Sat | Dec 4, 2021

More than football

Published:Wednesday | June 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

SALVADOR, Brazil:

It's still early in World Cup 2014. All countries' chances are alive to win sport's greatest tournament. But vital lessons have already been learnt in Brazil.

To visitors, those who spare time to look past the pomp and staged celebrations, it's clear protesters, angered by huge spending to put on the football tournament, make a valid point.

While foreigners come for a monthlong dosage of 'Joga Bonito' and millionaires turn billionaires by skimming the event, others are frightened by Brazil's sore sights - rundown favelas spread across the world's fifth largest country. A walk across the street divides the hip and affluent touristy section of Bahia here, with its reputation for non-stop partying, from burnt-out, crumbling flats that house many residents.

Yet the World Cup is about football, no? Si! In the midst of turmoil over politics, Copa Mundo is rising into an astonishing spectacle. Plenty goals and exciting play already mark the event (excuse us, please, Nigeria vs Iran). Big surprises, too. Who

knew The Netherlands would dump on champions Spain? Or Portugal, armed with the World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, would flatline against Germany? The ball, Jamaicans like to say, is round.

Most fans are happy, though, except those shafted in ticket mix-ups. Differences, if only for a while, melt. More smile than not. Everybody learns.

Who here hasn't taken a lesson from Japanese fans who cleaned up Arena Pernambuco in Recife after the Blue Samurais lost to Cte d'Ivoire Coast? It's their way. A good way.

Then there's the bad way. Like the French guy who offers a ticket which cost a couple hundred United States dollars for sale at US$1,000 on the sidewalk in front of Arena Fonte Nova here, while a small army of security forces stand by in front of homes where that money could probably pay rent for a year.

Then there's the German man who went to Rio de Janeiro because he wanted to swim at the famous beach all his life, only to find he shouldn't take off his street clothes fearing robbers would steal his wallet and passport.

But if you've seen Robin van Persie's exquisite diving header, the incredible spirit of the US team against Ghana, passionate face-painted, patriotic, flag-waving mad fans and the love rival players show for each other after each game, you understand why people come.

For the cynics, even the stupidity of Portugal's Pepe for headbutting Germany's Thomas Müller brings joy.

Ah, it's the World Cup. So much more than football.