Brazil 2014: A UoN Retrospective

A month after the 2014 World Cup, third-year History student Nico looks back on his time in Brazil…

Considering all the hysterical pre-trip scaremongering I had been fed by friends, family and the national media, I was half expecting, upon boarding my Brazil-bound flight, to be flying into a warzone with perhaps a little football taking place in the background. Yet, a tropical downpour upon arrival in Salvador was just about the only trouble we encountered during our month-long stay in the mad but truly brilliant country. Indeed, despite blatantly apparent reasons for protest (obvious poverty and, in many places, a crumbling infrastructure) being very common, the vast majority of people we came across, from taxi drivers to fellow students, were in good spirits and delighted to be welcoming the world to their country.

That was until the mood became severely dampened by Brazil’s catastrophic semi-final exit and “the world” becoming 150,000 Argentinians descending upon Rio de Janeiro to incessantly chant ‘how does it feel to have daddy in your house?’. Ok, the sting of that particular song is slightly lost in translation but it certainly riled the locals who, in an extraordinary display of what can only be described as mass self-induced amnesia, returned the abuse with relish after the final. The headline of Brazil’s top sports paper, for instance, returned the question – ‘How does it feel?’ – on the morning after Götze’s brilliant strike had sunk Argentinian hopes of a third title. I even heard one disgruntled Brazilian have the audacity to shout “at least we scored one” at a group of dejected passing Argentinians. The fickle nature of football fans does often seem to border on near insanity. We were not complaining, however, as being very obviously European we were continuously mistaken for Germans after the final and absolutely loved for it.

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Yet even the post 7-1 disquiet (which turned from disbelief to anger to humour about as regularly as Germany had sauntered through Brazil’s defence) largely remained civil and, as I mentioned, the atmosphere beforehand was brilliant. In Salvador, a beautiful colonial city on Brazil’s northern coast, the locals didn’t even allow the Americans’ cringe-inducing chant – ‘I believe that we will win’ on repeat – kill the vibe. The Olodum drum band (a charity that takes in the city’s homeless youth) even accompanied the American masses on their march to USA’s round-of-sixteen clash with Belgium at the Arena Fonte Nova (a thrilling game I was fortunate enough to attend), making the “song” just about bearable. While I started the match a neutral, by the end of the astonishing extra time (in which Belgium took a two goal lead before USA pulled one back and then squandered three golden opportunities to seal a phenomenal equaliser) I was screaming for the Americans along with practically everyone else in the stadium.

While I started the match a neutral, by the end of the astonishing extra time I was screaming for the Americans along with practically everyone else in the stadium.

Such a match would have stood out in most other tournaments as a remarkable exception. But this time round, incredible games practically became the norm. The knockout phase did sober things up somewhat but fantastic goals and end to end football still reigned supreme. Beyond the football also, this really felt like a unique tournament. Firstly, the stereotypes about Brazil being a football obsessed nation are certainly true. Every corner of the country I passed through was covered in yellow and green bunting (from the favelas to the plush-gated communities of southern Rio), a good 75% of people would don seleção strips on match days and the parties that followed Brazilian victories were almost riotous. Moreover, it really felt like a pan-national celebration of football. The Europeans, of course, were out in force (as they always will be for every World Cup) but its location in Brazil meant that South and Central Americans were also heavily represented and the atmosphere was all the better because of it. While wandering around Rio’s heaving downtown after the final in my Greek shirt, I was accosted by myriad different nationalities either wanting a photo with me or to swap shirts.


It was hard, in the joyous but slightly melancholic atmosphere of that night (it was all about to end, after all), to envision the Russian or Qatari tournaments being quite as vibrant, diverse and downright fun. Oh well, there will at least always be the football to look forward to.

Nico Docherty

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Images courtesy of Nico Docherty


21-year-old Ameri-Czech student of Politics & Economics at the University of Nottingham. Sports Editor @impactmagazine. FFC worshipper. European.

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