Yellow, Yellow and more Yellow
The big day was finally here. The ‘Brazilian’ World Cup, in all its Brazilian revelry, was going to kick-off, and Sao Paulo was going to be the epicentre for all those for whom football is a religious fervour.
Purchasing opening match-day tickets was never really an option giving their hyper-inflated price and soaring demand, so I hadn’t even attempted. Although not the biggest fan of the Brazilian football team, I obviously wanted to be immersed within the football mania that was going to be on show. So the best option was to head to the Sao Paulo FanFest, set up in the open park-space between the Central district high-rises, called Anhangabau
Anhangabau Park, with its giant screen, was going to be limited to a capacity of 20,000 people. That info had already made me a bit anxious from my past experiences, for I’d been unable to get inside the previous two World Cup opening day FanFests as both in Germany and South Africa they had been filled to their capacities (which were more than 20,000) several hours before kick-off. So the only solution in my mind was to reach Anhangabau even before its opening time of 11 am.
Thankfully, the Sao Paulo metro was functioning very efficiently. Combined with heavy and helpful presence of security all through the routes, it wasn’t very difficult nor long to find my way from the accommodation to the FanFest despite a couple of line changes.
A holiday had been declared, so as to enable locals to enjoy the World Cup opener supporting their team, while at the same time keeping normal public transport and traffic chaos of Sao Paulo at bay. It also resulted in several families all decked up in their fan attire making their ways through the metro system, which was slowly raising the buzz of the impending occasion.
At 11:30 I was there outside the FanFest entrance, only to find the crowds being held back. Apparently they had not opened the gates. Typically Brazilian I thought, that they managed to delay this also. The silver-lining was that I was going to be able to enter, thereby avoiding the ignominious hat-trick of these near misses lasting more than 8 years! I spent some time chatting with Malaysian-American Ken staying at the same hostel as us, whom I had noticed standing in the crowd. “I usually avoid crowded places on my travels. But as this is my last day in Brazil on this tour of South America, I guess I had to be here at the FanFest to soak in this special atmosphere,” elaborated Ken, even as he was furiously being irritated by the loud pitch of a Caxirola being blown into his ear-drum by a by-stander.
Inside the FanFest it was truly a party-atmosphere as anticipated. As there were almost 5 hours to kill for everyone while the crowds slowly swelled to getting jam-packed, the beers and snacks were being ravished. Local pop-stars and bands regaled and swayed the crowds. But the most striking thing to be noted was the whole Yellow-ness all around. If you thought it’d naturally be because of Brazil playing the opening game of the day, you’re not entirely correct. For there were a huge number of Colombians & Australians everywhere, and these two countries also wear Yellow. So did their fans. So did I, with my Yellow Pune FC Kit on me, which even enabled a well-travelled Colombian and a Brazilian each to recognise Pune & strike up a conversation about their fond times spent both in Pune and India.
Along with US & Germany, Aussies & Colombians have procured the highest number of World Cup match tickets at this World Cup. It seemed virtually all of them and more had landed up at Anhangabau on 12th June before they took their respective connections from Sao Paulo. As a distinguisher, while the Colombians mostly sported Cowboy hats & caps along with their svelte damsels (read partners) in tow, the Aussies tended to be more of the merrier beer-guzzling lot tossing around their inflated Kangaroos among their travel-group ! Incidentally, as many Aussies have Croatian roots, I was not surprised that many of them weren’t overtly displaying it by sporting Croatian kits there in the crowd among thousands of Brazilians. They must’ve chosen the Aussie Gold to mix in better with the crowd. Some of them did hold-back their muted celebrations as the Croats took the lead, and they were joined in by most of the Colombians, being as they are, South American rivals of Brazil. But the pin-drop silence of the Anhangabau did not last long, being replaced as it was by the deafening exult upon Neymar’s equaliser.
On my way back to the hostel to make it in time for my connecting bus, the streets were virtually deserted with the second half ongoing. Then the celebratory noise coming from the houses was all I needed to know Brazil had scored. Another louder celebratory noise accompanied by crackers within 30 seconds I deduced the goal must’ve been a penalty conversion. I caught the third goal at the road-side café, & the partying for the locals began in earnest as the full-time whistle came soon after.Published 14 Jun 2014, 12:18 IST