Barcelona is not in Brazil

Before I arrived Brazil I spent two nights in Barcelona. The City is a delight. Made infinitely more delightful by the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. He knocked out some distinctive stuff.  His mates and those who had never met him knocked out stuff that was similarly inspired. As a consequence modernist traits are echoed in many fabrications and amplified through the city. While Gaudi died in 1926 at the age of 73, his last project, the Sagrada Familia, continues to rise to the heavens and is due for completion around 2030. In his death , a special learning for Melburnians;  to  look both ways before crossing the tram tracks and proceed only if the tracks are completely clear.

Set in the path outside Gaudis home in Gruelli park. Perhaps there to assist the postman with his rounds

Set in the path outside Gaudis home in Gruelli park. Perhaps there to assist the postman with his rounds

La Pedrera. More a sculpture than an apartment block. My favourite

La Pedrera. More a sculpture than an apartment block. My favourite

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

La Pedrera. All three here photographed from inside an apartment

La Pedrera. All three here photographed from inside an apartment

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

La pedreras

La Pedrera

No interior walls are load bearing. So the floor plan of each apartment is flexible. Plus no geometric meeting points. Everything is curved which thise build programs on the telly tell me is an expensive way to go.

No interior walls are load bearing. So the floor plan of each apartment is flexible. Plus no geometric meeting points. Everything is curved which thise build programs on the telly tell me is an expensive way to go.

La Pedrera internal apartment  walls

La Pedrera internal apartment walls

The structural bits are these ribs that are explicit in the attic. The whole building is comprised of these arches unseen except for us here.

The structural bits are these ribs that are explicit in the attic. The whole building is comprised of these arches unseen except for us here.

And when he had a few spare moments Gaudi knocked out wooden furniture

And when he had a few spare moments Gaudi knocked out wooden furniture

Guell was his sponsor. This is Guell park originally a housing project. Sadly the units didn't sell although Gaudi himself took one and lived here for a time. Seemed to spend most of that time in prayer

Guell was his sponsor. This is Guell park originally a housing project. Sadly the units didn’t sell although Gaudi himself took one and lived here for a time. Seemed to spend most of that time in prayer

Guell PArk

Guell Park

Casa Battlo. Redesigned by Gaudi in 1904

Casa Batllo. Redesigned by Gaudi in 1904

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo

Casa Battlo

Casa Batllo

And finally the Work in Progress. Commenced 1882.......

And finally the Work in Progress. Commenced 1882…….

Consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010

Consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010

Due to finish in about 2030. " My client is not in a hurry"

Due to finish in about 2030. ” My client is not in a hurry”

Advertisements
Standard

A tourist in Rio de Janeiro

The World Cup trip to Rio covered a lot of football. Three games a day with four on one day caused a lot of viewing. Six live games at the Maracana and Belo Horizonte ( three each) and masses on TV, in bars, restaurants, airport floors, apartments and two at Fan Fest on Copacabana beach.

This post is about what happened in between the football. The football was intensive and time consuming. But between the games a small amount of time was squeezed in to sample the traditional tourist fare.

I enumerate experiences in the order most preferred.

1. Life is a beach. Great fun to wander down the beach either at Ipanema or Copacabana or both. Lots of people in chairs, foot volleyball, traditional volleyball, beach soccer, tennis, fitness stations, surfing, bars, food stalls……….You’ve seen it on the television and the reality is great. An ever changing tableau. The beach at Copacabana is man made. The sea was lapping the hotels and so the wide beachfront road and beachfront walking area were created and the Rio Canutes pushed back the sea. Copacabana was certainly where the noisier action was located and the Fan Fest had been set up at the North end of that beach. From our apartment, close to Posto Ten to FanFest was 5/6 k’s along the beach and a fascinating wander that was joyously repeated.

