool temperatures we enjoyed the beach (accessed right from the hotel), the heated indoor pool and sauna, and the boys played a game of football against some locals before heading into the sorts bar to play Fifa – Ryan’s idea of heaven! That night was the Fat Boy Slim concert. Even though we initially weren’t interested in going, I’m so glad we did. The concert was amazing. In celebration of the birthday boy we had vodka and red bull mixers all night – I think I lost count at the 5th bottle of Vodka. Something my body hated me for the next day.
The next day we did nothing other than eat, buffet and sleep. That’s all I was capable of. Our final day in Floripa (as the locals call it) consisted of getting up at 6.30 in time for an 8am bus… And then not getting on the bus and driving away until midday. Turns out there was a miscommunication between the Fanatics organisers and the Brazilian bus company. We all needed to get back on the exact same buses that we arrived into Florianopolis on, despite the fact that we wouldn’t all be getting off at the same hotel at the other end. We therefore had to wait until ALL the other Fanatics had checked out (the final group didn’t check out until 11am). Needless to say, we were not impressed, especially considering this was going to be a 6hr journey. The bus ride was uneventful, and Ryan and I were placated by the fact that we grabbed the best seats – recliner-like seats on the bottom level of the bus.
Our second last destination was Curitiba – here we would be watching the final game – Australia vs. Spain. The game fell on my birthday, so it was in good spirits that Ryan and I walked to the Fanatics fan fest sight the next day (even though it was a 3km walk – we’d been told there was a no-traffic zone due to the game, so we didn’t get a taxi – however we didn’t see evidence of this!). The Fanatics organisers had obviously realised what a major mistake they’d made with the buses and put on free drinks and food for everyone. I had decided that I was going to make a wall display of this trip with my Australia Jersey and some other souvenirs, so I went up to Stan, Bozza, and another visiting ex-socceroo, Charlie Yankos, so I could get my shirt signed.
We walked to the stadium and the atmosphere was fantastic. It seemed as though half of the Curitibians had shown up. We played well, but Spain obviously didn’t realise it was my birthday and they ended up beating Australia 3-0, ending Australia’s chances to progress. We’d already performed better than I’d ever expected so I think even though we didn’t get very far, Australia still made all of us proud. Chubba, Ryan and I went to a bar and watched Brazil beat Camaroon, before an early night for me. I know it was my birthday, but I was kind of excited by the thought of lots of sleep – guess that means I’m getting old!
Our final day in Curitiba was relaxed – now that we had no more games to go to, I felt like we were winding down (and also our lifestyle was beginning to catch up to us!).
The next day we were to board yet another bus for the 400+km journey to Sao Paulo. We were told the bus left at 8.30 and were still waiting for the bus to arrive by 10.30. Not only that, but we were told that the bus that would show up was actually a shuttle bus, taking us to the destination of our actual bus 20kms away. Chubba decided he’d had enough, and in the spirit of crazy overseas adventures, decided to hire a car. Despite never having driven a left hand drive before, he picked it up very well, and the sweet feeling we got driving past all the Fanatics milling around next to a huge group of buses nearly an hour later made it so much more worth it!
Sao Paulo, our final South American destination, is the biggest city in the southern hemisphere. Luckily we had a handy dandy gps! We arrived in Sao Paulo at about 4.30 – the rest of the Fanatics didn’t get in till about 8.30… We celebrated by going to hooters for dinner and going to look for a club – as it was a Wednesday night we didn’t have much luck – we finally settled on a Brazilian club where, unbeknownst to us, there was a singer performing that night. Typical Brazilian music, lots of hip shaking, complicated Portuguese words, and salsa dancing. The next day we’d planned to meet up with the boys in the evening. They had booked a flight back to Rio the following day as their only other option was an overnight bus that night. Infuriatingly, their flight was cancelled at the last minute so they had no other choice but to catch the bus. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to see them again, but luckily we’d gone out with a bang the night before!
Ryan and I still had three nights in Sao Paulo, but we didn’t get up to much. The excitement and adrenaline of the world cup was slowly wearing off and we were just wanting the safety and comfort of the hotel, and to be on the way home. The highlights of the last few days included eating at an amazing pizza restaurant, watching Brazil beat Chile in an English pub filled with Brazilians, and having some of the best gelato outside of Italy. We picked up some time in the gym, something which my body is loving and hating me for.
Now, sitting in the Hotel Marriott LAX, after two seven hour flights and waiting for what seemed like days in the US border control line, I finally have time to reflect. As much fun as I have had these past few weeks, I still think back on the beginning of our trip with very fond memories. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were in Peru and Bolivia, and our previous US visit seems like a completely different trip all together. I have to say I have not felt the same excitement and adventure that I usually feel while traveling since we were mugged. I have just felt uneasy ever since, especially on the street, and it had almost stopped me from wanting to go out at night all together. I know it’s silly to let one experience tar the rest of our journey, but I do wonder what other things we would have done if we’d felt more comfortable being out and about. That being said, we have seen and done so much on this trip, I definitely feel like I have a good idea of what these countries are all about. Home will always be home, but it’s nice to have the mind expanded just a little bit more.
Time to start planning for the next trip!”
Phew! Done…I almost want to read it from the beginning again…bring on the next adventure!