Cariocans regain their swagger

Germany take on France during the first quarterfinal of the 2014 World Cup at Rio’s famed Maracana Stadium on Friday 4 July.

Taipei Times ran a short feature I wrote on the atmosphere in Rio for Brazil’s World Cup quarterfinal with Colombia ahead of the semifinal clash with Germany on Wednesday.

They made a complete balls up of the intro. so it now basically makes no sense. They also changed all kinds of things for no apparent reason. Below is my original and here is the Taipei Times version. I don’t think I’m being arrogant in saying my original text is superior.


Brazilians don’t do reserve, certainly not when it comes to matters as serious as football. So the nervous caution that pervaded the normally ebullient city of Rio de Janeiro on the first quarterfinal day Friday, was portentous.

The tension that had set Cariocan nerves a jangling manifested itself in several ways. First there were the reactions that the mere mention of Brazil’s quarterfinal adversaries drew from all sections of society. Sighs, raised eyebrows and winces of apprehension all confirmed the danger that Colombia represented.

By most estimations, Jose Pekerman’s outfit had been the standout team of the tournament thus far and everyone, from the FIFA volunteers manning the Rio metro to the hawkers on Ipanema beach, was apprehensive.

During Germany’s 1-0 victory over France in the early game, a back-and-forth singalong slanging match in southeast corner of the Maracana had descended into a scuffle. Although the incident occurred roughly along the dividing line between blue and white, in a section of the stadium where German support was at its most vociferous, the antagonists were all Brazilian.

Dressed in the customary bright orange, a line of security guards can be seen in the crowd, trying to calm a flare up between fans of Brazilian clubs Flamengo and Fluminese.

It had started toward the end of the first half during a lull in play. Apparently unsatisfied with the chants of “Deutschland” and “Allez Les Bleus” from their European visitors, fans Rio’s two main teams, Flamengo and Fluminese, decided to turn it up a notch. Abusive ditties aimed at their cross-town rivals culminated in missile lobbing and shoves. Security moved in before things got uglier. They remained there for the rest of the game.

Other Brazilians, who had initially greeted the bawdy songs with knowing chuckles, now shook their heads and tutted in disapprovement. “Idiots,” said one man, clad in Flamengo’s red and black stripes.

England fans take manager Roy Hodgson to task for reducing them to supporting Germany.

On the way back into town, the singing resumed, filling the carriages of the metro with sound. Many fans were heading to Copacabana beach to catch the main event at the FIFA Fan Fest – areas that have been set up in all of Brazil’s host cities. Foreigners of all stripes were on the train, but local fans were once again the primary vocalists with archrivals Argentina the subject of their scorn.

With no Argentines around – or at least none brave enough to offer a retort – the goading continued unopposed for the best part of an hour as the metro jolted along,stopping intermittently in tunnels. Despite the bravado of the songs, the elephant in the room was obvious. Rather than face the reality of their Colombian opponents, Cariocans were deflecting their fears by focusing on a phantom menace.

Media reports had the audience on Copacabana at 100,000-plus, but it seemed like far fewer as the the match kicked off at 5 p.m. By far the noisiest fans in the crowd were a group of drunken Colombians honking and tooting pesky vuvuzelas and whistles.

Fred’s opener for the hosts eased the tension, but it wasn’t until David Luiz nailed the second that euphoria descended on the beach. The joy was tinged with a massive dose of relief. Brazil had been far from perfect, but they had overcome a serious threat with something to spare.

The uncharacteristic reticence that had afflicted Rio was cast aside as the celebrations got underway on Copacabana. Afro-Brazilians rhythms reverberated, the caipirinha flowed and Brazilians were doing what they do best once again: kicking back and partying in style.

Swagger and self-confidence had returned to Rio – at least for now. Next up: Germany.

About the Author