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

copacabana beach #2

copacabana beach #2

Copacabana beach #3

Copacabana beach #3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

copacabana beach #4

copacabana beach #4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Pao Acucar. Sugarloaf mountain is listed by many people as their top Rio attraction. It involves two gondola rides one from Urca to the first mountain, change gondolas and then on to sugarloaf. The views are magnificent and the guide books recommend sunset as best time. But not me. Sunset, I found unremarkable when I was there because there was no great pink sky, just a descending sun that descended in an unspectacular fashion. The day was clear and bright, no rain clouds and so the views were clear and bright and distant. Once the sun has gone the lights of the city come on and that makes for a different view which is pleasant, worth battling the sunset crowds? Not on the evidence of the day I saw.
I dislike heights, really dislike heights and even feel most uncomfortable watching others at heights. Compensating for this fraility…… no mention of this in any guide book and I was concerned about going up. But I was absolutely fine. The cable car/gondola is big and feels safe just like an Austrian ski gondola. But the space on top of both rocks is enormous. So there is no need to go anywhere near the edge and no need to be too close to people, even though I was there at sunset rush hour and the  crowd that entails. Not only is there lots of room at the top, there are also paths to stroll around (the via verde). The only negative at that time of the day is that it starts to get cool, the sun and more importantly its warming rays disappear, it is already cooler up there than at sea level and the number of people up top means  a 20 minute wait in the coolness for the car to go down.
A positive. There was a power cut to the suburb while I was there. I was at the front of the queue for the second cable car to Pao Acucar that was descending towards me. When the power cut it had not reached the station. For 15 minutes the people in that car sat in that car, which dangled over the gap, with a slight eddying motion, unable to reach the unloading bay. As the positive the gondola then got its own power supply and got up and running again. An hour and a half later when I came down the mountain the suburb at the bottom of the hill was still completely black. Good to know the back up system works!
A negative. Getting back from the base of the mountain was a real pain. There were no taxis and lots of people trying to catch the few that arrived. I had no idea where I was and Urca without power and was black. After half an hour I joined forces with three Americans and we grabbed an incoming taxi and shared it back before anyone else could occupy. That took a bit of gloss off the trip.

Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

after sun set from sugar loaf

after sun set from sugar loaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

copacabana from sugarloaf

copacabana from sugarloaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Cristo Redentor. The little red cog train goes up the mountain. Sitting on the right hand side is most certainly the best for views. Right, in this instance means face the way the train will go ie uphill and sit on the right hand side. It was crowded at the top and not easy to avoid bumping people, which I didn’t like. But still a tolerable awfulness for me and fear prevented me walking out the full length of the platform in front of the statue. Samba players on way down, great views again. Not quite as good as sugarloaf even though at twice the height.

image

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Escadaria Selaron in Santa Teresa/ Lapa. I wasn’t aware of the steps before I arrived. A man, Mr Selaron, spent 23 years decorating the public steps with tiles. When he was finished he began removing the tiles and reworking the area. So his project could never finish, until he died, which he did, appropriately enough on the steps, in 2013.

A very cheerful colourful sight even though it was pouring rain the day we went.

escadaria selaron

escadaria selaron

escadaria selaron #2

escadaria selaron #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Escadaria Selaron. Top of the stairs

Escadaria Selaron. Top of the stairs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Fan Fest. The largest television set I have seen in my life. A screen that can cater for 20,000 viewers. it was a magnificent location , actually on the beach. Drawbacks? In the sun you cook, as there is little shade. At the hot game I eventually found shade next to the toilets , the lack of popularity of this spot was obvious at first nasal intake of breath. But the stench was better than burning. The next game I attended was an evening game and with the warmth of the day but without the sun that created it, it was perfect. The FIFA shop was also enormous and packed, so packed that there were queues of people trying to get in to buy highly priced shirts and plush toy mascots. I was surprised, but maybe I wasn’t. I left with no shirts and no plush toys.

FanFest on copacabana beach

FanFest on copacabana beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. The food. We ate at fine restaurants. Cevicheria, Bazzar, Via Sete in Ipanema. Aprazivel in Santa Teresa that was at the top of a very long, very steep windy road and would have rewarded us with magnificent views if it had not been pouring rain, instead it rewarded us with magnificent food, although these are not mutually exclusive. All were great quality food and probably at Melbourne prices. But the different eating experience, for me,was the all you can eat churrascaria. Thats all you can eat meat, mostly cow, and while there were tow such trips the Churrascaria Palace next to Copacabana Palace was the better example. The meat was of good quality , the pace at which it arrived was alarming and when it arrived it arrived in volume. After thirty or so minutes I was defeated, my body could take no more and was asking me to leave, and leave now. I am advised one does exist in Melbourne( of course it does !!). Similar to food we found good coffee shops , although they sat their lights firmly under bushels. A walk to Leblon seemed to be the answer as a walk from Ipanema to Copacabana tended to leave us disappointed with the offering.

