Today was the day we’ve been waiting for: England v Uruguay. Finally, the day the whole trip was about is here. We woke up this morning with extra bounce in our step. We were going to see a World Cup match.
Since we know ins and outs of the subway system here in São Paulo we quickly made our way to Corinthians Stadium. Actually, with our knowledge of the subway we flipped the posted directions to arrive at the stadium faster than expected.
Our route to the stadium afforded us our first real opportunity to see of the favelas. Houses in various stages of disrepair dotted the view from the subway. The view of the favelas put a lot about this trip in perspective. Like in the US, state of the art stadiums are squeezed into some of the worst neighborhoods. Even as you approach up to the stadium favelas provide the background. There are legitimate questions to be asked about the spending priorities of the Brazilian government in relation to this World Cup.
Once we hot off the train we immediately saw a massive crowd along the path to the stadium. Our thoughts of a quick entrance to the stadium were dashed. That is until we realized the half the crowd was mostly people trying to score last minute tickets. The other half of the crowd were Paulistas from the surrounding neighborhood happily watching and greeting visitors attending the match.
Words really can’t describe the atmosphere inside the stadium. Uruguayans sang about their sky blue jerseys. English fans chanted their off-color chants. Brazilians sang loudly about being Brazilian. The excitement was overwhelming. It was an amazing sight.
Once the match got under way the passion was palpable all around. The Uruguayan sitting next me made the sign of the cross each time England threatened Uruguay’s goal. The English fans seated near us roared with every pass England completed. Good natured jibes followed in both directions. When the match was over English fans stared at the field in disbelief. Their team had assumed its historic lovable loser role. My brother went about consoling English folk because they looked so damn sad. Overall an experience that is forever etched in my brain.
I wish the stadium experience was up to par. In the run up to the tournament the media was overrun with stories about the sad state if stadium building in Brazil. São Paulo’s Arena Corinthians Stadium was a big worry. It wasn’t declared complete until just days before it hosted the opening match of the tournament. Declared complete is a myth in regards to that place. It felt like it was held together with balling wire, duct tape and spit.
Whole sections of the stadium were covered with a mesh-like tarp. If you looked closely you could see where work stopped and unfinished stadium began. Incomplete entrances were barred from view. Our section only had one bathroom with five urinals and two toilets. If there’s a line for the men’s bathroom you know something is off. There was a loooong line for the bathroom.
I must admit the seats were comfortable and offered enough space that my balky knees didn’t trouble me during the 90 minutes of the match.
For the victorious Uruguyans the party continued on the subway ride home. They sang, they danced, they hugged. It was cool to see. Even though England lost today they still chanted and sang about their team. English fans have the best chants. Fans of both teams showed love and respect to one another though. I even saw an English fan and a Uruguayan exchange scarves in the sign of respect for which futebol is known.
After the match we again went to the very crowded Vila Madalena neighborhood to eat and drink with other fans. Again the streets were alive with vendors selling food on the street and fans singing. The Uruguayans’ songs will ring in my ears all the way back to DC.
We again made friends this time with some Brazilians. We engaged in a long conversation about futebol with a guy who spoke almost no English. You know all about our struggles with Portuguese. I’m, however, proud to say the universial language of our mutual love of futebol carried the day. He even ended up inviting us to his house to watch futebol on Sunday. Too bad we’ll be home by then. Maybe we’ll stay extra few days.
Tomorrow is our last full day here in São Paulo. It’s hard to believe this journey is almost over.