Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vai ter Copa - São Paulo

I admit it; I'm excited for the World Cup. It's 16 days to go, I've got my Uruguay, Brazil and US shirts, my tickets to Argentina-Iran, and Shakira just released her video so I don't have to watch Pitbull and J-Lo anymore. It's time to look forward and not back at the $7000000000 zillion that was wasted.

As many of you who follow me know, I don't really like watching soccer--yeah, I liked playing it as a kid, and I'm pretty much party rice at any Palmeiras game at Pacaembu but generally, nah. So, if I'm not watching it for the football, why am I so excited?

Well, I'll tell you. In a list. Here are my top 5 reasons for me to be excited about the World Cup.

In first place, I love the human stories. The teeny-tiny teams.  The African teams. The also-rans. The ones without a hope of winning, but every bit excited about playing. My current top three:

1. Iran. Okay, so I'm American and a woman so you'd think that I wouldn't have much sympathy for these guys...but then came the "human interest story" earlier this month. The Iranian players are forbidden from trading their uniform shirts at the end of games because they don't have enough funds to buy tons of extra shirts (say, where is that oil money?) And there's a funny story about the goalie washing his own shirt and it shrinking. And then of course the jokes about the shirts being white and red and the chances of them being pink by the end: high. How can you not feel for them? I do. Well, okay, I don't want them to win, but I love that they are at the World Cup (I do realize they beat the US in 1998. S*** happens). 

Dear players: wash those socks separately in cold water.
2. Cote d'Ivoire. The elephants. Well, of COURSE I like this team as their mascot and nickname is the Elephants. As I said, I am pre-disposed to love any of the African teams because of their David & Goliath nature next to the big teams. They have qualified for three consecutive World Cups--wouldn't it be fun if they made it out of the group stage? I think so too. A new house of orange. Plus with names like Boubacar Barry, or Sol Bamba or Yaya Touré, how can you not want to yell out your cheers? And I like Drogba. Not his name. But the captain is 36 years old. Love. 15 million population, a recent civil war, an agriculture-reliant economy; a good football campaign would be GREAT for them. Go, pachyderms!

3. Costa Rica. The Ticos (what this means, I dunno) Again, here is this tiny nation that has to fight against the US and Mexico in CONCACAF. And they are in one of the two groups of death this time around: seriously, the poor kids are against England, Uruguay and Italy in the group stage. Hello? The other three teams own seven world cups between them. I definitely cheer for them against Italy which I consider staffed heavily by big dramatic babies, and against England just because I am guaranteed to get the most comments from my Brit friends about this. Uruguay I cover later. Other tidbits about Costa Rica: it is the only Latin American country to have a democracy since before 1950, and in 1949, it abolished its army. This may not be good in case they win against Italy and the bambini invade.

Next, the team that makes Brazilians cringe almost as much as their Argentinian neighbors. The team that beat them on home turf in 1950.  And no, it's not just about Diego Forlán (yay, another post where I get to put a gratuitous photo of my main soccer squeeze), but about the history and the fact that this soccer powerhouse IS teeny-tiny too.

4.Uruguay. La Celeste. This country is the king of cute. Literally. It has 3.25 million people (in São Paulo, that is roughly the number of people who commute from one side of the city to another on a daily basis). It is the smallest country to have won the world cup--it had 1.75 million people when it won in 1930. They knocked Brazil on its keister in 1950 when they came from behind to win--and the architect of the winning goal is still alive and coming for the World Cup. Yikes for him. Now, I admit I am not a big fan of the muncher named Luis Suarez but it looks like he may not make it anyway. Cavani is fun to watch and I think we don't need to review my Diego Forlán obsession. Listen, the man is 35 years old and won the golden boot in 2010 so it's not all a pretty face. Anyway, if you want to seem smart about football, know that Uruguay is bigger than it seems on paper.

And the most important reason of all: Those for whom the Cup has still the magic and joy.

5. The seniors and the kids. Yesterday I picked up my World Cup tickets from the distribution center in Ibirapuera. As we waited for the doors to open, I watched the 8 or so 70+ year old men in the priority line talk about watching World Cups since they were televised. Most only heard 1950's World Cup on the radio. They had stuff to say about Pele, about Garrincha, about everyone I never knew I knew--and their eyes sparkled with excitement to see the Cup in Brazil. Dear protestors: do not take the joy from these men. And possibly women though there were none there that day.

And of course, my sons. Especially the blond one whose favorite player is Lionel Messi from Argentina. My sons are seven years old. They think farts are funny, that the world revolves around them, and that soccer stars are gods. What great good fortune that they are able to be part of the magic of a live game.

So that's it. Those are my top five reasons that I am happy that there will be a World Cup here. Vai ter Copa. Vai. And I am pretty darned excited about it.

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