Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
June 2006: Brazilian soccer madness and the performances of the Brazilian and Dutch national teams.
June 2006, the month of the Soccer World Cup in Germany. There was no way to avoid it. While a great number of stores, cafes, houses, and even streets were colored in orange in The Netherlands, Belo Horizonte became gradually more yellow and green, the colors of the Brazilian national soccer team. It is not that many streets were ornamented with considerable amounts of flags and balloons. But many blank walls turned into colorful graffiti drawings, about the World Cup. Many years later, you would still be able to admire these graffiti drawings.
June is a real winter month in Belo Horizonte. Only very few wear just one T-shirt outside, it is too cold for that. Bus drivers wear thick sweaters and gloves. A few even wear a woolen hat and a scarf. At day it is about twenty degrees, dropping to just below fifteen at night. Is it strange to feel cold at those temperatures? Not at all, when you consider that the temperature is well above twenty-five degrees at day, and just below twenty at night, during a great part of a year. Belo Horizonte still is a bit colder than, let’s say Rio de Janeiro and Vitória, because of the location of Belo Horizonte in a mountainous region.
Despite the winter cold, the Brazilians were warming themselves by getting ready for the World Cup. They strongly supported their favorite soccer stars. Although … even President Lula commented about the extra weight of striker Ronaldo, nicknamed ‘O Fenômeno’, later it was changed into ‘O Gordinho’. From the Phenomenon to the National Fatboy. Herewith some ingredients for the uncertainty, the doubts about the possibility that the Divine Canaries would indeed become Hexacampeão (six-time World Champion). Many Brazilians were really worried about that, and were already thinking that the sixth world title was beyond reach. Brazil would have many world stars in the team, but the team was not a real world star.
The Brazilians were looking forward to the first World Cup match of the Canaries, against the Croats. Many Brazilians were not really comfortable about the result of this first World Cup match for Brazil. Many were convinced that the team must be happy with a draw against the Croats. I was invited by Marina with to watch the match at her parents’ home, together with her friends. Almost everyone wore a yellow jersey; they fanatically supported their heroes. For me it is remarkable that the soccer players were always fanatically supported, even when they played bad or had bad luck, or when they made a blunder or an irresponsible action. Everyone sighed with relief when the Canaries had won their first match.
The remainder of the month June was dominated by the World Cup. Matches every day, including those of the Dutch national team. One day, I could watch their match against Serbia at noon, while my roommates were watching the match with less interest. For them, it was one match of many that month. But they congratulated me with the victory of Clockwork Orange, what Brazilians call the Dutch team, Laranja Mecânica. A few days later, I met a Dutch woman in the center, and we were watching together the second match of the Dutch, against Ivory Coast, African Orange. Also this match was one of the many for the Brazilians, and this match was played in the afternoon. We were the only ones who were watching this match with interest.
The remaining group matches of the Divine Canaries were against Australia and Japan, respectively. In the round of sixteen Brazil had Ghana as their opponent I watched these matches on a shopping square in my neighborhood, where locals gathered in front of two giant plasma screens. The atmosphere was very relaxed, especially when the necessary goals were scored. Brazil won the match against Ghana, and now had to confront the very strong team of France, who had defeated the Canaries in the final of World Cup 1998.
Meanwhile, The Netherlands, already qualified for the final 16 after their second match, had to play against Argentina, the arch rivals of the Brazilians. That day, Brazilians were strongly supporting the Dutch team and were hoping for a defeat for the Argentineans. The next match was against Portugal. A memorable match, but in a negative way. Portugal won this unfriendly and unsupportive match, my Brazilian roommates really disliked this match, and were shouting constantly: “Que vergonha!”, “What a shame!” I could only agree with them…
Brazil lost the match against France. The Brazilians cried and wept, but soon they retook their daily routines. I was invited to join friends in a French restaurant, to watch the match between the victors of both the Dutch and Brazilian teams: Portugal vs. France. To my surprise, there were a considerable number of French supporters: French migrants in Belo Horizonte. France won this match, to great disappointment of the Brazilians. They loved to see the French, who kicked the Brazilians out of the tournament, leave the World Cup too. The final was between France and Italy, not many Brazilians were very interested in that match. I was able to see the second half in a buteco, and I was also very surprised to witness the legendary head butt of Zidane. Most Brazilians could live with the victory of the Azurris. The World Cup, which resulted in disappointing results for both the Dutch and Brazilians, was over. Everything and everyone went back to the daily routines.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom