The highly-anticipated World Cup 2014 has finally kicked off in the land of samba, favelas, caipirinhas, dental-floss bikinis, and all those other clichés. You know where I’m talking about.
Yesterday, we had a rather artistic opening ceremony, with beautiful Brazilians dressed in flower and water and tree costumes; Amerindians in canoes; and lots of children from São Paulo doing acrobatics and dancing. I am a bit of a sucker for that kind of thing. I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it ended with a performance by an unsmiling J-Lo in green sequins, a smiling woman in blue sequins and a superfluous man (sorry, I cannot remember their names). It was, eventually, a relief when the first game started – a predictable win for the home team. Neymar, who always looks very much on edge, has now scored 33 goals in 50 appearances at age 22. He’s intense.
What really delighted me though, were the comments of numerous Twitter friends, at home and abroad. When Brazil’s baby-faced Oscar started to impress, one tweeted: “Oscar is playing the greatest game an 8-year-old child has ever played in the whole history of the World Cup.” Someone else responded: “I thought he was nine.” (By the way, can anyone answer this question – it’s one that has been bugging me for literally years. Why do Brazilian footballers only ever have one name? Is it just a nickname, like “Hulk” or “Fred” – both of whom were pretty uninspiring yesterday, incidentally).
But my Jamaican Twitter friends kept me amused during the game. One genius realized the Croatian jersey (and of course, also their flag) was an exact replica of… National Bakery’s Giant Hardo Bread. For my non-Jamaican readers, hardo is a very solid white bread – very solid and delicious when very fresh. I laughed out loud.
The fun on Twitter continued throughout today. There were numerous comments on the lugubrious expression on the face of Cameroon coach Volker Finke. It seems that he barely moved, spoke or even paused to wipe the interminable rain off his face throughout the match. He stood, arms folded, as the Indomitable Lions on the bench behind him began to look increasingly gloomy. I really do hope they win at least one match, or score a few goals, this time around. 2010 was depressing for them.
Twitter really took flight (if that is the right expression) when the big game between Spain and Netherlands began. A number of Jamaicans are supporting España, but they grew very quiet during the second half, when the Dutch began their goal rampage. There were rather unkind photos of Spain’s defense – an empty goal, one populated with goats, etc.
And after Robin Van Persie’s extraordinary header – he is now stuck with the name “The Flying Dutchman,” I’m afraid – numerous pictures circulated of the airborne Dutchman propelled across Rio and into the stratosphere, like Superman on a mission.
One of my wittiest Jamaican tweeps posted a photo of Jamaicans hopping on the Netherlands bandwagon. Another friend of mine is unabashedly “waggonist,” to coin a Jamaican phrase, happily changing her allegiance depending on which team is winning and, of course, announcing the new team of affection on Twitter.
But of course, the fans are always amazing, whichever team they are supporting. A small group of Cameroonians sat in a sea of Mexicans, getting wetter and wetter, but undaunted. They still managed to smile. The Mexican fans themselves seemed to get weirder in the second half, stripping off to their waists (might as well, the rain continued) and donning creepy masks, transforming into those manic wrestlers you see on TV. Spanish fans wore crowns (although their monarchy is going through rough times). And the Brazilian fans, of course, are everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and at various stages of craziness.
But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? We’re all football crazy.