Victory in Defeat
Beep beep. Beep beep.
Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep…
Ahhhhhhhhhh! Shut up dammit!
Oh, it’s my watch alarm. It cannot possibly be 8:30am, can it? Really? Shit. Drinking until 3am and then getting lost in the outskirts of Recife for 45 minutes probably wasn’t our smartest move. Today could be rough.
But, we play Germany today to see if we make it through the group of death… Get up Andrew. Open your eyes. Get vertical.
OWWW! I really wish I didn’t have to slap myself in the face to get going. Alright, eyes open.
“JOHN!” (muffled sounds come from the other side of the room as he groans into his pillow).
“DUSTIN!” (“yeaaaaaah” he responds).
“Get your asses up. It’s go time.”
Thus began our grand adventure in Recife. Four hours of sleep after a heavy night of drinking and wandering aimlessly for 45 minutes in the rain? Check. Brutal hangover? Check. Unbridled optimism and anticipation? Check and check. This could be an epic day. Only one catch — it’s still monsooning. From the looks of it, it has all night.
When I say monsooning, I mean it. It’s not drizzling; it’s not sprinkling; it’s not even raining. It is outright pissing rain. It’s like Noah’s Ark-style raining outside and there’s no sign of letting up. We didn’t find out about this until later, but apparently the USA team bus had to change routes on the way to the stadium because water was flooding the roads at waist height in some areas. This could get interesting.
John and Dustin had a friend that went to a previous game in Recife using public transit that had taken 3.5 hours to get to the stadium. There was no way we were going to miss the start of the game, so we hitched a ride with our host to the metro station to start our odyssey around 9:30am for the 1pm game.
When we got onto the train, it was packed to the gills with Americans. We had to push our way onto the car because there was hardly any room. Once inside, everywhere you turned, there were American fans making the same trek as us. There were a few Brazilians on their morning commute, but by and large, the train was filled with American fans with a few Germans thrown in for fun.
After a 25 minute metro ride, it was time to switch over to the buses. Luckily, whatever problems their friend had had in getting to the stadium had be rectified because it took us less than 5 minutes to make the switch from the metro to a bus and we were on our way.
The rain was still pouring, so we bought ponchos from some vendors waiting where the buses dropped us off. We couldn’t even see the stadium at the drop off zone, so we just followed the crowd that had started walking. Luckily, there were beer vendors selling Brahma at $5 reals each lining the entire walkway, so we had liquid propulsion to speed us on our way.
We finally come around the bend and are able to see the stadium. There was a group of Americans standing in a circle on the outside of the gates that we joined because Dustin was intent on taking pulls from their bottle of Vodka. John and I wanted no part of that, but the group of people seemed to be cool enough so we hung with them for 20 minutes or so, yelling at/with American fans as they passed getting everyone pumped for the game.
At one point during our pregaming outside the stadium, I noticed a lifeguard stand on the street that had a FIFA volunteer perched atop it. She was using a megaphone to direct people, but didn’t really need to be doing so because there weren’t that many people to direct at this point in the day. So I sauntered over to her and asked if I could borrow the megaphone for a quick second. She didn’t see the harm in it and handed it over. I took over the megaphone to start leading a USA soccer song. Everyone in the group I had just been a part of turned around and started singing with me, which consequently spurned all the Americans within earshot to join in.
After surrendering the megaphone back to Ms. FIFA, we started our trek through the queue and into the stadium. We love to get there early because we want to watch the boys warm up; we want to grab beers before the lines get out of control; and we want to watch and participate in the national anthem. We were able to accomplish all three.
FIFA mandates that every World Cup game be played on natural grass. It also requires that every pitch be open to the elements. The entire stadium doesn’t have to be, but the playing surface does. So, most venues have a cover of sorts for most of the seats while leaving the playing surface exposed. For the Germany game, we had great seats on the fourth row. This meant we could see all the action up close and personal, but it also meant that we could not escape the rain at all. We were totally uncovered and the dry was 10+ rows behind us. We finally embraced our fates, ripped up our ponchos and submitted to the monsoon. We felt that by sacrificing any possible personal comforts, perhaps the futbol gods would look favorably upon us and grant us a draw or even a win.
As with the Portugal game, I’m not going to go deep into game details. I’m sure most of you watched the game. Yes, Germany was better than us that day, but I truly thought we had some chances to get the equalizer and grab a draw. It ended up not mattering as Christiano Ronaldo made amends to the USMNT by scoring Portugal’s winning goal against Ghana, sending the US through into the knockout stage even though we lost to Germany 1-0. Everybody that had international data plans in the stands were pressing the refresh button on their cell phones as fast as they could to check on the other game’s score. We had to make sure we were safely through into the next round. When that game went final, we knew our loss was now irrelevant.
