Lapa

All Posts, Blog, Brazil, World Cup
 Eleven games – and the goals are pouring in. Holders Spain fell spectacularly to the thunderous Dutch. The Fan Fest exploding in orange admiration. Plucky Costa Rice took down lazy Uruguay, the French survived what can only be described as murderous football from the Hondurans and a little man named Messi finally arrived. I can’t remember a much more entertaining start to a World Cup. None of the first eleven games have ended in a draw – the first time since 1950.

England lost on Saturday night – not entirely surprising – but what was, was the level of commitment and attacking effort shown by England. It tells off past embarrassments that I can barely remember such a good performance by England at a major tournament. A feel-good loss.

 Friday night was spent in the Lapa district of Rio. A riotous place with a carnival atmosphere. A series of small cobbled streets overflowing with people and alcohol. Brazilian string flags zig zagging across the streets. Bars open out onto the streets – people come and go – as do the drinks. As I waited outside the toilets in one establishment I couldn’t notice that the gentleman inside seemed to be taking a particular interest to the urinal – leaning down to inspect it before giving it an almighty sniff. He walked out wild eyed and surging. In for quite the night I suspect.

The place had a pounding soul to it. People from all nationalities mixed happily. A group of ill judging Americans started a USA, USA chant but were quickly drowned out by a chorus of boos. A few Englishman tried to pull an English chant out of the ashes but it fell lamely. In most areas people seemed perfectly content to put the football aside and concentrating on more pressing affairs – namely drinking. It had an edgy but energetic feel to. Nightclubs pounded out their music from the sidewalks. Bars often act more like a mini warehouses – a man standing behind a counter with a towering assortment of bottles behind him. Sold at prices that really don’t promote sensible drinking – but who cares, it’s Rio – it’s the World Cup.

We stumbled upon the Escadaria Selarón, a world famous set up steps painted by Chilean painter Jorge Selarón. Apparently they are quiet the sight but it was hard to see through the piles of people, particularly Chileans, who had congregated to sit on – and in fact some, to sleep on.

  By far the most abundant and raucous fans have been the Argentines. They had congregated on a street corner in their hundreds. The crowd swayed and jumped in unison – the singing less so – but passionate and frenzied none the less. In comparison the Brazilian support seems to be muted. Perhaps you notice the other fans more – but you can’t shake the feelings things still aren’t quiet right.

The looming figure of $12 billion hangs like a cloud over the country. I’ve been in Rio for little over a week, and haven’t remotely been to the poorest areas – but already the gap between the have and the have nots could not be more apparent. Brazil has now spent four times the amount on security as South Africa four years ago – who had arguably just as much to fear. Ground breaking facial recognition goggles being used by the police are wonderful gadgets – but when you’re struggling to feed your family – who gives a shit?

Small but violent protest were seen near to the Maracana last night as Rio welcomed its first game. Protests marched through the streets chanting “FIFA, go back to Switzerland” before reaching a security perimeter – where they were greeted with tear gas and stun grenades. There has even been reports that live rounds were fired by a few members of the police.

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