Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Imagine the World Cup - São Paulo

Last night I went to a soccer (yes, yes, futebol) game with my husband, who is a lifelong fan of Palmeiras, one of four São Paulo teams. Three of the SP teams hate each other--when they play each other, it is called a "Classico" or "classic" game. I call it "Not-a-chance-I-am-going." Fights, major police presence, ugliness.

So last night was not a classic. It was the oitavo (ummm, it's not quarter-finals, what is it? Eighths?) finais of Libertadores. I can't even go into that or my post will run to 10 pages. It was a very important game. Tijuana was the visiting team; they had possibly, rounding up, four fans in the stadium. I only went to the game because my husband bleeds green for Palmeiras, and because it was in Pacaembu Stadium which is possibly my very favorite in the world after Wrigley Field (that's baseball for you non-Americans).

Anyhow, the game started at 10 pm. It starts so late so it doesn't compete with the evening novela (soap opera). The 8 o'clock novela, that is, which actually starts at 9 pm. Do not attempt to figure that out. I can see why they don't want the competition--soccer is actually a 1.5 hour novela complete with crying, acting, faking, good guys and villains, and lots and lots of drama. The Tijuana team was writhing on the ground more than it was actually on its feet. But I get ahead of myself.

We arrived around 9 pm in the neighborhood of the stadium. There is no official parking around the stadium, but you park in the winding streets of Perdizes/Pompeia/Pacaembu. We parked on a small side street, gave a thumbs up to the "guarda" of the street who looks out for your car (more on this another day) and hoofed it about 10 minutes to the stadium, gathering more and more green-shirted friends along the way.

When we got to the stadium, it was not clear where to get our tickets. My husband had just joined Avanti, their fan club, and his official card hadn't arrived. So we waited in one line as instructed for fifteen minutes before being told it was another line on the other side of the stadium and then had to go back to the original line for another 30 minutes. As the folks in front of us and behind us and all around us said: "Imagina na Copa" (Imagine during the world cup, due next year in Brazil). We all laugh about the incompetence--bonding moment.

The line was very strictly kept--surprisingly no line jumpers--though there were a few men hopping in and out to use the tree bathrooms in the close-by woods. The smell of all sports stadiums of the world: pee. Ah, that reminds me--a huge difference between US and Brazil sports games: I didn't see a single drunken fan. During the whole night. They don't serve beer in the stadium--well of course with soccer there is no "time-out" or replay so how would you find a moment to get your hot dog and beer?

At the door, there are military police in riot gear (okay, they put their little shields aside) who pat you down. Since there was no female military police there, I got to miss the patting. Last time I went to a game, about four weeks ago, the MP practically smacked me on the chest and on the thighs hard enough to have set off any fireworks hidden. I didn't have any. Then the fancy digital ticket machine did not work and I got waved in anyway. Excellent security. Imagina na Copa!

We arrived just as the National Hymn was going (I mean no offense to Brazil here but I find your national hymn totally out of keeping with the upbeat music I know here. I always expect Napoleon to show up on a horse or something). After a brief confusion with seats, we sat down at the opening kick. Great seats at midfield. There are no bad seats at Pacaembu.

What a scene! A stadium awash in green, singing and chanting and bouncing. First we sang "Olé, Olé, Porco Porco!" which is roughly translated "Olé, olé, pig, pig." That is the unofficial mascot of Palmeiras--apparently they were called piggish fans many years ago so they now live the dream. Once in a while someone smuggles in an actual baby pig and lets it go on the field. More drama.

I won't go into the game. First of all because I don't understand most of it. Like when someone said that the goalie had made a "frango" or chicken. Apparently he missed the ball badly. What does the chicken have to do with it? Also, I learned some new swear words, which after five years here, I thought I had learned them all. No. I asked my husband several times what one or the other comment meant (usually these swears were directed at the referee) and he would pause each time and answer "ummm, go f* yourself, ref!" There are apparently 400 synonyms for this phrase. My husband was pretty well behaved--he never criticized the other team, but did give some serious shouted counseling to the Palmeiras players. Him and 35, 000 other fans.

There are no cheerleaders in Brazil. Or are there? Half of the cheap seats were taken by "Mancha Verde" (umm, "Green Stain"?), Palmeiras' official cheering squad. The photo above is of that section--you can only see the Mancha sign at the bottom--not easy to take a photo with the stadium's bright lights. They jumped up and down the entire game singing. They rolled out a huge banner that covered them, they rolled down enormous ribbons, they blew up and let go 100 huge green white and red balloons (Palmeiras has a lot of Italian-descent fans) and sang and sang. And beat drums. And whistled LOUDLY when they didn't like a call or a play. That is a huge difference here and I love it. There is no booing, only whistling when they think a call or play is bad. Ear-splitting whistling. They especially whistled the really weird Tijuana goalie for delay of game several times--he would take forever to kick out of goal, and then he would take these silly mincing steps. I was cracking up.

In spite of all the loud and gesticulated prayers to God, Palmeiras lost. 2-1. Possibly had a goal nullified that was good, had a really bad goalie mistake that won it for the Mexicans, generally played defense instead of offense for the entire game. All I know is that the Palmeiras fans were not so happy with their team. For a short while in the second half, I thought all the Palmeiras players were brothers with the last name of "filhodaputa" but then I realized that no....that was just the most popular nickname for them. They played badly. One of the guys named Souza will want to change his home address.

Okay, that's it. Long one today, no?  Lots of fun. Think I'll go again but not for a "classico"! And of course, Imagina na Copa!!