“I’m the happiest man in the world,” admitted Steven, a Belgian barman working in Rio de Janeiro since 2012. “I’ve lived here for two years and of course was really excited about the World Cup – but I didn’t have any tickets.
“A group of Australians came into the bar and they had a spare for Belgium’s match with Russia. They could have sold it for $300. But instead they told me I could have it if I made them the perfect Bloody Mary. I don’t know if it was perfect, but it was good enough for them and now I’m dropping everything to go.”
Steven works at the McCoy’s Local, an English style pub in the upmarket Rio district of Ipanema. Resplendent with dartboard and a British menu, it had its fair share of England supporters, although was filled with locals as much as visiting fans.
“I like to play darts,” Fabio, a Brazilian, told me. “This is one of the few places in Rio you can do that.”
It may seem unusual to choose to attend an English pub while in Rio, but there was a method to this madness. England had just gone out of the World Cup after a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay was followed by victory for Costa Rica over Italy. Many England fans had recently returned to Rio from Sao Paulo, where the match took place, and I wanted to see how the post-exit post-mortem was going.
“We went to Sao Paulo but I couldn’t get a ticket so watched it in a local bar,” Stuart, 34, from Stoke told me. “To be honest I don’t remember much of the game, I’d just arrived in Brazil and was a bit all over the place, but the atmosphere was incredible."
His travelling companion Matthew Ellis had been in Brazil for nine days. He had a ticket, and said that – while the football was a negative for England fans – the experience was second to none.
“I had a ticket for the Uruguay game, and it was the first football match my friend Kieran had ever been to,” Matthew, also 34 and from Stoke said. “He’s into motorsports but came along because it was Brazil. He said it was the best time he’d ever had, even though we’d lost.
“While the football has been a bit of a negative for England fans, the country is fantastic. We were in Recife for the Italy game in Manaus, and watched it in the fanzone. We’re trying to see as much of Brazil as possible. It’s a beautiful country.”
— Reda Maher (@Reda_Eurosport) June 22, 2014
I touched on the slightly more adventurous tone of England fans at this tournament in a previous article. Matt had been to previous World Cups in Germany and Japan/Korea, and felt that this one was the best yet. He is hoping that, despite being a “nothing game”, the match with Costa Rica will be a good occasion nonetheless.
“We’re going to Belo Horizonte for the match, and we’re just hoping it’s a party for both teams," he said. “We’ve met Costa Rican people travelling around Brazil and they’re wonderful, hospitable people. Hopefully they want a party, and we want a party.
"I don’t think anyone will be aggressive and it should be loads of fun. Sao Paulo has a bit of a dodgy undercurrent but there’s no pressure and Belo Horizonte is relaxed so it should be superb.”
Back home in England, fans and press are dissecting the team’s failure. But fans in Brazil are refusing to get downhearted.
“If we were back home we’d probably be crying into our beers. But we’re in Rio and there’s no time to be negative. Roy Hodgson’s the right man for the job. The problem with English football is that clubs are foreign owned, foreign run and foreign staffed. It’s a global product – the focus isn’t on developing English players. So we need someone like Roy, who can structure the game from top to bottom, and we need to trust him.”
Stuart interjected that Hodgson had respect from most of the clubs he has worked with.
“West Brom fans swear by him, and I imagine it’s the same for Fulham,” he suggested. “That’s what England’s level is compared to the top teams, and long-term he will take us in the right direction. But none of that matters now – we’re in Brazil, the pressure is off, and now we can just enjoy ourselves.”
- Sports & Recreation