banner says “Winter Party” but its 30 degrees and it sure doesn’t
feel like winter here on Rio de Janeiro’s stunning Copacabana beach.
8.00am on Sunday and thousands of Brazilians are here at Copacabana
standing under the hot sun decked out in the yellow and green of
the national team and
watching the giant screen images from Japan as Brazil attempt to
win their fifth world cup in the “Beautiful game’s” dream final
de Janeiro must be the world’s most spectacular city with its sweeping
golden beaches, stunning rocky peaks, hills clad with tropical forests,
and tree lined avenues with beautiful Portuguese architecture. There
can be no better place than Rio to watch the final and experience
Brazil’s “futebol” passion.
the way into the city from the airport on Saturday its impossible
not to be amazed at the sheer magnificence of the city, rugged mountains
rise up on all sides as the motorway sweeps across the harbour,
twists and turns up and down hills, and streaks through tunnels
on a majestic Rio day.
flags and banners of all shapes and sizes are hanging from buildings
and green and yellow ribbons have been strung across many streets,
it seems like every second person is wearing a Brazil soccer shirt.
The “Cariocas” as Rio residents are known, are happy, smiling with
anticipation, and confidently looking forward to tomorrow’s final.
taxi driver is in a buoyant mood and as he cuts in and out of traffic
and speeds along Rio’s crowded streets, his eyes are gleaming and
his voice singing as he tells me about Brazil’s team of stars and
predicts a 2-0 win for the “scratch”
hour or so after arriving I’m standing on a wooden platform more
than 500 metres up a tropical green hill at São Conrado wearing
a harness and strapped to a hang glider, my pilot stamps his foot
in the dust and seeing that the wind is right tells me to start
legs have been shaking for what seems like forever as we wait for
the right wind but now they click into action and I run 15 metres
and off the end of the platform. My stomach has been left behind
somewhere and adrenalin is screaming through my veins as we soar
into the silent sky.
pretty hard to describe the feeling as we glide on thermals and
turn lazy circles in the sky, floating motionless and then swooping
like an eagle down towards the beach and ocean far below. Flying
over luxury houses with swimming pools, apartment towers, and
the endless sea the feeling is of complete bliss, it’s like waking
up in the middle of a dream.
we land on the beach I can’t hear anything, I’m buzzing all over
and my senses have gone blurry. I wonder whether this is what 180
million Brazilians will feel if Brazil wins tomorrow’s World Cup
the game gets underway the crowd at Copacabana begins to shout and
cheer, they call encouragement to their players and not so nice things
to the Germans and the referee. The game is as tense as you would
expect from the two most successful teams in history.
half an hour Ronaldo gets through the tight German defence but his
shot slices across the goal and goes behind for a goal kick. Right
on halftime Kléberson fires in a shot that beats German keeper
Oliver Kahn but hits the goalpost and is cleared to safety.
time Brazil gets close the crowd gets noisy.
halftime whistle goes with Brazil playing well and looking the more
likely to score, expectation in the crowd is high as the samba drums
start up and the music and dancing help calm frayed nerves.
come out firing in the second half are straight onto attack and
receive a free kick. The crowd gasps as keeper Marcos just gets
his fingertips to Neuville’s shot and the ball rebounds off the
upright. The relief however is only temporary as Germany keep pressing
forward but the Brazilian defence is up to the task.
win a free kick just outside the area, fingers are crossed, prayers
said and special rituals made in order to try and help the ball
into the net, but it is all in vain as Ronaldo’s attempt is deflected
harmlessly off the defensive wall.
20 minutes gone in the second half Brazil start to move forward,
Ronaldo gets close before Rivaldo fires a low shot at the German
goal and keeper Kahn makes his first mistake of the tournament and
spills the ball. Ronaldo is right there and taps the ball in to
crowd explodes, everyone is screaming, jumping, hugging, and sharing
high fives as they get a sniff of a fifth World Cup victory.
after the goal sellers appear from nowhere selling caps and banners
emblazoned with the words “Brazil 5 time World Cup champion”, a
clear reflection of the crowds optimism with 25 minutes remaining.
are now passing the ball around and attacking with a combination
of pure skill and supreme confidence, they move forward with Kléberson
and Rivaldo leading from the front. Rivaldo slips a magic pass to
Ronaldo who glides the ball into the net.
the field the players embrace in a dance of pure joy, they know
that at 2-0 the cup is nearly in the bag. At Copacabana the beach
erupts again and the noise cancels out everything.
pure emotion, and its expressed with voice, body and soul.
Ronaldo’s eighth goal in this World Cup and he is now equal on 12
with the incomparable Pelé as Brazil’s leading scorer in
last 15 minutes are gone in a flash, Brazil try for a third goal,
and Germany have their chances too, 2 minutes stoppage time are
played with no change to the score.
final whistle blows and Brazil are world champions for the fifth
Copacabana the crowd leap into the air and raise their arms in victory,
lungs and soul come shouts and cries of all types filled with the
joy of a football explosion.
dances and jumps together in group hugs, strangers are friends.
I share hugs and hand shakes and back slapping with Brazilians of
noise goes on and on, the Samba drums start up and everyone is dancing,
fireworks explode in the sky, and shouts of “Pentacampeao” ring
through the air. The smiles are endless and it feels like flying,
strangely floating in silence despite the thunderous noise.
the big screen Brazilian captain Cafu lifts the World Cup trophy
to tumultuous applause from the 70,000 gathered at Yokohama’s “International
Stadium” and at Copacabana a replica trophy is held high and kissed
among the vibrating mass.
are tooting, flags are waving and the celebrations are just beginning,
those that watched the game inside are
pouring on to the streets and joining in the singing and dancing.
Carnival trucks with platforms for dancers and huge speakers provide
music for the pulsing streets.
start pick up soccer games on the beach and try to emulate the goals
of Ronaldo and win their own World Cups. Others head down to the
water and dive in and feel the refreshing joy of the cool ocean
wash over them in powerful waves.
easy to be happy here in this paradise and I get the feeling that
even if Brazil had lost the people here would be happy and having
fun and making the most of life.
a swim my girlfriend and I walk the crowded footpaths, we shout,
shake hands, and wave to the happy crowds. Parties are raging on
street corners and from apartment balconies young and old are waving
and celebrating. Music is blaring and car horns ring through the
beaches Ipanema, and Leblon are packed with joyous fans, the boardwalks
are a sea of yellow and green flags, banners, and “futebol” shirts
and the parties go on and on. Friends and strangers greet each other
in the street and beautiful women
with dazzling eyes and radiant smiles dance samba and flamenco.
this most beautiful of cities Brazilians are celebrating winning
the planet’s most important sporting event for the fifth time, the
sun is shining, and faces and hearts are smiling. The celebrations
will go on for a long time, maybe forever, there may not be a World
Cup win to celebrate everyday but here in Rio every day is worth
the plane takes off from Rio airport heading back to Buenos Aires
I close my eyes, and a sea of green and yellow flashes across the
back of my eyelids and shouts of “Brazil Champion” echo through
my head. The game may be over but the next World Cup is only 4 years
Campeão do mundo”