Monday, November 12, 2007

Brazil vs. Ecuador

Although I enjoy watching the occasional cricket or football game, I would not really call myself a sports fan. In fact, given the option to watch a sporting event in a stadium or at home from the comfort of my own living room, I would probably opt for the latter. So when my friends suggested going to watch a football game at the Maracana stadium in Rio, I was not too eager. My first concern was the security. Nearly every person I know who has been to Brazil was warning me about how dangerous Rio is, locals and foreigners alike. It seems that everyone had some scary story to relate about a robbery or mugging. You hear stories like this about most big cities in the world so I was not put off by them, but rather just remained more alert. Going to a stadium packed with 80,000 people did not seem like a very safe atmosphere to venture into on our own so we linked up with a local tour group.

We connected with a tour company in Rio called Be A Local. They sorted out our tickets for the football match and even picked us up at a pre-designated stop in the city. Be a Local organizes group tours to football games in the Maracana and exclusive tours into the notorious ‘favellas’ (slums) of Rio. They are a young and fun loving organization that gives back to their community. The match was between Ecuador and Brazil, a magnificent event that would deliver the Brazilian International squad to the Maracana for the first time in nearly 10 years. The city was on fire by 6pm while everyone made their way to the stadium. Daniel who works with Be a Local, came to meet up with us in the city and briefed us on the agenda. Kick off was not until 10pm but we were expecting to roll through some heavy traffic. Plus the small bus we were in had to make some stops to pick up other people in the group. The company was actually taking in about 150 people, mostly foreigners, to watch that nights game!

As we drove up to the stadium the atmosphere was already alive. Cars were blowing their horns and people were running through the street waving Brazilian flags. Our bus stopped close to the stadium and we were quickly ushered out to join a much larger group. We had been warned to keep our belongings close to us and the scene was a little chaotic, but the crew had really good control over the group. Maybe it is because I am more accustomed to moving through intense human traffic as I have in China and Ghana that I felt the surrounding were a lot more controlled than I imagined they would be. We moved quickly up the ramps and towards the stadium and I heard the roar of the crowd grow louder and louder. It was dark outside but ahead of us I could see a sliver of bright light shining out from the arena. The area we were ushered through had low ceilings and was stark grey concrete as we moved towards where we would be sitting. Suddenly the ceiling opened up above us and I found myself standing in what felt like daylight surround by thousands of screaming people. The sensation at this point was surreal. I actually felt dizzy like I had walked onto the set of some movie. The stadium was unexpectedly cool and the energy pumping through the crowd was intoxicating. We found our places and within minutes joined the fans standing on our seats making Mexican waves and chanting songs we did not know.

Initially I was concerned how we would pass time to the kick off but it is amazing how fast time flew by as I was just blown away by the scene unfolding around me. First of all I think that was the first time I had been in the direct presence of 80,000 people. And that is a shit load of people. I watched and enjoyed the crowd participation and I searched out interesting individuals in the crowd. It blew my mind sitting in this massive bowl with 80,000 other people in Rio, the open sky above up on a cool night, while helicopters circled above filming us. We were all there to watch 22 men fight for possession of a small leather ball. The opening ceremony was short and sweet and climaxed when they reased hundreds of yellow and green balloons into the air. I could not get over that spectacle. As for the game, marvelous. We were seated directly behind one of the posts and got to see 4 goals being scored up close and personal. The game finally ended with Brazil scoring 5 goals against Ecuador while the later scored none. It was incredible how much more intense it was to watch a game live and see the players showcase their skills when they have the ball. Also I could really respect how they maintain composure and focus while the level of the crowds cheers are enough to make the ground tremble. All in all, I would not say this was the most amazing experience of my trip but rather a life experience that in a small way altered the way in which I view the world. And that alone would make the entire trip worthwhile. And there was so much more.

I do not want to post too many clips before I use them in the film but this is worth watching. There is a short intro to Be A Local then the entrance into the stadium. I did not know I even had this footage till just now.

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