7. The Fort. At the south end of Copacabana Beach is Copacabana Fort. It costs R$6 to get in (ie $3, so not much) The exhibits are not so fabulous. But that doesn’t matter, its not why you go. You go to sit at the cafe or the restaurant on the sea wall and get a very different view north up Copacabana Beach because the fort is built on the rock that juts out into the sea. You can also watch the boogie boarders and paddle boarders surfing below you. For extra quirkiness the restaurant has an afternoon tea for R$43 which is an english high tea. Sadly, not being served while I was there so i went to the cafe that is higher up, and has better views, and it too has an afternoon tea, but it is half the price and of poor quality.

Favela behind Copacabana. View from a fort

Favela behind Copacabana. View from a fort

Copacabana beach from the fort

Copacabana beach from the fort

8.There are two domestic airlines in Brazil that we flew. TAM and GOL. If you have the choice I encourage you to always choose the former, TAM. I am told that Azul are good but I have not sat on one of their planes to discover first hand. GOL did cancel flights when it thought it was in their best interest and left the previous customers (me and others) to try and find a replacement. This occurred on two flights from six, a small sample but a repeat offence, and a consistent experience with others to whom I have spoken. GOL are damned not only by me but by those who chatter and make it to my Avoid list.

Standard

Rio de Janeiro as seen from a supermarket

I quite like supermarkets. I refer to those in foreign countries. Coles or Woolworths are not such an adventure and, in fact, a bit of a chore. But supermarkets overseas provide great insights and should figure on every tourists “must do” list. Not only that but as a “must do within short time of arrival”. Absolute nonsense you say, a supermarket is a supermarket is a supermercado. I beg to differ and my first and lasting impressions of Rio de Janeiro were forged by Zona Sul.

The most super of supermarkets. Zona Sul

The most super of supermarkets. Zona Sul

Zona Sul dominates the supermarket trade in the southern beach suburbs of Rio where we had most fashionably located ourselves.

We saw not another supermarket chain and we were totally content with Zona Sul. In my next stop at Porto Alegre which is even more Sul than the dominant Rio sites of Zona Sul, there were no Zona Suls. Zafferi occupies the position that Zona Sul has carved for itself in Rio. A geographic growth stock I think……although I am reluctant to say which of the two……..perhaps a merger would satisfy corporate lust for year on year expansion.

So what was it that Zona Sul had to say.
1. The range of goods provided. Certainly fewer lines than an Australian equivalent, but an abundance of varieties of flavoured yogurt. Adult residents of Rio conform to global averages and are 60%/ 55% water ( men/women). The unusual aspect of this in Rio is that much of that fluid is sourced from flavoured yogurt.
2. Price check. Most things are slightly more expensive than in Australia, except for beer which is cheaper. Blueberries twice the price and water three times. Wine maybe 30/50% more for equivalence of quality
3. Very little space between the aisles of goods. The Carioca’s ( as the residents of Rio call themselves) do have a strong interest in looking after themselves and they look a healthy weight ……..I understand that Cariocas made themselves slender only so they are able to shop the narrow aisles of Zona Sul. Alternatively, I considered the narrow aisles reflected the high price of land in these locations.
4.

