Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Bread and circus
Brazil in June… more precisely, Brazil in mid-June of 2010… A Brazil ready for South Africa and with the hope of the sixth - World Cup Championship.
Today was their first game and the people in Sao Paulo (not to say the rest of the country) were oh so ready. The streets were filled with flags, green-blue-yellow colors flying everywhere, and more importantly: businesses and schools only worked half day on a Tuesday. Yes, that is right: HALF. At first I thought, this should be a random concession given by the particular company where I am consulting for, but then, after all my local colleagues were eager to leave before 1: 30 PM (for the record the game was scheduled to start at 3:30 local time) and we were not able to get a taxi due to the massive calls requesting transportation at the same time, I started to wonder.
The streets were packed, the sounds of fire crackers and horns out loud and my colleague and I decided to stop at a shopping mall near by my hotel to grab a bite to eat and, well why not, to watch the game (while in Rome…). To our surprise, the mall was not crowded at all, and once we’ve got the fourth level where the food court and restaurants were located we realized not only offices and schools closed for the game… the majority of the restaurants were closed too! The only people inside some of the restaurants were their own employees, still wearing their uniforms, getting comfy for the event (because every single one of them had at least, a small TV, if not a HUGE screen).
We found one of the few places opened to the general public with - of course – a TV and watched the game while eating and trying to work; the first half was rather boring (nothing happened, not even a scary closed play), the opponent was a weak and scared south Korea, that was probably to overwhelmed by the idea of facing the legendary Brazilian national team – nothing else but the penta-champs! I have to admit that I am not too excited about the world cup since I don’t really follow soccer in general, so I was just joking and making funny remarks while waiting for Kaká to show us some skin. It was during the second half that both teams scored, two for Brazil -each one followed by screams, horns and claps coming from the apparently empty mall - one for Korea, but no shirts off (damned)!
I understand about sports, about passion and euphoria… it is not that I don’t know what it feels to see your team play and especially, win. But this is not just being fanatics or sports savvies… it is in their culture, in their blood; the country in general live for it. It happens every four years but it is something they embrace and await on daily basis. Their team is their hope; it is their way of feeling accomplished. One taxi driver told me one morning: “there are 157,000,000 national soccer team’s technical directors in Brazil” and everyone feels like they know what should’ve been done and what is wrong with the team, until it wins.
After the match was over, the images on TV from different public areas in the main cities of Brazil reflected millions gathered to celebrate, with music, drinks, singing and dancing like it was a carnival, and it was just the first win! What it is going to happen if the team makes it to the finals? And further more if they (god sped) are the CHAMPIONS!!!!
The world cup fever is everywhere; from Europe to Asia to Latin America, it is alive and flowing. Feeling so apart from it makes me realize how easy it can be to get involved in the collective hunger of having something to feel proud about, despite the fact that, especially in undeveloped countries (or should I say “under development”), the socioeconomic times are not the best; insecurity, corruption, lack of justice and opportunities, human rights being violated are the daily news. It just doesn’t feel right to get distracted and derailed from reality up to a point where the whole country gets the day off to watch a game… it seems like encouragement to remain numbed and how small a treat it takes – for some, even a tie is enough to celebrate wishing for the other teams within the classification group to be worse in order to pass to the next round.
For a country with five championships and the main exporter of professional soccer players to the European leagues, it almost seems normal to breathe and live for “futibol”. For other countries, it may be the national pastime and the perfect way to enjoy a couple (or more) cold ones after work. Mexico: what is your excuse?