“Essa e a nossa Copa.” This is our Cup.
In downtown Sao Paulo, these words are everywhere. On the Paulista’s lips in the form of a tune and against the city’s bones in the form of graffiti. They say it noisily. They want you to believe it. They say it over and over again, till a drummer puts a perky beat to it. Now we’re marching to it, down the final street that joins the Road to Brasil.
We’re hurtling down Avenida Francsico Morato and towards Estadio do Morumbi — the venue for Brazil’s last preparation game before the World Cup begins. Our World Cup begins. Nine thousand miles away from home and perhaps as many years away from my country hosting a FIFA World Cup, the words are on my lips as well.
Around me, almost every jersey is yellow. No surprises there. And almost every yellow jersey sports the name ‘Neymar Jr’ on it. No surprises here either. But a spectator who has styled his hair like Brazil’s latest sensation has ‘Paulo’ emblazoned on his back. And his jersey is blue — Brazil’s away strip and the only other colour visible on this strip. Serbia’s red, it goes without saying, is non-existent.
“I’m from Recife,” says Mr Neymar Hairdo. “So Brazil is pretty much playing away for me.” Brazil is vast, really vast. But at this moment, it seems like all of Sao Paulo, the largest city of the fifth largest nation, has surrounded the stadium. Beyond the metal gates, a Chinese vendor selling disposable raincoats looks astonished. He journeyed half way around the world to witness another Yellow Sea form magically around him.
The touts and I, however, are interested in other colours. It’s the black of their shady market that I wish to procure a ticket from. And they hope to see plenty of green. “Uno bilhete, R$180,” one gentleman whispers in my ear. One ticket, 180 reais (approx. Rs 4740). He says that I can have it at cost price and shows me the ticket stub. I laugh and tell him that I can see that he has scribbled a shabby ‘1’ before the ’80’. He laughs and says: “Brasil, inestimavel.”
Inestimavel, or priceless, they sure may be. But I’m on a budget and head down the road to a ‘pao e cerveja’ (bread and beer) instead.
Just minutes away from kick-off and expecting to find a miniature Estadio do Morambi at the bar, I step inside knowing that there won’t be a seat available. It’s all but empty. “Brazilians are very superstitious about their football,” says 58-year old Silvinio, my only other continued…