Cramped restaurant at rear of Zona Sul

Cramped restaurant at rear of Zona Sul

A restaurant in the corner that served basic hot meals and had a liquor licence. I found this very odd as I was guessing that the contribution per square meter for pizza could only be less than if the space had been piled high with toilet paper, or yogurt. The tables were surrounded by shelf space and there was little room between tables. At dinner, shopping trolleys would perpetually nudge your leg as Mrs Rio leans over to get a six pack of mango and passion fruit yogurt. So I wasn’t sure why one would wish to eat there in cramped circumstances when the suburb was teeming with great restaurants.
5. Service. There isn’t really any and it is reflective of a different mindset. The ladies who sit at the check outs do not live in the same post code as the people they are serving. They have the feel of individuals who are pacing themselves for fifteen hour days and will not burn energy needlessly on speeding your groceries through the machine that goes bink.
6. Technology. Pretty basic, suggestive of  a cheap pool of labour. No self service check outs which is understandable given high crime rates and the approximate honesty system that comes with self service check outs. Many times I saw the product number being punched in, or packaging being hand ironed to allow the scanner to correctly interpret the code, or six packs being opened by the cashiers so that the individual items could be read .
7. At Zaffari rather than Zona Sul I did fall for that young players trap of taking my mandarins and apples to the check out and expecting the machine to weigh and price. Nope, back to fruit and veg so a lady can weigh it and place a sticky label on the outside of the bag.
8. Reflect upon the lethargy of 5 and the shortcomings of 6 and 7 and the result is queues that block the narrow aisles all the way back to shampoos and soaps. Again perhaps the Cariocas have a different thought pattern with a thick overlay of tolerance. Perhaps, they have learnt to use the time in queues to solve complicated philosophical questions or to meditate and exit Zona Sul with bulging plastic bags and a refreshed mind. I was able to employ neither of those coping mechanisms. As a consequence I became an opportunist shopper. If the queues were short I shopped. If they were long I did not. And I learnt the rhythm of the check out queue, 9:30am and 7:15 pm were generally good times to fill a trolley. The rest of the day….forget it.

Let me come back to five. Because the ladies at the check out clearly reflected the wealth disparity in Zona Sul specifically but Rio and probably Brazil by inference. Their body shape was not consistent with those who power walked or roller bladed along the beach strip and shopped at Zona Sul for low fat nibbles (such as myself). But these ladies were really nice. They had time to chat, they had a smile for anyone who initiated the same and they did try to help. A story to illustrate.
One early evening at a time when queues were short I was watching my groceries pass ever so slowly from pre cashier to bagging area. Then there was an interruption from the next door cashier and, groan, everything stopped. A couple had returned to the shop with a customer service issue. I understood the issue completely as the couple were english and spoke no portuguese. They had purchased beers and having paid for them discovered one of the bottles had a faulty crown cap and was fizzing away its carbonation and presumably some of its contents. The ladies on the check out spoke no english and only portuguese. The lady on my check out thought she had understood and took the initiative to assist. She had decided that the english couple had wanted to open and consume their bottle of beer straight away. With enormous public spirit she leant over, took the beer bottle, put the top in her mouth and tore off the cap with her teeth. She then handed back the fully opened bottle of beer (with a smile).
I was astonished………………the english couple were astonished …………………………
I would like to know if the training manual at Coles has instructions for delivering customer service outcomes like this. I’m thinking not.

Eventually , the english couple made themselves understood and were rewarded with a new bottle of beer. No reward for my check out girl except for the respect of everyone who had witnessed quite a  party trick.

9. The Zona Sul had something I had not seen before. A check out that was specifically for “preferential” customers. Preferential meaning old , infirm , pregnant, accompanied by small children and etc .

Consideration at the cash register

Consideration at the cash register

I thought this was considerate and after Zona Sul I saw it repeated in other places where there are queues such as airport check in, security and ticket counters as well as the usual flagged seats on trains. The system is monitored for integrity by the good citizens of Brazil……and it needs to be monitored because these queues are shorter and quicker. Unscrupulous, fully fit individuals may jump in to speed themselves through the payment process. Don’t forget the long queues that are present 90% of the time at Zona Sul……..the temptation to use the caixa preferential is very real.
A story to illustrate, that I, to my eternal shame, was also once so tempted. On sighting a short queue at the marked check out I joined the little line. After all, two strapping lads were in front of me. Then the next door queue kicked off. Sheepishly, the strapping lads ahead of me stepped away and wandered to one of the normal check outs that was promising ten minutes of tedium. I held firm. I had my ace…..” no understandee the languagee “. A man in the next door queue then started talking to me. I threw down my ace, ” I am dreadfully sorry my dear man can’t understand a damn word ” . But my ace was insufficient, back came a trump; the man was fluent in english!!!! But his next sentence was curious indeed.
” We just told those young boys they cannot stand there. They are interfering with your queue.”
Suddenly my world stopped as these words sank in. Thought bubble… “This guy thinks I have genuinely self selected as requiring caixa preferential”……”And he thinks I am fully entitled to do so” ………”Presumably on the grounds of age as I can’t see I meet any other criteria.”
Have I ever been so insulted by kindness? But as I reflected more deeply. I reconciled myself to a different explanation. The man in the next queue was a student of psychology. He realised that if he asked me to move queues it would incur resentment and a personal determination to game the system at a future date. But his beautifully pitched message meant that I would never again self select for this queue, irrespective of how long were the others. And, it is true, I never shall.
A great explanation. But, I think I am going to have to face it. He thought I looked old…….My revised response is to go straight to denial, the fool, he was quite quite wrong and vision impaired which is the reason he was stood in the wrong queue and territorial about the caixa preferential. No further discussion needed around this truth, except to recognise it as self evident.

