To appreciate what this World Cup and the seleção canarinha (Brazil’s national team of soccer — nicknamed after a species of canary whose plumage is yellow, like the team’s jerseys) mean to Brazilians, I’ve been trying to diversify the social environments in which I watch the matches played by their national team.
As described in a previous column, I watched the first match in a marginalized neighborhood of Manaus. I watched the second in a middle-class beachside neighborhood along the Rio Negro where the FIFA Fan Fest provided an enormous screen to display matches in an amphitheater, and I got to play some beach soccer and jump in the river at halftime. I watched the third in a small indigenous community on the outskirts of Manaus, which was explained to me by the community leader as an urban embassy of the Sateré-Maué people who mostly live in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest. I hadn’t yet decided where I would watch Brazil’s first knockout round match when a newly made local friend suggested that I go to her hometown of Parintins for a festival that I had been hearing so much about since my arrival to Manaus.
For many Brazilians, the World Cup is undoubtedly the most important competition of this summer — if not the most important since the last time it was hosted on Brazilian soil, in 1950. In the small Amazonian city of Parintins, however, most residents are fanatically preoccupied with another competition this summer — the 49th Parintins Folklore Festival. The festival is an annual competition between two factions (Garantido and Caprichoso) that perform colorful reenactments of folk stories and prideful songs about the cultural and natural characteristics of the Amazon. The central protagonist for each faction and the folk stories they reenact is a boi-bumbá (a folkloric ox, whose origin comes from the northeastern state of Maranhão), so the festival is also known as the Festival do Boi-Bumbá.
After nearly a year of preparation, each faction has two hours and 30 minutes, for each of three consecutive days, to perform their unique reenactments and songs while displaying impressive alegorias (structures of steel, plastic, paper maché and other materials that depict the stories being reenacted and the regional characteristics being celebrated). I won’t attempt to adequately describe how wonderfully impressive these performances are, but suffice it to say that the festival is justifiably one of the most celebrated in Brazil and, understandably, many locals and visitors are more interested in this spectacular competition between Garantido and Caprichoso than they are in the World Cup. Nonetheless, Parintins is still in Brazil and — though internet service is precarious and painfully slow — World Cup matches are still televised here.
Although the regional newspaper indicated that Brazil’s knockout round match against Chile would be displayed on theater-like TV screens in three public plazas, the plaza I went to ended up being serviced by surrounding bars that faced their biggest TVs towards the crowds that filled the plaza. Brazil scored in the 17th minute. As one might expect in any other Brazilian town, the atmosphere immediately transformed into one of cheers, screams, fireworks, horns and generalized madness, but the festivities quickly ended when Chile tied it up 10 minutes later. The next hour and half was terrifyingly suspenseful, as the teams struggled against one another, creating and missing opportunity after opportunity to get a triumphal second goal. After a goalless second-half and two goalless overtime periods, the knockout match was to be decided by penalty kicks. Brazil made its first shot and the Brazilian keeper (César) blocked Chile’s. The celebrations were impressive but premature. Brazil missed its second shot, but Chile made its. Brazil and Chile made their third shots, but Brazil missed its fourth and Chile made its fourth to tie up the match again. In the plaza, the crowds’ collective highs and lows nearly gave me a heart attack. The dramatic finale ended when Neymar scored Brazil’s fifth and potentially final penalty kick and Chile’s shot hit the post and bounced behind César, but away from the goal line. The plaza exploded in ecstasy.
After receiving several hugs and taking some photos, I finally made my way out of the plaza, but I could not escape the festivities. Cars were driving with people holding flags and jerseys and scarfs. People were dancing in the streets to musica do boi (the genre of music played in the Festival do Boi-Bumbá), samba, the official 2014 World Cup song (“We Are One”) or a classic Brazilian song whose lyrics I quite enjoy: “eu sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, com muito amor!” (“I’m Brazilian, with lots of pride, with lots of love!”).
In the Bumbódromo (the stadium built in a small town just for the annual three-day festival) that night, the levantador (lead singer) gave a shout out to the day’s Brazilian soccer victory in order to excite the crowd before singing one of Caprichoso’s more nationalistic songs. The crowd sang along with overwhelming enthusiasm and flags raised. The Caprichoso crowd normally looks like a sea of blue, but that night the blue had to compete, not just with the red (the color of Garantido) on the other side of the Bumbódromo, but also with the green and yellow throughout the Bumbódromo.
Killian Doherty is a recent UO Law School grad who is in Brazil on a shoestring budget to experience the World Cup, not from the stands, but from the streets.
World Cup Action
On A Local Level
People who have caught the taste for soccer during the World Cup may not know that the sport is played at a surprisingly high level in our own backyards. Lane United Football Club (FC), a semi-pro men’s soccer team, and Eugene Timbers (ETFC) Azul, an amateur women’s team, both wrap up their seasons in the coming weeks and are looking to capitalize on the heightened interest in soccer to bring fans to the gate at their home matches.
The Lane United Reds team (laneunitedfc.com) is in its first year of competition as a stand-alone club — i.e., currently unaffiliated with any local youth or Major League Soccer (MLS) organizations — in the Northwest Division of the nationwide Premier Development League, or PDL. Most of the players, by rule, are 23 years of age or younger, and the PDL often functions as a feeder league or a showcase for the MLS. Four players on the current U.S. World Cup roster played in the PDL early in their careers, as did dozens of MLS players.
“We try to stress that this isn’t a pub league with a bunch of guys from around town that we scrap together at the last minute,” says head coach John Galas. “We spent almost a year acquiring players from around the country, and some internationally, to play here. A lot of the top prospects in North America come through the PDL, and many, many players in this league end up in the MLS. This is absolutely the best soccer you’ll find aside from the MLS in the whole Pacific Northwest.”
Lane United boasts a dedicated group of fans, the Red Aces (red-aces.org), who own a stake in the club and contribute to a festive “soccer atmosphere” on gamedays with drums, chants and tifos — an Italian word referring to visual displays of passionate support for a team such as very large flags.
The ETFC Azul women’s team is comprised mostly of local female players who are now on summer break from their college teams. They finish their season with games on July 5 and 6 at South Eugene High School. Tickets are $5.
Lane United’s season likewise is nearly over. At press time, the team is about to set off for a road trip to play two Canadian teams, Victoria and Vancouver. Three home games remain on July 8, 11 and 15. All games are at 7 pm at the Willamalane Center in Springfield with tickets priced at $10. — Chris Burke