Seriously, these pre-season workouts are making me really tired, and I am only watching. I would need 911 on speed dial if I was anything but a spectator, but I digress. Being an Arizona kid, Carlie isn’t used to working out under humid conditions, so she’s learning how East Coast people sweat. After all of that and breakfast—and with face paint and Sergio Ramos jersey on (see photo), we were ready to make our early departure to Arena Fonte Nova for our first match: Spain vs. Holland.
Among the many interesting people we’ve met so far are a nice group of Germans. Three strapping young club soccer players from the homeland, and their Uncle (and chaperone) from Las Vegas—a soccer ref intimately familiar with SC del Sol. This would not prove to be our last “it’s a small world” moment (more on that later). Upon the sensible advice of the Germans (they’re known for that, right?) we had our taxi drop us at Historico Centro, given its reasonable proximity to the arena (<2 km) and traffic concerns in and around Fonte Nova. Plus which word was out that a secure pedestrian corridor would be available for those taking this route.
Another solid piece of advice, this from our hotel next-door neighbors (a U of A grad from Texas and his Chicago-based sidekick we met at breakfast) goes like this: “Follow the Dutch!” Decked out in all manner of bright orange, they travel in great numbers and are simply impossible to miss here. And so we did as we were told, although it would have been impossible to do otherwise, and it worked perfectly.
For those back home “sick with worry”, you’ll be glad to hear (as we were happy to see), the overwhelming show of security forces on display, particularly along the aforementioned pedestrian route, in and around the popular tourist spots and, of course, at the FIFA Fan Fest venues. A number of different agencies are present, including, local and federal policia, along with the military. They are not only heavily armed, but also fully armored, helmeted and intimidating. It seems to be doing the trick, so we feel very safe here—although not having arrived to Rio yet we will update this if and when it becomes necessary.
On to the match! When you anticipate an event like this for so long, often times the event itself falls short of your built-up expectations. Suffice it to say that DID NOT happen here. OK, the arena concessions were for the most part shuttered (oddly), and the few that were open ran out of food before halftime, but that would have to be our singular complaint. It was beyond trivial. Carlie even quickly moved past the 5-1 result for Team Ramos, with some modest rationalization (i.e., they’ve dug a big hole, but are still in it). If they don’t make it through I hope we’re already back in the U.S. when it becomes official.
We have to make special note of another “small world” moment that occurred prior to kick-off. Occupying the three seats next to us were three members of the Deckey clan hailing from Yuma, AZ. Grandpa Deckey had taken his two grandsons, Ben, a rising H.S. senior and Dave, a rising senior at Brown, to Brazil for the World Cup. Of course the small world is much smaller than this: Dave Deckey knows Lizzie Sturr, also a rising senior at Brown, who Carlie met during her freshman year at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, where they played together on the varsity soccer team. There is yet more: As many of you know, Carlie spends considerable time at her Mom’s 2nd home in La Jolla, CA, which is one town away from Del Mar, where the Sturrs have their 2nd home, which is one town away from Solana Beach, where the Deckeys have their 2nd home. I guess you would call this a “holy small world shit” moment…
We could say so much more, but it’s hard to describe so many “holy shit” soccer moments in words. You can read all of that in the paper anyway, so I will try to reserve my color commentary to off-the field activities. Carlie will also post some clips from the GoPro video we shot on the way into the arena and during the match. This is really the best way to understand what we experienced firsthand, so enjoy the photos posted here for now, and check back in a day or two for some great footage.
I almost forgot about the after-party. The sea of orange seemed to be lingering in their seats after the final whistle, so we took a calculated risk to get ahead of the Dutch, and were happy we did. The pedestrian route back to Centro Historico was once again lined with the aforementioned security forces, so passage was safe and pleasant, with local residents out on their porches, on their balconies and hanging out of seemingly every available window taking pictures, waving and generally enjoying the massive incursion through their charming streets.
Once in the heart of the historical district we ducked down one of the many side streets lined with shops, restaurants and—at least at this moment—café tables that were only about ½-full. Famished due to the concession problem at the arena, we quickly grabbed one in reasonable proximity to one of the many flat screen TV’s that had been dragged outside and propped up on tables to allow diners to enjoy the matches. Next up was Chile vs. Australia at 7:00 PM, so some of those fans were just getting situated. But this is an after-party, so it is not about them.
Within a short time of our ordering a cold beer to share, which arrived in the 20-some odd ounce “bomber” variety, perusing the menu and deciding upon two varieties of pasta for dinner, the Dutch began to arrive in large waves. Given the narrowness of the streets, and with café tables on both sides, they carved a narrow, virtually single file path down the middle of the street, singing, chanting and generally rejoicing about a result that was surely beyond any of their expectations. We heard the now familiar “DI-AY-GO…DI-AH-GO” chant, referring to Spanish striker Diego Costa, who holds dual citizenship in Brazil yet opted to pledge his allegiance to La Roja, and some funny and impromptu verses about how España had lost and the typical revelry you would expect from supporters of the winning side after an event such as this.
As you can plainly see, the Dutch are an entertaining and enjoyable bunch, and so it was all quite cordial and generally good-natured, including the banter between they and the much smaller group of Spain fans who did not immediately run for the cover of their hotels. The atmosphere was electric, and we enjoyed every minute of it. All of this was made possible of course because this time, we did not “Follow the Dutch!”
Final score: Netherlands 5 – Spain 1