Monday, June 23, 2014

Colombia v. Ivory Coast in Brasilia

By the time Nancy and I came down for breakfast at about 8:30 AM, the breakfast room at the Plaza Bittar was jammed, mostly with fans attired in the red or blue or especially yellow colors of Colombia.  There were no tables open, but a man waved us over and invited us to share his table.  He explained that he had come to the US from Colombia when he was one, and that he and his father were attending the World Cup together.  Because Colombia had no qualified for the cup since 1998, there was a tremendous hunger for success among his countrymen, and as soon as they had learned seven years ago that Brazil would be hosting the Cup, they had agreed that if Colombia qualified, they would go; so, here they were.

Breakfast was a large spread of pastries, hot plates of scrambled eggs and a tasty sausage (ter second day, this was replaced with hot dogs in a sauce), slices or wedges of papaya, white pineapple and watermelon, two kinds of cereal including a granola that could be mixed with chopped fruit and with a yogurt drink, juices, coffee and a small amount of hot water for tea.  Nancy and I lingered over breakfast and as the 10 AM closing time approached, larger numbers of guests appears, still mostly dressed in yellow or red or blue.  Breakfast supplied started to run out and the wait staff rushed to keep the platters full. 

After a brief and unsuccessful expedition back to Brasilia shopping to try to replace a problematic memory card reader and cable, Joe and I left for the stadium at around 11 am; it took us barely fifteen minutes to reach the stadium area

where long lined of fans, mostly attired in yellow or red or blue, stretched out awaiting metal detection and thus admission to the stadium

We posed with one of the handful of orange-clad Ivory Coast fans we could find; I was wearing orange as well, to show support for the underdog (and besides, I really like Yaya Toure as a player)

We got to our seats at about noon, an hour before game time; the stadium was barely half full, but overwhelmingly yellow.  (The  Brasilian jersey is also mostly yellow so the blanket of yellow could have been deceptive, but it Colombia was obviously going to be playing this game as a home team.  The fans cheered lustily for the Colombian team as it warmed up; the stadium was nearly full as game time arrived, and the fans voices rang out for the Colombian anthem 

The game was intense from the get go, but with no clear chances for either side until, late in the second half, a Colombian found himself alone in front of goal, with the keeper in an off position, it was amazing that he did not score.  Then on into the second half, and as the game remained scoreless and  Ivorian Didier Drogba began to warm up, fans began chanting his name – even the Colombia fans, it seemed, wanted to see Drogba in action.  So in he came,

and the tempo of the game picked up, just as it had when Drogba entered in mid-second half against Japan a few days before.  But this time, it was Colombia, not Ivory Coast, that struck first: 

 in fact, Colombia put in two goals within  a few minutes of each other; then Ivory Coast’s Gervinho dribbled through the Colombian defense and scored to bring the game back within one.  Try as they might, however, the Ivorians could not get an equalizer, and the game ended with Colombia up 2-1.  As we left the stadium after duly cheering the players and the winners, most of the Colombian fans were still there, chanting and singing their joy.  In fact, their celebrations lasted well into the  night in the hotel and touristic zones.

We met up with Nancy and she and I went for  a stroll back across the Eixo to the Sarah Kubitschek park, named for the wife of Brasilia’s founder; there were fields, playgrounds, and volleyball courts galore, as well as a collection of kiddie rides.  Heading back across to the hotel, we enjoyed the sunset behind the TV tower and its fountains.

For dinner, we followed another guidebook recommendation and took a long taxi ride, down the Eixo where the national museum, cathedral and government buildings were bathed in spotlights, and past other government buildings that we had not seen including the Supreme  Tribunal (Supreme Court), federal procurators (prosecutors) office; and more nicely made edifices, until we reached an isolated restaurant called Mangai  – a huge space offering seats to nearly a thousand diners.  The restaurant offered a vast buffet, and the dining price was determined by weighing the food piled on each diner’s dish.  There were a variety of interesting offerings not to speak of outstanding desserts.  I confess we were nervous about finding our way back, but the restaurant staff just called a taxi for us and it was outside waiting by the time we found our way  out to the parking lot.

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