Brasil – June 2014
Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup began this week. As my friends in American Outlaws start to talk about upcoming trips to Honduras, flashbacks of our time together in Brasil fill my mind.
I had planned my life around attending the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. I spent next to nothing to save money and planned to end my military service earlier that year so that I could attend without complications. Then… I couldn’t legally leave the state of Georgia that summer and missed the World Cup. But that is another story and shall be told another time.
Fortunately, the universe made it up to me by letting me finish college a month before Brasil’s World Cup 2014 without kids, a career, or student debt. I had joined the American Outlaws supporters group two years earlier and bought a travel package to attend Brasil with them, though I was too busy with school and work to attend any group get-togethers besides a 2013 game in Phoenix.
Life had dealt me a tough hand the previous year, then I received my Brazilian visa and ticket purchase confirmation. The World Cup dream started to become reality. It was impossible to stay angry.
The next two months went by in a blur. I quit my job and finished school, put all my stuff in storage, closed all of my accounts, said goodbye to friends in Arizona, filled prescriptions, visited family, and helped my parents move.
Finally, the day came.
I sat in the Houston airport for hours before the flight, trying to guess which other passengers were headed to Brasil. They trickled into the terminal one by one. The group was heavily male, but not nearly as bro as the articles I read later insisted. They seemed to be congregating in groups from their own cities. No one else from Tucson was there, so I jumped in with American Outlaws Boston. Massholes they were not.
When the plane arrived, I made one last call to my parents and boarded.
The plane was exclusively American Outlaws, meaning the first hours were spent cheering and practicing chants (we must have done I believe that we will win a dozen times), but the length of the flight kicked in and most of us passed out.
We arrived the day before our first game. We would spend our two weeks at a beachfront hotel in Natal, in Brasil’s Nordeste region. We checked into the hotel, got all of the directions we needed, and headed straight for the beach.
One thing you don’t think about when planning this kind of event is the free time. The US team played only once every four days, meaning there was plenty of time to kill. I initially spent it at the beach and working on the column I briefly wrote for the Tucson Weekly (archives found here), though my computer breaking and the expired novelty of a calm ocean wore off and I began to regret choosing a hotel away from downtown. The AO leadership lined up lots of expensive tours and activities, though I preferred to grab cheap food with newfound friends from Phoenix or hang out with locals I had met when possible.
Game day finally came. We piled into the buses and made our way to Natal’s Arena das Dunas, anxiously waiting for a chance to exorcise our demons against Ghana. But the games are another story and shall be told next week, in part two.
This week I began writing for the Tucson Weekly again. My first column was on anti-ISIS protests in Jordan that I attended and can be found here.