After a long flight, we finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It has been almost ten months since my friend Phil and I have been preparing for this journey, achieving the ultimate dream of any football fan and here we are! Claudio, our Airbnb host was waiting for us at the airport with his friend Paulo. Phil and I thought it was a little unusual to take a friend to look for people at the airport so early on a Sunday morning. You see, punctuality does not often prevail over nonchalance in the Brazilian culture. Later, we knew that it was Claudio's first experience as an Airbnb host. We figured out that Paulo was Claudio's reinforcement in case things went wrong. It is quite legitimate and frankly, it reassures me to know that it is him who is afraid of us rather than us of them! Does he not know that we Canadians are big teddy bears and that we are the ones ending up apologizing when someone bumps into us?
And so we drove to the apartment. When we got to a first traffic light, I experienced at the same time my first cultural shock and the first similarity with Montreal. Let me explain: a squeegee came to wash our windscreen... only, it was a young child of favelas, very skinny and wearing only a small red shorts to preserve the little dignity that He had left her. Claudio's apartment is located in a complex located in the Flamengo area, very close to the Botafogo Praia, which offers a magnificent view of Pao de Açucar, a large, extra-convex clump of bays from Guanabara bay like a volcano. Arrived at the apartment, we noticed the level of security of the complex. At the entrance was a security office where two guards were constantly working to control the entrances and exits of the building and to check the twelve cameras that monitor the surroundings of the complex. In the garage there are several quite expensive cars. It was at this point that Phil, locally baptized Felipe, who naturally wary of everything, in turn felt safe. The apartment is really small, the main door opens onto the pseudo-kitchen, a living room, a small bathroom with shower, and finally the bedroom at the back, overlooking the avenida Oswaldo Cruz. But where will three people sleep in this little apartment? In fact, Claudio offered us his room while he was sleeping on the couch for the duration of our trip. Is this gesture a matter of hospitality or the fact that we really paid too much for our accommodation? Anyway, Claudio knew how to put us at ease by offering us the tour of the owner, providing us with the necessary grooming, but especially by entrusting us his apartment key.
Claudio went to the gym with Paulo, while we were unpacking our luggage. We took the opportunity to take a nap, to recover a little. Our Brazilian host and his faithful acolyte have therefore returned after a few hours and offer us to dine at the Botafogo shopping center. When traveling, I am more of a type to taste the typical flavors that the street offers us. But, as I know nothing about this city, I do not persist and am. This shopping center is rather upscale and is clearly aimed at a well-off clientele. We climbed a couple of eight flights of stairs by stairs before finding the food fair and a magnificent terrace that offers a sublime view over the bay and above all, the imposing Pao de Açucar. The food was actually expensive, but (oh so) delicious. The typical Brazilian accompaniment consists of rice and black beans in sauce. The Haitian in Phil was happy to find his "pea rice sauce" that he loves so much.
Back at the apartment after a good meal, we relax a little before heading to the mythical Estadio do Maracanã for the first time on the five games for which we were lucky to get tickets. I do not know what to expect, but I know it will be an unforgettable experience. Claudio told us that the city was flooded with Argentines sleeping in their cars on the edge of Praia de Copacabana in preparation for Argentina's first match between Bosnia and Herzegovina. We actually crossed a lot of fanatics proudly wearing their albiceleste outfit, but no Bosniacs. It promises!
We headed to metro station Flamengo, where we enjoyed finding that public transport was free for ticket holders before and after each game. So we boarded the metro of the green line L2 in the direction of the station Maracanã. As the stations passed, the wagons were filled with supporters as noisy as the others. Finally arrived at the stadium, the neighborhood is black, the atmosphere is crazy and the anti-riot squad, dressed in Robocops, is ready for action!
Arriving in the stadium, there is no surprise! The noisiest crowd is indeed Argentine. It is becoming more and more inflamed as the players are named. However, the decibels reach their peak when the camera focuses on the famous number 10, maestro of the albiceleste and prodigy of the round balloon, Lionel Messi.
Phil and I were absent a few seconds from our seats to take some pictures. When we got back, two guys were sitting there. So we asked to see their tickets, thinking that we could have helped them find their seats. It was then that one of them, a little intoxicated, confided to us that he did not have one. This intriguing situation prompted us to want to know more. Having continued our interrogation, the two men agreed to share their trick. In fact, they paid a facilitator near 150 Reais (75 USD) to get them without tickets through the underground parking lot of the stadium. Once inside, they had only to mingle with the crowd.
The course of the match was surprisingly tight. Suddenly, while Bosnia exerted a surprising pressure on the opposing team, the few Bosniacs in the crowd were assisted by all the Brazilians present in the stands. The legendary Argentine-Brazilian rivalry is then resonated throughout the stadium. Although I was convinced, it was at this point that I had proof that it was not just a simple sporting competition. In South America, football is political!