So let me conclude. An early visit to a supermarket will reward you with cultural and demographic appreciation not so easily discovered nor so quickly consumed from other sources. Such a visit will provide you an accurate estimation of prices you will be asked to pay and a comprehension of commodities that are plentiful or scarce. The Lonely Planet will never do this for you. Even if you read all those pages on background to the country, political, historical and economic (that few read according to extensive surveys I have completed). Tear out those pages say I, throw them away, and get you to a Zona Sul.

Standard

Bad Moon Rising – Argentinian Lyrics

This posting contains my reflections upon the supporters of the teams at the World Cup. It provides a ranking of sorts, without making transparent the criteria applied and without applying such criteria consistently.

As at 25 June I have attended a variety of games:

a) Colombia Greece
b) Argentina Bosnia
c) Belgium Algeria
d) Spain Chile
e) Argentina Iran
f) Belgium Russia
g) Nigeria Argentina

All were great experiences, except Belgium Russia, which was as dull as dull things can be. Oh, OK I excuse the final ten minutes; at this point in the game the relaxants administered to the Belgian team suddenly wore off. They awoke to discover themselves in front of 76000 supporters who had begun to themselves snooze. These supporters had utilised their last reserves of energy to periodically boo and whistle at the third class game before them. A third class game, viewed from seats purchased at first class prices.

Sorry, I got distracted by my irritation of that woeful spectacle at the Maracana. I don’t blame Russia, they were simply incompetent and being unable to attack or string together passes was simply a reflection of how undeserving they were to be on the World Stage. No my blame sits with the Belgians who have a good team, who are able to play, but chose not to. Unsure why , perhaps they felt secure in their position in their group table, perhaps it was their display of contempt for the ability of the opposition, perhaps it was a Belgian National holiday that had been transported with them. Whatever, the reason it was most certainly an insult to the viewing public. You may observe that Belgie and beige share many letters………coincidence? I think not.

Sorry, I redistracted myself. And let me assure you I shall be supporting any team that plays Belgium, I shall also be checking all future chocolate and beer purchases to ensure they are sourced from Switzerland and Holland respectively.

So this is not about the game. It is about observing the followers of the game. The supporters of each country and the omnipresent Brazilians. Generally all very friendly individuals, all knowledgeable of the game. Those that have travelled long distances to attend are usually in a comfortable demographic where superannuation and the location of toilets are hot conversation topics. Such conversation generally emanates from beneath grey or balding hair and above a few excess kilos of midriff, playing days long gone!!

Colombians, Chileans, Argentinians (and not forgetting the Brazilians who attend every game), have travelled the shortest distances and are here in greatest numbers. As a group they are the most passionate of supporters. This may be the numbers that are amplifying to create a passion that would equally exist for those countries with far fewer boots on Brazilian terreno. But I don’t think so, I think it is because they are the most passionate of supporters. They are on average, younger and on average less comfortable in their life situations than those who have crossed oceans to attend. This is fabulous as it greats a marvellous atmosphere in the stadium. I shall return to this group later.

Iranians, Algerians, Spanish, Bosnians, Russians and particularly Nigerians attended in far fewer numbers.

I am not sure that I saw sufficient Spaniards to create an impression upon me. They were in red shirts and the Chileans were in red shirts so it was hard to distinguish one from the other. Well, not entirely true, the vast majority of the crowd were jumping up and down in 90 minutes of unrelenting red celebration. A few morose looking individuals were looking at each other wondering whether the all conquering team of the previous World Cup had been kidnapped.

Iranians, Algerians, Bosnians and Nigerians were friendly and distinguished by their fewness. The Brazilians showed a wonderful nature in bolstering the smaller volumes of supporters, who were also always the underdog team, by lending to them their presence and chants for 90 minutes ( plus time added on).

