I didn’t intend to go to the FIFA World Cup opening. But, you know… I’m Brazilian, I like football — or ‘soccer’ for the Americans — and I’d never let an opportunity like that go away. And then the opportunity came, the stars aligned: I’ve got a Croatian colleague. He works in projects related to football federations. Croatia classified to the World Cup and was put in the same group as Brazil, it came to be the opening game and all the rest… well, he had tickets and invited me to come see the match. After two long seconds of thinking, I obviously said yes.
He offered me a Croatia football shirt and asked if I could carry it the day of the game. And I — those who know me know this — am one of those guys who always want to show off… — I’ll see the match wearing this shirt! — I told him. — But I won’t support Croatia!
On the way to the stadium, I confess I was a little bit embarrassed of wearing the shirt. I was feeling like a traitor. I took it in a plastic bag, together with my ticket, a hell of a fear of being stolen. In the subway, I found two Croatians who were lost and I came over to help them, as if I were in the same situation. Later on they were asking me if the houses they were seeing were favelas, as if favelas were some kind of must-see touristic spot. They looked disappointed when I said they weren’t.
Getting close to the stadium, I didn’t have a choice. I had to wear the shirt, just because I said I would. Those who know me also know that I use to do what I say, and that I often regret it. And then I put the shirt on, still shy. I kept showing the first shirt I was wearing, fearing some kind of censorship or violence. By the way, the shirt that made me feel safe was the one from the Brazilian team The Corinthians.
Slowly, I started to notice that it was much nicer to be Croatian than Brazilian in that place. I was different because I was Croatian, I was part of the unknown. People on the streets wanted to take pictures with Croatians! They wanted to buy a pint. And then I really engaged on wearing the shirt. And I started having a lot of fun.
So nice, these Brazilian people.
I entered the stadium and went straight to the toilets, as I always do. Some Croatian came talking to me, but I wasn’t speaking fluent Croatian yet. When I said I was Brazilian, he told me I had chosen the right shirt, but that I would have to respect it. I told him I would. And I gave my word.
It was different inside the stadium. Those were other people. Well dressed people, well treated skins. They were not the Brazilians who suffer and love football whom I had seen outside. The ones inside were always complaining: “I have to line up to buy beer”, “they ran out of sandwiches”, “I can’t post on Instagram”, “there is no Louis Vuitton store”, “fuck you Dilma (Rousseff)!” For us Croatians it was a big party. We didn’t have all of our best players, but we were confident that we could win the game.
Time to start, the Brazilian anthem begins. I couldn’t hold it… I took off the shirt, went back to being Brazilian and sang the anthem together with the 55 000 other civilised and proud Brazilians. That was the most touching moment in the opening. After the anthem I joined the other 5 000 Croatians again. And then I found it weird that everybody (the Brazilian side) was cursing the event and the president. Outside, everybody looked so happy, and those who had the opportunity of being inside were behaving like that?
So weird, these Brazilian people.
Our team was playing well and was lucky. We were winning the opening game of the World Cup. Wake me up! — But Brazilians are really genius on this sport. In the beginning I thought that this Neymar boy was becoming yellow, but in a flash he kicked a ball that I saw coming in slow motion to the net, just in front of me. All right, equality is fair enough.
We started the second half playing much better than Brazil. We could have kept tied up or even win. Penalty? Are you crazy??? I’m far from the thing, but I’m sure it wasn’t! Our goal keeper almost took it. We could still tie up. We did! No, it wasn’t a valid goal. Fault! Come on, referee, it was a fault! Brazil scores. They woke me up… I came out from my seat, impressed, dizzy, some pretty Brazilian girls singing to me (in Portuguese): “Ugly shirt, with little squares / every Croatian I know is a fag!”
But once outside I was relieved: “You ‘play good.’ Photo! Cerveja! Brazillll, ay-oh! Brazilll, ay-oh!…”
So wonderful, these Brazilian people outside! I will watch the next match with them!
See also: The Show Must Go On