Julio Jesus sells marijuana on the breathtaking Porto da Barra beachfront, his open-air office. His bare chest is plastered with tattoos, one of them advertising his wares. It’s got three marijuana leaves nailed to a cross. “Herb my god. It put food on my children…,” he says, trailing off to draw out a circular plate with two index fingers. “But today I think they go hungry.” Why, I ask. “Copa do Mundo bad for business. Selecao make all of Brasil high. Very high.” And they do it for free.
Between four and six on Tuesday evening, Brazil’s second group game against Mexico, a little over 200,000 potential customers walked right past Jesus and on to the FIFA sanctioned fan-mile in Porto da Barra. Only a handful, about 40 he claims, stopped to slip his plastic wrappings into their pockets. The rest — all 199,960 — marched right past and on to what could perhaps be the biggest drug-free party in the world.
Framed between a baroque church and a 17th century Portuguese fort, the magnificent Porto da Barra gives new meaning to the word quaint. It was this shore, incidentally, that attracted the first set of colonisers, making Salvador the oldest city in Brazil. But today, quaint Barra is a different animal.
Three larger-than-large screens are stapled to its heart. And a quarter-of-a-million football fans behave like lunatics around it. There may be no drugs, but there’s plenty of cerveja. And beer sure adds to the lunacy.
Every 10 metres or so on a seven kilometre stretch, a local lady sits with a thermocol basket the size of your washing machine, stuffed almost to the brim with beer cans and ice cubes. Each lady quotes a different selling price, but the standard rate is ‘quatro parra dois’ or four cans for R$ 10. I offer a R$ 100 note. Thrilled, the cerveja-lady throws in 10 extra tins to make it a round fifty. My thirsty company will be pleased, I think. They were. The cans are drained out even before the screens spark to life.
We move as one, all 200,000 of us, as the satellite beams images live from Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza. A mother of four, standing with her litter not far from our herd, holds up a banner in English. It reads: “Neymar I want to have your babies.” She perhaps changes her mind when the cameras catch him descending the bus with half his head bleached blond. Javier, the Mexican in our group, cannot stifle a laugh. But his Brazilian girlfriend stares him down. I can see it coming: for the continued…