The FIFA World Cup served us a few surprises, and I’m not talking about the results of the games. Here’s some snippets of our experience in Brazil.
12 surprises of our World Cup experience
- Fans who wanted to take photos with fans of opposing teams – we’ve never experienced anything like this before. The fans from Uruguay were the most enthusiastic of all the games we went to.
- The quality of the stadiums and the awesome viewing from our Category 3 seats.
- How the FIFA World Cup has captured Zorba and how much he has got into it. Coming on this trip was my idea – and he just went along with it, initially. Now he loves it and is completely hooked.
- The incredible atmosphere at each game – it exceeded my expectations.
- Collecting tickets from the FIFA Ticket Collection Centres was a breeze. Took just a couple of minutes at the automatic machines if you had the Visa card your tickets were purchased with. Insert Visa card into machine, enter your date of birth, select which tickets you wanted to collect, stand still in front of the built-in camera while your photo is taken, and voilà, tickets are printed.
- The number of people who go to games wearing the shirts of their country / team, even if they aren’t playing.
- The number of people wearing Brazilian shirts that weren’t from Brasil, and the number of people wearing shirts from countries they are not from. We met an Australian from Sydney who had five shirts with him: Italia, Holland, Australia, Brasil, and Argentina.
- Full strength beer is sold at the stadiums for A$5 a pint that came in a Brahma plastic cup with the game printed on the side – a collectors’ item.
- AC/DC Thunderstruck was played before the teams came onto the pitch at every game. Awesome to hear Australian music featured. The same sound track was played at every game.
- The same sponsor stands / stalls / experiences were set up around each of the four different stadiums we went to, making them a bit boring. In Salvador we did notice that traditionally dressed women were selling aracajé (basically a deep fried bread like ball that’s made with beans).
- The Fan Fests in host cities had (almost) the exact same set up in every city. They were crowded and offered little or no shade. Fan Fests were not good places to go if you really wanted to watch the game – and were rife with pickpockets (Rio in particular).
- Not once did we feel threatened, frightened or in danger. Brazil rolled out the army and the police and their presence was felt in each city we visited. We were also careful and I haven’t carried a handbag with me for four weeks now (getting used to it actually).
The best football chant award has to go to the Chileans: Chi-Chi-Chi, le-le-le, Chile, Chile. Olé!
Other observations in Brazil
- Brazil is a complete football mad country. Watching Brazil play in bars around the country, often the women were the ones getting vocal and hysterical at the television, a lot more so than the men.
- Casual attire in Brazil is the norm. Due to everything I had with me being washed, I spent a day in my gym gear – leggings, tank top, and thongs, and did not feel out of place.
- The food was better than I expected, and cheaper than I expected. Some of the best things we at were from the street. Anything with prawns or shrimp was about double the price of the same dish with chicken. My favourite things included fresh mango juice, pastels (deep fried pastry stuffed with chicken, meat, cheese, and / or puree of manioc), barbecued meat, bean soups, bean stew, any kind of black-eyed bean dish actually. Serving sizes in restaurants are usually enormous.
- Besides beans and manioc (like a white sweet potato), Brazilians don’t seem to eat a lot of vegetables, and the vegetables sold at supermarkets probably explains why.
- Brazilians love to drink and have a massive drinking culture. Capirinhas are delicious – just vodka, mint, sugar and ice. Beer is cheap too, a long neck (600ml) cost between A$2.50 – $5 in bars, and about A$1 in supermarkets.
- Transport to the stadiums was on the whole fairly easy and taxis were cheap.
- Local buses are cheap, old, rickety and travel at warp-nine speeds.
- Besides the stadiums and tourist areas, Brazil really does feel like a third world country and the economic difficulties of the mass population are evident.
- Seeing the street dogs in Brazil broke my heart, time and time again.
- No one is in a hurry in Brazil, ever.
- Everywhere we went there was a street peddler selling something – Brazilian shirts, flags, sarrongs, hats, bags, hammocks, swimwear, jewellery, food, drinks, trinkets, belts, toys, coconuts – you name it. The good thing is that they weren’t in your face like they are in Bali. For example, on the beach they’ll look your way, offer you a sarong and unless you call them over, they’ll keep on walking.
- Australia’s beaches are as beautiful if not more beautiful in some places than Brazil’s.
- Havianas cost just A$10 in Brazil.
- No matter what your shape, size or age, in Brazil it is completely acceptable to wear a g-string on the beach. Lumps and all.
- Never ever take anything to the beach but your towel – we knew of several people that had bags / things stolen at the beach.
The best thing about Brazil is the Brazilian people. We were always welcomed warmly and every Brazilian we met was friendly and helpful. They seemed genuinely happy to have so many visitors in their country. The people made visiting Brazil for the World Cup extra special.
Have you been to Brazil? Were you there for the FiFA World Cup? What surprised you about Brazil? I’d love to hear your comments.