I can only judge the Russians from the small group that sat in front of me. They were as large as bears, which was most appropriate for Russians I felt. It was clear these boys ate a lot of meat, some of it dead before they started their meal and all of it dead and disappeared before the dessert trolley was wheeled past them. I considered them to be unnecessarily verbally aggressive, even without understanding their frequent and loud outbursts. One exception to that non understanding was one word which is similar in a number of languages and is dissimilar in english, where it translates as “whore”. On reflection it could just have been a call to President Putin to fix the inept team before them. And I had some sympathy with them on that point……………….But the meaning of their hand gestures was quite clear as a type of esperanto of offensiveness at a distance. These same gentlemen tended to call for a penalty whenever a Russian player entered the 18 yard box. I thought this was ludicrous but did recognise that there was no other way their team would win (or draw). Because the four Russians (weighing as much as eight sensitive beings) were such large individuals, I shared none of my observations. Not of their behaviour, or the merits of their team and I am typing fluently on this day helped by the wise choices I made in the stadium on that day.

The Greeks sat in the middle. They had more presence than other European nations and I have declared them ahead of the Belgians here in my race of supporter volumes. Given the parlous state of the Greek finances, the presence in Brazil of so many holidaying Greeks provides one insight why their country’s finances are in a parlous state. They were passionate in betweenies, pleasantly and positively boisterous. Short on numbers to rival the South Americans, but an admirable turnout in comparison to the better heeled European neighbours who were probably indirectly financing their trip via deficit funding…….ooohhhh harsh. Perhaps I should share such theories with the travelling Germans who I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting.

The Belgians were imaginative in dress and nationalist in colour selections. Our plane arrived in Belo Horizonte for their first game against Algeria at 7:30 am. By that hour the airport cafe was full of chanting Belgians, the cafe tables were full of empty bottles of Stella Artois and the Belgians were full of Stella Artois.

Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte 1965 brutalist magnificence

Belo Horizonte 1965 brutalist magnificence

I am not sure I approve of getting drunk on beer before 10:00am, but as it was a national cause I felt more accepting of the Belgians. Having watched the Belgian team in the later game at the Maracana against Russia I had a different perspective on the early drinking. If you follow a team as indifferent to its supporter base and potentially catatonic to watch as Belgium, then best be inebriated before entering the ground…….I thus suspend judgement on the Belgian early morning imbibing. One thought, maybe the team bus stopped off for a liquid breakfast with the supporters before the Ruissian game. It would help explain the dreary performance!

Now back to the South Americans. Brazilians as I have said. Good natured supporters of the underdogs and smaller nations. But also there did seem to be a flavour of ” any team that is not Argentina” . And my only experience of fisticuffs at all these games has been to observe a difference of opinion being punched to a common understanding between a Brazilian and an Argentinian at the Maracana. Throughout this trip and at stadiums and Fanfests and in the street I have seen very little aggression and no  further violent outbursts. On the television between games there is news that I fail to understand given my absence of Portuguese. But I can read the subscripts that rejoice in identifying the number of fans arrested each day. The numbers are very very low. Surprisingly low given the amount of beer that is being drunk, but understandably low given the intimidating quantity and demeanour of police and military that surround the grounds and towns on match days.

The Chileans, big in number and songs, and fabulous to watch. As I am from Australia I have an intimate understanding of poor quality national chants. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….Oih, Oih, Oih is particularly embarrassing, not only because it is unimaginative , but also becasue it is the full panoply of Australian National chants……not true but close enough. And into a similar bucket I must place Chi, Chi, Chi…….Le , Le, Le …..viva Chile. No sophistication in that.

Colombians like Chileans really. Both begin with a C , I can understand what Chileans say and am unwise as to the utterances of Colombians , even though it is reported to be the same language. Lots of them, lots of colour and movement and lots of excitement. They make their games good places to be.

