Wednesday, August 04, 2010


From where the three of us sat, we could see the smooth oval shape of the entire stadium swelling out before us like a huge beast. And the beast was alive.

That is, half of it was.

The left and middle, where we sat, was filled with a sea of white and green visual noise. Pom-poms and balloons and giant inflatable batons everywhere brandished proudly by supporters of the home team, Palmeiras. The right side was empty except for a few ridiculously outnumbered red and yellows. But they firmly stood their minority ground and kept the drums beating. Pounding them with a samba beat. The sky was gloomy, and the crowd was as passionate as a brilliant summer day. It is impossible to sit in the middle of this and not become infected by the energy, unless you are a vegetable.

My friend’s uncle, however, did seem oblivious to all this. He sat hunched with a portable radio pressed against his ear and his eyes glued to the field. His brow frowned in concentration, straining to hear the radio commentators analyzing the game.

Vendors weaved in and out of the crowd, selling cans of guarana and long cinnamon churros and chocolate bars. M&M’s too, which I buy obsessively, simply to have an excuse to pronounce the brand the Brazilian way: emmy emmy.

“Emmy emmy, por favor!”

A little, cute, sweet-looking boy who looked 8 years old didn’t even notice as the vendor elbowed him aside to give me my emmy emmy’s. His little face was contorted with frustration at the striker. He suddenly jumped up and down and shouted at the top of his lungs this one-breath phrase that can be translated for all intents and purposes to mean:


The crowd swelled in an outburst of dirty language. I happily joined in. The São Paulo home team lost. The crowd became noisily subdued. The shoulders dejected and drooping. The pom-poms abandoned. Only the uncle stayed loyal to his portable radio, intent on listening to commentators analyzing the finished game for another hour or so.

As for myself, I was in high spirits. I grinned at my friend. He looked at me and smiled in a smug way. “See? What did I tell you.” he said.

The thing he had told me was “You’re in Brazil. Come to a football game.”

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