Rio Rocking to World Cup Beat
What It's All About Blog By Tony Forder
Nowhere is soccer fever so rampant than in Brazil, especially on the beach at Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. It has been great to re-awaken my passion for "The Beautiful Game."
So, the US World Cup soccer run came to an end last weekend with a final record of 1-2-1. I'd say they acquitted themselves fairly well, perhaps falling short of hopes and expectations, but also showing they have not yet entered the top tier of international competition. They are ranked 16th in the world by FIFA, the World Cup's governing organization, which makes sense because they made the final 16 in the World Cup competition.
For many if not most sports fans in the US, soccer is often regarded as boring, with results like 0-0 or 1-0, especially when it reaches its pinnacle - the World Cup. But these are the best players in the world, which makes it very hard to score goals.
One friend said to me sarcastically, "I can't wait to watch another 0-0 game." I think he is missing the point. What is enjoyable to watch is the poetry of the game. As the iconic Brazilian Pele said, "It is the beautiful game." The game flows, unlike American football, which is stop, start, stop, start.
To make a comparison with baseball, is a pitching duel boring, or a no hitter? Baseball fans find such games fascinating and the no-hitter is a hard thing to achieve. But I have to agree that goals rachet up the excitement (as well as near misses), and penalty shootouts basically suck.
And by the way, as to the football or soccer debate, soccer is of course the real football – it is played with the feet...and head. Headball? American football is based on the forward pass and the run. Throwball? Runball? Helmetball?
Call it football or call it soccer, growing up in England, I had something of a love affair with the game. Unfortunately, it was somewhat arrested when I was sent to a boarding school where the predominant sport was rugby, not football. I was athletic enough and quick enough to be on the team, but when my peers kept getting larger while my size remained small, I decided rugby was not the game for me and I faked an injury to get off the team.
In the states I tried to fulfill my unrequited love of the game by first playing community soccer, and then somewhat ambitiously trying out for the varsity team at the university I was attending. The coach, an ex-pat Brit like me, saw I had some ability so I made the squad but the ambitious part was I that I was five years older than the rest of the young bucks, and not exactly conditioned for college athletics. I did, however, get to play some Division III soccer, including a large amount of bench warming at matches, and I was a Lumberjack (jock) for a season at Humboldt State University, CA.
Currently my latent soccer passion is getting a big boost as I am in Rio de Janeiro for a couple of weeks during World Cup fever. While England may be the cradle of soccer, it is the Brazilians who have turned football into a religion. The national players are treated like rock stars, almost as gods by the fans. A few years ago, I was part of a group that visited the national team's training facilities in Petropolis in the hills above Rio. No expense was spared; top therapists and chefs catered to the players.
When Brazil plays a match, everything stops. Nobody works. Offices close, stores close, even supermarkets. Only the bars are busy – really busy. The bigger the screen, the more people packed in. On the beach at Copacabana, there is a huge stage and screen set up and room for 25,000 people. I was fortunate to be invited to the VIP section for the Brazil-Camaroon game last week. More space and easier access to beer, and a better viewing of the colorful Carioca crowd (Rio locals). Brazil uncharacteristically lost that game 1-0, but it was of no consequence as they were already assured passage to the next round.
I'm happy the Brazilians are advancing in the competition, as are England, and I will be watching on the big screen at the Mondial de la Biere festival which opens this week (Dec. 7-11). Soccer and beer combined, and ain't that what it's all about? It is my hope that these two aforementioned teams meet in the World Cup final Dec. 18, by which time I will be back in the US, watching most likely in my living room, with fresh and fond memories of Copacabana, the Cariocas, and Mondial de la Biere, Rio.