After feeling very brave surviving my first week of solo travel, I needed a break. For part 2 I was joined by uni friend Jack, also new to both Brazil and World Cups. Here we got our first taste of Brazilian hospitality; our friend Bruno insisted we stay with his cousin and her husband, no questions asked. We were waited on hand and foot whilst staying there, before joining them at the house of a family friend for the Brazil vs Mexico game. After a fine by display by Mexican stopper Guillermo Ochoa and a frustrating 0-0 draw, it was here I added the phrase ‘filho de puta’ to my expanding Portuguese vocabulary.
On a little side note away from the football, during an interesting post-match discussion on corruption amongst a few businessmen at the dinner table, I asked if any of them were corrupt, to which they responded: ‘If you want to be successful in Brazil, there is no other way.’ An early insight into, sadly, what drives this nation.
The night before England’s crucial game against Uruguay, we naturally headed out to the liveliest parts of town. A few beers in the classy Vila Madalena was followed by a trip down to the more rugged Rua Augusta. An interesting street to say the least where there was a little something for everyone. For a few days we were joined by another Mancunian friend from school, and a fellow Martin. Whilst having a few beers in the kebab shop – a beautiful thing we sadly don’t have in England – we saw a large queue building. As good Englishmen, we simply joined the back of it and waited to see where it led.
After reaching the front of the queue, we were greeted with a £15 entry fee. It seemed a bit steep for Brazil but after an hour wait and the fact we could hear the sound of Arctic Monkeys coming from inside, there was no question about whether we would enter. The place had the feel of a proper Manchester indie club – dark, dingy, downstairs, great music, and it didn’t take long until we realised the entry fee included all drinks for the night. Needless to say, all this combined with the fact I ended the night on stage singing an Oasis song, meant it was one of the greatest nights out of my life….roll on Uruguay.
The next afternoon, still half cut, Jack and I wake up late and start our sprint across the city to get to the stadium. Despite the immaculate Metro arriving every minute, the huge distances in this metropolis meant we were cutting it fine. A final sprint to the ground and in we went, all set to watch England in a World Cup. Enjoying the moment with one of my best friends made the experience all the sweeter.
One sip of beer and we were already drunk, topping up on the night before and having the time of our lives. Cue Luis Suarez to ruin the mood. As an Everton fan, Jack needed no extra reason to hate him, but his opening goal certainly added to the feeling. It quickly got to 70 odd minutes and it dawned on me that this was almost the end for England. As it stood we were going out! Months of anticipation, excitement and build-up, and it was all going to shit six days into the tournament. At least I had the Sturridge equaliser in Manaus – Jack had had nothing. Never in a stadium have I been so desperate for something to cheer. Please, just something! One moment! And then there it was…
For the next minute we didn’t even say anything, we couldn’t even say anything, it was just a noise. The sound of two grown men releasing every bit of tension and emotion they could, as loud as they could, only stopping for deep breath before going again. Relief. Joy. Ecstasy. Hope.
‘WE’RE GONNA WIN THE WORLD CUP!!’
No we’re not. Cue Luis Suarez. The joy and hope lasted 10 minutes before Suarez again showed England up for the team that they were – just not good enough. Reality hit home. The dream was over. We were out of the World Cup. BUT. We had THAT moment, the moment that brings back all the emotion and tears to my eyes as I write, the moment of joy that few other things in life other than football can bring. This is what it’s all about, that is the moment I will share with one of my best friends forever. After another eventful night out, we were done with Sao Paulo for now. Next stop, ‘A Cidade de Deus’.