Now let me report one incident that yanked the Chileans into second most favoured nation slot for travelling fans. Chile Spain, a game where the number of Chileans without tickets exceeded very comfortably the number of tickets available for purchase in shady transactions by willing vendors. A group of some twenty Chileans took an initiative that was surprising in how far it advanced, but inevitably ridiculous, and concluded in tears. This group of Chileans decided they would break into the Maracana…………. A concept that takes all five stars for the audacity of its vision. But as an executable strategy it needed more than three litres of beer per person to get this off the ground. But it was only fuelled by alcohol and enthusiasm and it was bound to unravel in a messy way for those involved. Now I should explain why I am so negative on the chances of success. The Maracana is the most fiercely guarded stadium of the World Cup. Three rings of “police” manage the advance of supporters. I place police in italics because these armoured individuals look like military personnel to me.Police on way to ground I read that there are 5000 out on match day and having seen them massed everywhere I turn I think this is entirely believable. At each of the three checkpoints you need to show a ticket to advance. At the stadium you then go through airport style security bag checks and patting down and then finally you show a ticket at the turnstile that flashes green and allows the barrier to open for you. And security is over at that point. Personally I had confiscated a biro, apples, mandarins and a brand new tube of sunscreen. I hope to have built a picture of a pretty thorough vetting process manned by tall people dressed in black uniforms, helmets external body armour, carrying riot shields and big sticks and tazers and pistols……let me return to the Chileans. The Chileans managed to get through the three rings of police without a ticket…..a considerable achievement for which they deserve a respectful round of applause. To avoid the airport type security they decided to break down a cyclone fence……again not such a bad tactic. At this stage they are still outside the stadium but tantalisingly close to its walls ….. and this was where it began to go wrong . They found an access point to portable constructions used by the media and raced in, but no direct access to inside the ground from that particular part of the media offices. At this point they decided to break through some temporary walling, which probably was the way to go . Unfortunately, on the other side of this temporary walling were many many representatives of the press and TV, complete with cameras and professional sound equipment. Upon hearing the commotion the legitimate occupiers of the media facilities sniffed that they were about to become the story and cameras began rolling, which is where TV news picked up. The banging upon the wall of their facility became louder and more intense and the wall began to buckle and eventually fell inwards. Imagine twenty confused Chileans who have just smashed down a wall to discover themselves centre of attention, effectively the focal point of a hastily arranged TV studio. Lights, cameras, action and no place to hide. The Chileans now had faces that said ” Oh shit…..what do we do now?” . Well what was to happen next was now out of their hands. The large men in body armour arrived and placed the renegades onto a bus bound for a detention facility. One particularly slippery Chilean, with a never say die spirit, did side step his way out and sadly was last seen being hit by one of the large armoured men who unholstered his large stick ( exhibiting lathe turned Rococo nodules ) and hit the brave man whose attempted exit was foiled in a most painful manner. The next shot from TV news was of head bowed individuals in a small dark bus who were going to miss the game live, and miss it on TV. I did of course deplore the antics of the Chileans but an anarchic element in me voted them my number two most favoured travelling supporter base.

Now let me return to the non travelling supporter base. The Brazilians. They attend all games as neutrals in large numbers and get behind the underdogs (while wearing Brazilian shirts ). They have been great hosts of the tournament. I have found them all friendly and helpful. On match days, there are masses of volunteers positioned at every bend in the road, every corner, every train platform, any potential spot for a tourist misstep; they are present indicating directions with oversized polystyrene hands emblazoned with the FIFA logo and colours. They all wear T shirts that say something like Puedo Ayudar? and I have found them all friendly and ayudar-ful.

The Maracana

The Maracana

The broadcast before arriving covered strikes and protests. I have seen some graffiti that is unwelcoming, but very little of it. I have seen only one demonstration that was pitifully small and enormously outnumbered by police who were tolerant and relaxed. I have seen two further very small groups of overseas visitors making political statements in the hope that they will be picked up by the media. Most locals do seem to have a pride in their country and their city and even if there is weakness or inconsistency in these two there is most certainly universal pride in Brazil the football team. When Brazil play it is quite a different type of a day. Shirts are worn as a uniform by most people on the street. As the hour of the match gets closer, it is as if people are preparing for a typhoon coming. There is rushing through the streets , the supermarket has long queues of shoppers, like Christmas Eve and the turkey has to be acquired. Taxis are usually plentiful but before the game there are people madly waving arms at any that pass , which is fruitless as they are already full. People have to get to where they go to watch the game, the beach, the bar, their friends, Fan Fest. Once the game starts , it is a different Rio de Janeiro. It is Rio after the people have left. Streets fall silent , roads have few cars upon them , businesses have closed for the day or the duration. I watched a Brazil game in a restaurant and all was fine until kick off. I should add that this was a very decent restaurant with linen and a very decent price for its offerings. After kick off it would have been to insult the staff to ask for service. There was a quick and temporary resumption of service at half time and then the second half was a repeat withdrawal of labour by all restaurant staff. All had come into the restaurant and seated themselves behind the paying customers. I thought it was fantastic that the game could brake the nations activity so totally and be enjoyed in such an egalitarian manner as customers and dishwashers all sat front of house to watch Brazil win. So for fabulous hosting and a passion that could easily be described as an obsession; I have to have Brazilian supporters up as my most favoured.

