A Gringa perspective on the World Cup in South America

Image Watching the World Cup in South America has been an unforgettable experience. As an American, I never saw the excitement around the event, even though I played soccer for quite a few years. Let’s just say that dating a Brazilian and living in Chile has opened my eyes. It starts out as just wanting to take part in the ‘cultural experience’ of watching the World Cup matches in the biggest soccer-loving-continent. Everyone leaves work early, dresses up in silly red-white-and-blue attire, and enjoys some beer and an asado (barbeque) for the matches. Busses stop running, streets are empty, and you hear cheering from every bar, restaurant, and any place with a TV in town. The most infamous cheer in Chile will forever be stuck in my head: Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le! Viva Chile! (I even had a dream about this cheer the night after the Spain v. Chile match!!!) Then, the World Cup bug really bites you and you start to learn about the rules, crazy point system, and start caring about how the other matches turn out so you know who your next opponent is! Cadu and I had a friendly ‘argument’ one night about the point system for the group round of the World Cup. And the other day the US played Germany to determine if we would survive the group of death. We had to tie or beat Germany, or hope for a tie or Portugal victory in the Portugal v. Ghana game. Both games were playing at the same time, so it was intense. I was yelling at the TV and stressing out. The USA was lucky enough to advance despite the loss to Germany. So yes, I have really gotten into this sporting event. People go absolutely crazy here when a goal is scored for Chile. And I mean running around, jumping, hugging people, blowing those darn vuvuzelas. And you don’t even want to be around after Chile wins a match! I remember the first one against Australia… I was alone in my apartment catching the last 30 minutes of the game and I felt shaking. In a country so famous for their earthquakes, it almost startled me, but nope, it was just all of the people in the building jumping around and celebrating the victory! Image   But that was nothing compared to the win over Spain! First of all, it was an incredible match. The old champion (Spain) lost to a usually mediocre team. For the first time in a while, Chile has a great team this year. They played very well in all of their matches and stood a chance against big teams like Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil. So the 2-0 win over Spain was celebrated as if a dictator had been overthrown. The main gathering place is at Plaza Italia and I heard about people setting micros (inner-city busses) on fire, and cops needing to use tear gas to calm down rowdy crowds. A co-worker of mine was even caught in the midst of it all while going home and an old lady pulled her into safety and wouldn’t let her leave! I have 2 Spanish students and they were shocked at the way Chileans destroyed the city after a WIN. We were all afraid of what could happen after a loss or an even more important win! Well after Chile lost to the Netherlands, we did find out. And to my amazement (and relief), the streets were silent. It was as if everyone had deserted the city in shame. Image Image   And then, yesterday was the real test. Chile and Brazil had both advanced to the next round. Brazil being #1 in their group and Chile being #2 in theirs, they had to battle it out, life or death. In the most intense game I have probably ever seen, Chile and Brazil TIED 1-1. Since the World Cup was now in the second phase, we had to go into a tie-breaker. Two 15 minute halves would decide their fate: go on or go home. And still, 1-1. Finally, the penalty-kick shootout. Five shots for each team. Brazil went second, and on their 5th shot they had to score to win. Both Chile and Brazil had scored 2 out of 5, but Chile had just taken their final shot and it was blocked. Brazil managed to score, just barely beating Chile. I was watching with my Brazilian boyfriend and 2 Brazilian guests from his hotel, along with a few Chileans and a Kiwi who was supporting Chile as well. I was mostly supporting Brazil, but still thought it would have been fun to watch Chile advance in the World Cup given I live here. And the saddest part, I was hoping for a Brazil win so I could safely walk home alone. I was watching the game not far from Plaza Italia, after all! As heartbreaking as it was for the Chileans, I don’t think they should be sad, upset or ashamed of how the match ended. The refs were good and both teams played great. It was one of the closest sports games I have ever watched and in the end, there had to be a winner. Sadly, the Chilean excitement for the World Cup will probably not be as high for the rest of the time. But I’ve still got Brazil and the US to cheer on! Image Image

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