A fan from Brazil watches the broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match between Brazil and Serbia at the FIFA Fan Festival, in Vale do Anhangabau, Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 24, 2022 – Copyright AFP/File –
Wearing yellow and green bikinis, Neymar jerseys and resplendent tops straight from carnival, the Brazilians called it quits on Thursday to watch the national team make their highly anticipated World Cup debut, exploding in celebration of their opening victory.
Gathered in front of a giant screen on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach, in the middle of what would normally be a work day, fans of all ages cheered Brazil’s 2-0 soccer victory over Serbia and allowed themselves dreaming of a record sixth World Cup title could be on the horizon.
Standing on the seaside avenue in his Brazil jersey, construction worker Benildo Ferreira erupted with joy at the second of two goals, both scored by Tottenham Hotspur striker Richarlison.
“I was worried” during the goalless first half, Ferreira, 51, told AFP as fireworks went off overhead.
“But Brazil is going to reach the final and we are going to win.”
It was an agonizing wait for many in Brazil, a country passionate about soccer, whose feverish passion at World Cup times often draws comparisons to a nation going to war.
Milton de Souza nervously waved his caipirinha at a seaside bar as he waited for the opening goal.
“We just have to be patient,” said the 58-year-old retiree, who was dressed in green and yellow, as virtually the entire country seemed to be.
He was cautious on the question of whether the “Selecao” could end their 20-year title drought.
“Nothing is safe in football.”
Others already dared to dream.
“The Cup is ours this year, without a doubt,” said Marcos Vinicius, 23, who accurately predicted a Richarlison brace before the game.
– Ghost towns –
Meanwhile, the city centers of Rio, Sao Paulo and other centers of Latin America’s biggest economy turned into ghost towns when Brazil stopped to watch the game.
Street food vendor Kaua Suárez, 19, and three customers huddled around a cellphone he had propped up at his hot dog stand, watching the game in Rio’s nearly deserted city center.
“I had to work, so I found a way to watch anyway. I am going to watch all the games, regardless of the time,” she said.
“Soccer is the dream of all children in the favelas of Brazil. We are crazy about it. Brazilians are born loving soccer”.
Even the president-elect, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, took a break from political haggling before his January 1 inauguration to observe.
He tweeted a photo of himself and his wife in national team jerseys, a TV in the background, with the message: “Congratulations Brazil. On my way to title number six!
– Enough politics –
Meanwhile, the small army of vendors selling World Cup jerseys, flags, scarves, caps and a host of other items were happy that Lula’s victory in Brazil’s divisive October election had finally ended the taboo on wear yellow and green, the colors that defeated the extreme right. President Jair Bolsonaro and his followers had adopted it as their own.
“People were resistant. They really waited until the last minute to buy (yellow and green clothes), because of the political situation,” said vendor Giselle de Freitas, 41, who sold a large number of earrings, tiaras and other accessories in Copacabana.
For most, World Cup fever won out in the end.
However, not for everyone.
The hotel’s doorman, Osvaldo Alves, a thin 74-year-old man with wispy white hair and a bright red uniform, was one of the few who did not watch the game.
“The country always leaves everything behind when the ‘Selecao’ plays. We sit there to watch football and we don’t fix any of our problems,” he said from his post at the downtown hotel where he works.
“It is a disease that Brazil has. Brazilians are crazy about soccer.”