Porto Alegre. The most attractive of stadiums

Porto Alegre. The most attractive of stadiums

 

So finally my most favoured group of visiting supporters. The Argentinians. They are testament to the good health of the secondary market in ticket sales for FIFA events. At many games the ticket allocation of the FIFA ballot is apparent from the positioning of the fans in two or three blocks. At an Argentinian game the blue and white envelops the ground. The Brazilians may not like the Argentinians but there is no enmity in the marketplace where tickets have moved in tune to an economic beat, samba to tango. And such fans. On Copacabana beach the Argentinians created a home from home as they lined up campervans in the parking spots and began hanging out clothes, cooking meals and sleeping. A true squatocracy that chose as its venue a most desirable piece of real estate. And then to further accentuate their temporary occupation they hung flags from everything to flutter in a defiant breeze. The police seemed to tolerate all of this. And so too in Porto Alegre. No beachside position this time but occupation of petrol stations along Camino Gol that is the four kilometre road to the ground. While Porto Alegre was a bit more squalid than Copacabana beach the same cheery spirit permeated the gypsy sites.

Argentine camp site Porto Alegre

Argentine camp site Porto Alegre

Not only do I like the Argentinians for their arbitrary campsites, but also they do know how to sing. Not just singing, but the dancing that accompanies.
The dancing is best described as bouncing. The hand motions have got to be mastered , the arm aloft is thrust forward. The wrist must be flexible if not liquid to create a boneless quivering as it moves up and down with the arm motion.Please do practice this at home, because it is only after you have perfected the dance movements can you move onto the song.

The song, if you are ready. After winning, in anticipation of winning, and before the game starts, there is a song that can go for ten minutes of repetition……don’t forget the accompanying whole of body bouncing, together with arm aloft forward and back to the beat of the music and liquid wrist….sorry we’ve mastered that bit already.

Firstly acquaint yourself with the tune. It is a classic, Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clear Water Revival. Internationally understood and well known to any with access to a Gold FM radio channel at drive time. I will assume you are acquainted with the traditional lyric set.

Now for a replacement set of lyrics that have been penned specifically for the tournament. Attribution here to my three friends from a pub in Buenos Aires who shared an apartment with me in Porto Alegre…..they did not invent the words you understand, but they helped me write them down using very, very, slow latino spanish …….and they provided an all important interpretation……an english translation is insufficient , very insufficient when it comes to explaining this song.

So here goes in spanish:

Brasil decime que se siente
tener en casa a tu papa
Te juro que aunque pasen los anos
nunca nos vemos a olvidar
Que Diego los gambeteo , el Cani los vacuno, estan llorando desde Italia hasta hoy
A Messi lo vas a ver, la Copa nos va a traer
Maradona es mas grande que Pele

In translation [and interpretation]

Brazil tell me how it feels
To have your father in the house [ the father being the better more experienced one. A reference to the fact that Argentina have beaten Brazil more times than vice versa and the father here being Argentina playing in Brazil]
I swear to you that in the passing of the years
nothing will see us forget
Diego dribbled and Cani scored, its been tears from Italy until today [ Reference the 1990 World Cup where Argentina beat Brazil, 1:0 in the round of 16……Cani scored, being Claudio Caniggia]
You are going to see Messi, We are going to take the Cup
Maradona is bigger than Pele …………[a bit of an unnecessary and unfriendly concluding remark which is also incorrect in my personal, non Argentinian, view]

As at today my World Cup supporters table is as follows:

1. Argentina
1. Brazil
3. Chile
4. Colombia
5. Greece
6. Algeria
7. Bosnia
8. Iran
9. Nigeria
10. Spain
11. Belgium
12. Russia

Keep watching this space. With two weeks to go and much whim to apply there could be enormous upheavals in rankings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard