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Neil Humphreys
Monday, Jun 16, 2014

Sports

World Cup: Beauty and the Brazilians

The New Paper | Neil Humphreys | Monday, Jun 16, 2014

A female fan poses ahead of Brazil's 3-1 victory over Croatia at the Corinthians Arena.

As soon as the plane's tyres bit into the Rio de Janeiro runway, the pilot made a public announcement.

He didn't share the local time in Brazil or tell the passengers what the current temperature was in Rio.

He apologised and said that Croatia had taken the lead against the hosts in their Group A curtain-raiser in Sao Paulo.

Boos echoed through the cabin.

A stroll through the plane had suggested a travel group from Nigeria, lots of French ­- considering the plane came from Paris, a handful of English and a smattering of Scots, who seemed to view their nation's absence at the World Cup as a minor drawback.

But the plane backed Brazil. The romantics ruled the day. Everyone clearly wants to sway to the rhythm of samba here for as long as possible.

Moments before disembarking, the pilot made a second announcement.

Neymar had scored an equaliser.

PLANE ROCKED

The plane rocked. Passengers cheered, the younger ones applauded. Brazil had won the hearts and minds of neutrals before half-time.

The second half was watched in the Rio airport arrival hall.

Lots of travellers had arrived, but no-one left. Jet-lagged visitors stood beside expectant taxi drivers, but no one pestered or haggled.

The airport came to a standstill. Pre-tournament fears had come to pass. A major transport artery had indeed stopped, but the drop in productivity was caused not by protesters, but by big, bright beautiful footballers beaming down to us from giant screens.

Policemen, soldiers, cleaners, counter staff, tourists, retirees and children all sat together on the airport floor. The arrival hall was a mess. No-one minded.

Some kids kicked a ball around the arrival hall's polished marble floor. The policemen smiled and admired their ball skills.

When Oscar slipped in the third to confirm a nervy 3-1 victory, we were all dancing, not in a stadium, or on in the street, but inside an airport. In a sea of yellow, we all got along swimmingly.

That's the way to kick off a World Cup. Football comes first.

Beauty and the Brazilians appear inseparable. This is the beginning of a love affair no one will want to end.


This article was first published on June 14, 2014.
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