Match day 1 – Ivory Coast vs Japan
After the English game I made my way along to the Permubaco Arena together win the Swiss girls and English lad from the hostel. Their was a few buses and metros available but it meant at least 2 or 3 stops because the rail link was 4km short of the stadium. Luckily we found a taxi driver that spoke good English and offered to take us to the stadium for 50 real each. Immediately a group of English decided to come along with us and started to renegotiate the terms, they were arseholes to a man, pissed up and arrogant as hell. One of them- a fat bearded drunk who looked like a darts player- got abusive and started the usual tirade of “ We are guests in your country and you take the piss” type of chat. We hung back and let them say their piece to the smiling taxi driver before letting them go on their way.
Not wanting to be late for the game we accepted the taxi offer and jumped in. The taxi drivers name was Ruben and he quickly explained how far the stadium was from the city centre. A couple of hundred metres down the road he spied the English pisshead group traipsing down the street in the torrential rain and pulled alongside. He wound down the window and jeered at the group shouting “ nice walk, nice walk, bye, bye, ciao”. It was a quality act of revenge upon the arrogant Brits abroad.
Ruben turned out to be a really nice bloke, eager to help, translate and help us on our journey. Amazingly he had a small TV screen on the dashboard which he played Karaoke on, which we all sung along to. He was a nutter but in a good way. Upon reaching the bus depot he promised to meet us after the game but we didn’t hold much hope for this.
Through out the the night it had teemed with the rain and the car park around the buses had deteriorated into a quagmire which soaked my trainers completely. We boarded the bus and joined another group of Englishmen who joked at my Scotland top and groaned about the result. These guys were a fair bit younger than the idiots from before and in much better spirits. One of the guys sat beside me and he told me all his tales from the night before in Salvador and the Holland vs Spain game. By his account the atmosphere in the ground was amazing and the Dutch fans really friendly and in full on party mode. This guy was a full on cockney geezer and had all the lingo and banter, he told that him and his mates had tried to get some girls back into their room at the hotel but had been stopped by security, the reason being the girls were hookers and Joe Biden was staying in the hotel.
By the time we reached the stadium the rain was torrential so we scurried inside marking a point to meet up after the game. The stadium was obviously brand spanking new and very impressive. My seat was to the corner of the Japanese goal right in amongst the Japanese supporters who making a grand racket and creating a brilliant atmosphere. A Japanese fan given me a bandana to wear -the type Kamikaze pilots wore in WW2’ but I didn’t mention this- which I tied around my forehead immediately becoming a Japanese fan. Far off to my left I spied the Ivorian band which were also making a constant racket and dancing manically. My seat was next to a big american guy and behind a middle aged Englishman, who naturally joked that I must be the happiest man in the stadium because I was a jock. The American got a bit angry at the Japanese supporters standing up in front of him and started to bawl at them. As usual the Japanese were very apologetic and reasonable to the Yank’s pleas but they carried on standing, it’s not as if they were that much of an obstacle anyway.
Halfway through the 2nd half the Japanese took a deserved lead right in front of us sending their supporters into bedlam. Just before the half time whistle I left my seat to get some food as I was ravenous from beer and hadn’t eaten properly since breakfast. Typically all the kiosks had run out of decent grub with only peanuts and crisps left. I did a quick tour of the rest of kiosks around half the stadium but those were also empty of hotdogs and burgers. A fair few people were annoyed at this lack of foresight on the organisers part and grumbled at the smiling tenders. I grabbed a coca-cola and some awful nuts and made my way back to my seat where the Yank was showing pictures of his daughter watching the game in the US while wondering at the merits of new technology. All around me there was people of different nationalities: a huge amount of Mexicans, French, a Venezuelan, Scottish, English and many Brazilians ( one of which had the best Afro I’ve ever seen).
In the 2nd half the Ivory Coast introduced Didier Drogba and became more physical against the tiring Japanese. The Africans greater speed and strength began to show and they eventually overcame the Japanese defence via to headed goals from Drogba and Bony and win the match 2-1. The Japanese fans were distraught but still happy with their experience as they trudged out of the stadium and back into the bucketing rain.
I eventually met up with the Swiss girl and Englishman and we made our way back to the bus. The queue was terrible and the rain brutal but somehow we managed to see the bright side of the situation. I tried to call Ruben a few times but got no answer, cursing his promise of a taxi back up to Olinda. To my surprise he eventually answered his phone telling me he was waiting for us in the exact spot he had dropped us off, true to his word he was waiting and chatting to other tourists under the cover of a temporary gazebo.
On the return tax ride home Ruben regaled me, as the others quickly fell asleep, with many tales of the city ( he was an ex-copper) and showed me around 50-100 photos of his son’s Army graduation on his TV monitor. All I could think of was eating some found and getting dry but this crazy Brazilian kept my spirits high with stories, jokes and a fair few Portuguese lessons. Upon reaching the hostel we paid Ruben and thanked him for his kindness promising to use him for all our future taxi drives, he truly was an exceptional person and a great laugh. After a bit of scram we sloped off to bed at around 3-3.0