A conversation, an idea, a rush to bring it to fruition; is only the start of COO, Asesh Dutta’s journey to the Football World Cup 2014.

Episode IV

No disputing the fact that our takeoff to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup 2014, started off with major turbulences and strong headwinds. Midway into our trip and after covering the first two matches across two major cities, we have settled down comfortably and fully engrossed in the world cup fever. While, Sao Paulo was an initiation into the soccer crazy fraternity, Rio de Janeiro was a baptization and acceptance in the tribe. Our next and final destination is Salvador, where Portugal will be playing against Germany and “Oh Boy”, the legendary, the ultimate football Icon, Christiano Ronaldo, will be in action. Saved the best for the last. This mere thought was enough to set our adrenalin rushing and we were impatient to reach our destination, which was an hour’s flight from Rio

Salvador, Brazil's former capital, is famous for its African-influenced cuisine, music and architecture. Situated in Brazil’s north-eastern state of Bahia, Salvador is characterised by  Portuguese colonial architecture, Afro-Brazilian culture and tropical coastline. We had a full day in hand before the match and thus set out to explore the city. Soon we were moving through cobblestone alleys, which opened onto large squares bustling with activity. The squares were surrounded with colourful buildings and baroque churches, which would have easily passed as an European hamlet. On the city square, a group performance was underway amidst drum beats. To the naked eye, it looked more like a martial arts display, than any dance form. On enquiring, we were told that this is the famous Capoeira martial art form that combines elements of aerobics, dance and music. As the performance reached its crescendo, the group started moving out of the city square, down the winding streets with the drummers following them. Apparently, similar exuberant celebrations also last for a week at a stretch, during the Carnival times. No wonder, they call this place "the Capital of Joy"

We stepped into a Portuguese restaurant to satisfy our gastronomical desires by trying out the local Moqueca (pronounced moo-kek-a). The dish is more than a mere fish stew, moqueca is served with theatrical flourish as the piping hot clay pot is uncovered at the table amidst clouds of fragrant steam. In the restaurant, we bumped into Gautam Bhattacharya, a sports journalist and the Associate Editor of Ananda Bazar Patrika. Gautamda (as we lovingly call him), has been assigned the task to cover the entire games on behalf of his publication house. His difficulty in communicating with the hotel staff (as most of them do not understand English), was the main reason for him going on a diet of fruits, vegetables and an occasional chicken dish. The fact that he was low on proteins was amply evident by the speed and intensity with which he almost singlehandedly devoured the Moqueca. On the dinner table, Gautamda also narrated his precarious situation of representing a 150th rank country, in international football. Apparently, the FIFA officials had denied him entry into the briefing room, during the post match press meet. To conceive of such discrimination in the highest body of international football, is unthinkable

Next day morning, as usual, we were up early and were on our way to the match venue, The Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, a football-specific stadium, first used for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The stadium has a maximum seating capacity of 55,000 people. It was built in keeping with the tradition of Brazilian stadiums, like a horseshoe with a large opening in its southern stands, enabling maximum air flow. We settled down quickly, eager to witness Ronaldo in action. The waiting was pretty short. Amidst huge roars and cheer, CR7 entered the field. After waiving to the crowd, he joined his team mates for the customary practice session. Prior to going off to get ready for the match, he impulsively took off his shirt and threw it in the crowd. Our bad luck, it landed just two rows before us

As it turned out, which was indeed beyond our comprehension, the game was dominated by Germany, who  sent a message to the rest of the competitors in Brazil with a 4-0 demolition of Portugal. The Lusitanians got no joy out of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, suffered two injuries to key players, and Pepe saw a Red Card just before half-time. The Germans, for their part, were in supreme form, scoring almost at will and getting the tournament’s first hat-trick through Thomas Muller

While, Portugal had the first chance of the game, but Ronaldo’s effort from a tight angle was a false dawn. Thereafter, it was the Germans who were in total control of the First half. Three goals down and a man short, even the superstar captain CR7 was unable to influence the game. Once again proving the saying that Soccer is always a team game first and an individual spectacle later. Things didn’t get much better in the second-half, either and Muller scored again, 12 minutes from time to complete his hat-trick

Watching the Germans play the game and their clinical finish to rout Portugal, mesmerised us. It was demonstration enough to make us believe that this is the strongest team to lay its rightful claim on the World Cup, three weeks hence, which was as we all know, actually the case

Three matches in three different locations…. Witnessing the best trio in current day soccer, ie Ronado, Messi and Neymer, in action…. Hypnotised by the display of total football of Germany…..add to it the Brazilian spirit and a full carnival atmosphere…yeh dil… could not have asked for anything more. It was time to say Obrigado (thank you) to all, for making this trip such a memorable one and Tchau Brazil


FIFA Fan Fest Arena

Messi scoring goal no. 2

Christ and his redeemed deciples

Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

To be continued...


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