“Bro, can I get a selfie?” Never have I heard this as many times as Brazil’s World Cup this year. This simple phrase highlights something that makes my trip to the 2014 World Cup unique – the whole world is together for a common passion of soccer. More specifically, the event brought with it a sensational atmosphere of anticipation and joy.
Anyone who has been to Brazil before can tell you that the country has a smell. I think it is a pleasant smell, defined by bread, cheese, firework smoke, humid air, and fresh meat in a nearby churrascaria. However, in 2014, these smells were accompanied by buzzing horns, boisterous chants, and every color of the rainbow barged into the FIFA Fan Fest on the nice end of Copacabana beach. This was the hub of the entire population of Rio de Janeiro, which became a ghost town when Brazil knocked out Chile. It was a scene that could never be seen anywhere else.
One night, my family and I walked down Copacabana beach, only to turn a corner and find Jambeiro, a remarkable Brazilian artist. He was busy painting a spectacular shrine of scenes from the 2014 World Cup. The World Cup is an emotional sport, because it means more than winning and losing games. Behind it all, there is a sense of national pride. I was fascinated by Jambeiro’s way of portraying this emotion from a snapshot in time. It is in the faces of his paintings that the event will always be perceived the way it was in 2014.
Although I may never see a World Cup hosted by Brazil again, I will never forget 2014 because of one night. With an overpriced USA flag in one hand and a strange cheeseburger in the other, I walked down the colorful streets of Salvador about to witness an important day in American soccer. USA was to challenge a confident Belgian side, and the loser would go home. This game even made my mom as excited as the hooligans seated behind me. After a dramatic extra-time period, the final whistle blew to wrap up the United States’ World Cup. As I sulked out of the stadium, a Brazilian approached me and said it all: “Sorry friend, I will see you in 2018.”
I have visited Brazil before, but this trip I noticed things perhaps I used to be too young to notice. I witnessed the “beautiful game” truly to be the international language. No matter if I were on Ipanema beach, on the street, or even in a restaurant, anybody, whatever age, would fancy a pick-up game. I would say that because 32 teams qualify for the World Cup tournament, my trip to Brazil was 32 vacations in 1.
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