Temryss Lane's World Cup: My Trip to 'The Group of Death'
In all my world travels, I can't remember arriving to a land so filled with vibrant energy, shared joy, and utter excitement; passionate anticipation at its finest.
Patriotic representation is everywhere; with travelers sporting their country's uniforms, and flags wrapped around their bodies like capes. This was my welcome into São Paulo, where I changed planes -- on the right shuttle, but to the wrong airport -- missed my flight, and eventually got back on track to Natal for USA's first match against Ghana.
Not a seamless start, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Let me explain...
Landing in Brazil's largest city of more than 11 million people, and following their opening 3-1 victory over Croatia, I became one of millions of tourist who've come to support our perspective countries and experience the most popular World Cup of our lifetime: Brazil, the global epicenter for “Joga Bonito,” the beautiful game. The World Cup has returned after 64 years when Brazil hosted and lost the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay, 1-2. Nothing means more to this country than “futebol” and global redemption, which is why the government has neglected crucial social needs of their people and spent billions of dollars in preparation for this 32 day event.
To date, this is the most expensive World Cup ever costing at least $11 billion. Despite FIFA's (soccer's governing body) greed, every passionate footballer and soccer fan who's made the journey to experience Brazilian culture and futebol at The Cup, considers this an investment in “quality of life” and a dream realized. I am one of those people (pinching myself right now).
I like traveling alone. It forces interaction and allows for new friendships. The thing is, “no fala Portuguese,” I don't speak Portuguese. I do speak Spanish proficiently, and can find a common ground, but the two languages are very different.
Fortunately, when I got on the Gol Airlines airport shuttle for my transfer (incidentally to the wrong airport, despite having asked the information desk, a passenger, and the driver if I was taking the correct shuttle; see… this language barrier thing) I found four Argentine Spanish speaking fans playing a quick game of keepy-uppy (soccer juggling).
Normally, I would have gently forced my way into the game, but I was busy attempting my Spanish to speak to the driver to confirm I was in the right place. I boarded the bus, and so did the four in Messi jerseys. They took the seats near mine, singing songs of celebration, and instantly, we became friends in football.
After an hour ride through the enormous city of São Paulo, I arrived at what I quickly learned was the wrong airport, but I had forged such a pleasant friendship with my World Cup comrades (in Messi jerseys) that I was at ease, and trusted that I could figure out my next move.
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