The USMNT found out right as we did and they came over to our corner of the field to give us a standing ovation. We were going crazy, screaming as loudly as we could to show them the love. We couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from some of the players. The seats, despite us being soaked from head to toe, were totally worth the rain to be that close to the game. And when the players came over to show us their appreciation, being that close to them was a treat.
The other really cool moment from the game was that I met Andrew Luck, the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. I ran into him at halftime as I was leaving the restroom and he was about to enter. I said, “Hey, don’t I know you?” not knowing who he was immediately. He responded, “Yeah, have we met before?” and ducked into the restroom quickly, I think trying to avoid getting into a conversation. He doesn’t look like a football player outside of his pads, he just looks like a really tall goofball. Once I realized who it was, he had already gone inside the restroom. I knew no one was going to believe me if I told them who I met, but I figured I would know and that was cool enough. As I was walking back to my seat, I spotted him in the corridor, and I asked him if he would take a photo with me. He said “fine, but make it fast” because he was trying to get back to his seats for the second half. I posted the photo on facebook, and the best response I’ve gotten is that my beard > his beard, which is awesome.
After the game, we took the bus back to the metro station, then took the metro downtown. Dustin, John, Annie and I decided to split up for some naptime then to meet at her hotel at 8:30.
Outside of the metro station, we saw there was a line of people waiting for cabs. We went to the end of the line and then noticed that a group of Americans had walked about 25 meters down the street and had picked up a cab before it could get to the actual line of people waiting. Everyone waiting in the line saw this and went berserk. Led by Dustin and me, we encouraged everyone in the line to bar the street so the cab couldn’t pass. People responded immediately and joined in. There was a guy that had a broken foot that was on crutches who started screaming at the people in the cab to get out and wait like everyone else because he deserved the cab — not only because he was injured, but also because he was first in the line. The douchebags inside the cab refused to acquiesce, at which point in time Dustin threw his sandal at the car. A couple of the guys outside made some threats to the jerks inside, but we ultimately let them escape because there were other cabs now waiting behind this one. Nothing really came of it, but it was hilarious to see Dustin throw his shoe at the cab as an angry mob hurled insults at these jackasses who were cheating the system.
Once we got in a cab, we gave the driver our address and everyone in the car fell asleep. We had gotten maybe four hours of sleep the night before, and it was drunk sleep at that. We were mentally and physically exhausted. By the time we woke up, we realized that we were stopped in stand-still traffic. Nobody was moving at all. Turns out, we caught the heavy flooding on the trip home. Luckily for us, we were less than a mile from our house by this point in time, so we jumped out of the cab and walked home.
After hanging up all of our clothes to dry and slipping into something dry for the first time that day (not including before we left for the game), we all crashed hard. We slept for a couple of hours and woke up around 8pm. We made our way back down to Annie’s hotel even though we were quite a bit late getting there. Luckily she had WhatsApp so I could let her know we were tardy, and as it turns out, she was too — worked out for everyone.
We got down to her spot then caught a late dinner about a block down the street. We murdered some Brazilian pizzas and quite a few caipirinhas, which were cheap, strong and delicious. Then, we got a text message from our buddies Mark and Callum to meet them at a club so we hopped in a cab and went in their direction.
It turns out the club they had us meet them at was called Dona Carolina, and it was the club we had gone to the night before. We were super nervous that the bouncer was going to refuse us entry based on our disagreement about paying a cover charge the night before considering all the same entry personnel were on the door that next night. It turns out they all thought it was hilarious and just pointed to a Portuguese sign telling us that we’d be charged a cover. They were smiling and joking around, which was good to see.
The rest of the night was spent inside the club dancing to the live band, which was awesome, or drinking delicious cocktails. Annie, Dustin and I were on the front row dancing along with the lead singer of the band. He saw me dancing in unison with him and subsequently pulled me up on stage in front of a few hundred people in the club to dance alongside him. That made it two nights in a row that I performed with the band on that stage in some capacity. I danced up there for the one song and then retired back to the dance floor.
We left Dona Carolina sometime around 3am and caught a cab back to Annie’s hotel. She was hopping on a bus back to Natal the next day, so this was the end of the road for the fearsome foursome. It was sad to say goodbye, but we vowed to hang out again in the not-too-distant future.
From there, the boys and I took a cab back to the house to grab some much-needed shuteye. Luckily, we knew where to tell the driver to drop us off so that we could walk the rest of the way home in five minutes instead of the 45 it took the night before. It had even stopped raining by this point in time.
I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy after my team lost. We were through to the next round. Belgium awaited.
What a day.