Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Every day that we fail to live out the maximum of our potentialities we kill the Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, Christ which is in us. Every day that we live in harness with the woman we no longer love we destroy our power to love and to have the woman whom we merit. At least so says Henry Miller, though I´m not sure if it wasn´t Dado Cavalcanti, the manager of Santa Cruz Futebol Clube and perhaps brother of Doogie Howser MD, who said it first. It´s no reflection on The Argument either, who is a far greater woman than I merit. And though the above has nothing whatsoever to do with football, June means it´s the World Cup, in case you haven´t noticed, and so that will be today´s theme.
Those applying traditional national stereotypes will imagine Brazil transformed into a huge green and canary yellow carnaval for the month, with half-naked girls shaking their maracas at Speedo clad muscle boys up and down the beach. The reality, of course, could hardly be further from the truth. For one it is winter and after a balmy Indian summer the seasons return to form and Pernambuco is battered by phenomenal rain storms. In five days this week enough rain falls to fulfill the quota for the month, and this is the month when almost all of the annual rainfall comes. Driving becomes a terrifying experience, rivers burst their banks, ramshackle houses slide down muddy slopes and there are 40 dead and 1000 homeless in the mata sul and Recife. The leafier parts of the city are generally unaffected, apart from flash flooding when the tide is in and the water table rises (large parts of Recife are built on former swamp land). On one remarkable night the energy goes out along Avenida Boa Viagem, and I imagine the good burghers barricading the entrances to their luxurious, and now very dark, apartments and sitting with shotguns pointed at the doors, fearing that the working class uprising has at last come to claim them, their first born, and their plasma TVs.
It rains too on the day of Brazil´s first game – a hard, jarringly loud downpour - and at lunchtime the city grinds to a halt as office workers head for homes and bars and restaurants to watch the game. The day, in fact, begins surreally – skipping through a rain storm like Fred and Ginger with an olives and drinks-with-pink-umbrellas-in-them-loving work chum (I´m Fred in the analogy, by the way). Our motley crew starts off watching the game in a boring little bar on the avenue that is packed with high school students blowing horns and shouting loudly at each other and the waiters. The schizophrenic Brazilian relationship with the Seleção is soon on show and the first shouts of que time ruim (what a shit team) and Fora Dunga (Dunga Out) are heard after about twenty scoreless minutes - pressure, a rabid media and a glorious history weigh heavy on the shoulders of Brazilian football. Drinks are more expensive than they should be and you can´t really smoke and most people seem to be concentrating more on their bar snacks than the game so at half time we switch to a grittier dive on the outskirts of a nearby favela (Ginger protests that he won´t go anywhere near such a place as his clothes are quite expensive, seemingly unaware that ritual stripping and stealing of clothes is a relatively uncommon crime, even in Recife). It is just as noisy here but the noise now comes from screaming children and smoke bombs and fire crackers. Driving home, finally, is the best part, when Recife, or at least Boa Viagem Uber Alles and Pina, near where 20,000 or so have congregated to watch the games under a big tent on the beach, have that curious look that only post-festivities Brazil has – a cross between a recently finished riotous street party and the not long ago dropping of a nuclear bomb.
On Sunday I give in to Argument induced pressure and agree to watch the second game with her and her friends at a house in another favela, this time the one that squats stubbornly beside the glittering palace of consumer delights that is Shopping Recife, its residents so far refusing the shiny beads and coins offered by property developers desperate to erect 356 floor apartment buildings on the spot. There are two TVs and a big pot of murky feijoada on the roof and approximately 45,000 cans of Skol to be divided amongst 40 or so people (it is someone´s birthday). It is just the place, really, to watch Brazil play in the World Cup, and even though I start off supporting Costa Do Marfim, following the universal rule that you always have to cheer against the team that everyone else is cheering for, the terrible excellence of the Brazilian team and the screaming and shouting that comes up every time they go forward with the ball and the sun shining down hard over everything (the rain has stopped) and the cold beer and the fine company and the children flying kites down below and the firecrackers and the yellow and green shirts and bunting make me a believer, for half a day at least, and I think how nice it would be if it could be the World Cup every day, and also how nice it would be if there were no people made dead or homeless by floods, less than 100km from here.