As surely everybody knows by now, Your Life Is An Impossibility spent last year, perhaps the longest of his weary life, living in Goiânia, in the desolate mid-western flatlands of Brazil. For all its many charms (cows, country and western duos, and, um, plastic models of cows), Goiânia is not what one would describe as a footballing hotbed. And as some may have noticed, YLIAI is quite partial to the odd bit of football. Therein lies the rub, caralho, as some old goat once said.
Only the sweet tedium of life in Goiânia can explain the giddiness with which, in December last year, as soon as tickets for the unlovely beast that is the Copa das Confederações went on sale, YLIAI whipped out his credit card (a copper-bottomed bargain at a mere 122% interest p.a.) and promptly handed over the price of a couple of PatekCaliber 89s, all for the pleasure of attending three Confederações games in Belo Horizonte this June.
Ah, what fevered nights YLIAI passed between then and now, fitfully tossing and turning, mind racing as he imagined the treats that lay in store! Perhaps he would see Spain, and their diminutive midfield whizzes! Perhaps he would be treated to the homoerotic joys of those chisel-jawed Italians, not to mention the King of Bahia, the magnificent Mario Balotelli! Perhaps he would get a glimpse of the Seleção itself, and be left wordless by the glorious sight of Hulk´s gigantic gluteus maximus!
Not quite. The lottery of life, or FIFA, gave YLIAI not so much the short straw as the raised finger. Tahiti x Nigeria was a laugher in both the literal and idiomatic sense, but once the chuckles had worn off, with only 20,000 rattling gloomily round the Mineirão, it was hardly the stuff of which YLIAI´s dreams are made. Still, YLIAI suspects that compared to the stultifying fare that is likely to be Mexico x Japan today (no offense to this blog’s vast Mexican and Japanese fan base intended), Tahiti x Nigeria will soon come to represent some kind of footballing golden age.
But he will never know, for he (gasp!) shall not be in attendance.
Because in the middle of the tsunami of protests currently sweeping his adopted home, it feels to YLIAI like the Copa das Confederações has been swept away like a house made of straw. Before, the talk of the country’s bar-room bores (and YLIAI proudly counts himself among such ranks) was of Cavani’s luxurious tresses, Pirlo’s sculpted chin, Neymar’s ragamuffin charm and faint whiff of sexual deviancy, and absurdly expensive new football stadiums. Now it is of Feliciano’s faint whiff of sexual deviancy, Calheiros’ sculpted chin, PEC 37’s luxurious tresses, this, and absurdly expensive new football stadiums.
While YLIAI has enjoyed odd moments of the Confederações, and would even venture to say that the football on display has occasionally been spectacular, it is clear that the rather 40 watt importance of the tournament has been obliterated by the sound and fury in the streets outside the grounds. And even when the stage has been grand, the protests have taken over. The Brazil x Mexico game in Fortaleza was surely more notable for the crowd’s rousing and prolonged signing of the national anthem, than for anything that happened on the pitch (Neymar’s ragamuffin charm and faint whiff of sexual deviancy, and the magnificent beast that is #JôSeleção, aside).
And there’s more. While the urban myths of just what happens when the FIFA alien mothership touches down on the soil of the lucky, lucky country that gets to host a World Cup are legend, not much prepares your common or garden merry luddite football fan (such as YLIAI) for the true claw-the-skin-from-your-face-horror of attending such games.
As previously mentioned, on Monday YLIAI attended the Tahiti x Nigeria game in Belo Horizonte. All started normally enough – the traffic was awful and the driver of the specially laid on “fan bus” got lost and dropped YLIAI and his fellow passengers off in the wrong place. Which was where the fun began. As YLIAI started to walk down Avenida Antonio Carlos in the direction of the stadium, he was prodded in the chest by a surly member of the local municipal guard.
“You can’t walk down this pavement,” he said. The pavement lay enticingly ahead of YLIAI, gleaming, pristine, tantalisingly out of reach.
“Why not?” YLIAI queried.
“You have to walk down that pavement,” the guard said, pointing to the pavement in the middle of the avenue, flanked by three lanes of roaring traffic on either side. This pavement had been fenced off to form a kind of cattle run. The cattle run led onto to a flyover, which curled up and over Antonio Carlos, then descended from a dizzying height to the left, joining Rua Antonio Abrahão Caram, the road that leads to the Mineirão. YLIAI is no mathematician, but he estimated that the cattle run and the flyover, from which there would be no chance of escape until he reached the gates of the stadium itself, looked about twice as long as simply walking down the pavement in front of him, and then turning left.
“Can´t I just walk down here?” YLIAI asked. “It’s a lot quicker.”
No match for such sharp wit, a defeated YLIAI trudged forlornly down the cattle run. And kept on trudging. And trudged some more. In total, it was about 30 minutes of trudging until the Mineirão. And YLIAI is a fast trudger. Along the way, shops, bars and restaurants were shuttered tight, victims of FIFA’s no-fly zone. Not that it would have mattered – YLIAI couldn’t have escaped from the cattle run to buy something even if he’d wanted to.
Still, the Mineirão itself looked pretty spiffy. As did the Emirates Airline stalls (handy if YLIAI had recklessly decided “Tahiti x Nigeria be damned! Fly me to Dubai this instant!”) and a rather alarming Budweiser bar, which looked like a cross between Castle Grayskull and a nuclear warship, and poured forth pumpin’ euro trance as well-dressed youngsters lolled smugly outside. YLIAI considered the idea of sipping on a chilled “Bud” with the peachy skinned young people, and perhaps even “cutting a bit of a rug” to the pumpin´ euro trance, but then thought that perhaps there might be a FIFA spy or two lurking nearby, who would immediately identify YLIAI as a “weird old fart” and eject him from the premises.
For similar reasons, YLIAI thought it best to skip the rather terrifying looking “interactive fan experiences” dotted around the ground, and which looked like good places to lose an eye or two. Instead, he hurried through the airport style metal detectors (“keys and cell phone in the tray please sir”) and on into the stadium. He did not stop for a R$12 beer or a R$10 ice lolly.
Inside the ground, YLIAI was relieved to find things were much like they usually are in Brazilian football – a big rectangle of grass, 22 players, a half empty stadium. He also made a mental note to congratulate FIFA on their decision to make all stadium announcements in English first, then in Portuguese. He imagined briefly the cries of “O que significa “Fire! Fire! Please evacuate the stadium immediately?”" from Brazilian fans, the flames licking their boots, as their gringo neighbours clamber over them in the race to escape. Then it was on to the game, which has been previously discussed, if not at great length, then certainly as much as it’s going to be.
Taking all of the above into account, then, YLIAI has decided not to sample the pleasures of today’s fixture. This is however, unlikely to be one of history’s great rebellions. YLIAI is no grotty-bearded activist, no tub-thumping rabble rouser, no great leader of the people like Guevara or Paisley. He is not against the Copa das Confederações per se, and would would even go as far as to say that the World Cup is perhaps a symptom, rather than a direct cause, of Brazilian society’s eternal woes. In fact, if Mexico x Japan didn’t look like being such a turgid affair, he’d probably even go to the game. But with these blowing outside the stadium (YLIAI loves his German soft rock), the idea of spending the afternoon at the FIFA World of Fun Theme Park would seem to be a joke in very bad taste. To wit:
YLIAI (on the streets, chanting Vem Pra Rua! Vem Pra Rua!): “Great protest, companheiro!”
Grotty-bearded political activist/student to YLIAI´s left: “Yeah! Let’s change Brazil!”
YLIAI: “Yeah! But, um, can we do it this evening? It’s just I´ve got to head off to the Mineirão for Mexico x Japan. But I’ll be back later! See ya!”
Not good protesting etiquette, YLIAI imagines.
Afterword: YLIAI has given his ticket away to a friend, who shall remain nameless. In return, the friend will make a R$60 donation to a Belo Horizonte dog’s home. YLIAI, who likes dogs quite a bit more than he likes football, will top up the donation to R$100 (meaning he’s taken quite a financial bath on the whole affair, but hey ho).
Viva La Puppy Revolución!