BLOG: An American in Brazil: 10 Lessons from the World Cup


After a two-week jaunt in Brazil and meticulous research (drinking caipirinhas with Brazilian friends while watching World Cup matches on TV), I’d like to chime in on the World Cup commentary and speculations about “how Brazil feels at this moment.” I can assure you that no Brazilian shed a tear over Argentina’s loss yesterday. Yes,  Germany destroyed Brazil 7-0. Ripped them out of the standings, perhaps like hair in bikini wax (Thank you, John Oliver!). Even so, my research suggests that no one in green and yellow rooted for their blue and white South American compadres. And why? The answer is #1 on my list of Top 10 Lessons I Learned in Brazil During the World Cup.

Top 10 Lessons I Learned In Brazil During the World Cup:

1.  *Argentina sucks. Now, I know this may sound harsh, especially after their defeat by Germany yesterday that left blue and white fans crying in the stands and ignited riots in the streets of Buenos Aires. However, I’m speaking purely from a Brazilian perspective. See, Brazilians loathe all things Argentinian. Why? Because Argentina  thinks it is the best country on the continent –  Everyone knows that Brazil holds that honor. I wager that this sibling rivalry trumps their humiliation-inspired vengeance towards Germany. Regardless, the arrogant Argentinians arrived by the VW Bus-load. I mean just look at them:

Argentinian Fans "dressing" for the game

Argentinian Fans “dressing” for the game

 In a small bar nestled in the colonial town of Paraty, the room rooted for Iran, rather than giving love to these Smurfs. (Note: we also cheered for Ghana over Germany) Outside of Brazil *I have heard only wonderful things about Argentina and have found the people lovely.

However, when in Brazil, if you know what’s good for you, don’t root for Argentina – root for Iran, China, ISIS – anyone, but Argentina.

2.  Wear your country with pride. Speaking of Smurfs, I learned that the World Cup provides a unique opportunity for both nationalism and Halloween-style exhibitionism. On my one venture out for a caipirinha without my phone/camera, I missed snapping shots of Americans in Cat in the Hat-sized Uncle Sam hats draped in the American flag. Even our Independence Day can’t drum up this kind of support. Here are a few examples from other countries: IMG_6922 - Version 2IMG_6899 - Version 2





3.  “Futbol” is pronounced Foocheebowl in Portuguese. If you are an American who, out of reverence for American Football, clings to the term “soccer” when referring to the game at the center of the World Cup, no worries. You, too, can join the rest of the world. No one will confuse Foocheebowl for the NFL.

4.  Futbol (Foocheebowl) is an international language. On a playground in Rio my five-year old son approached a couple of boys and in butchered Portuguese attempted to ask them to play. The boys passed confused glances back and forth, then dropped a futbol between them and they were off! The ball, a Rosetta Stone. For the next hour they spoke the language of Foocheebowl. Before this moment, my son was not a fan of soccer. He’d taken a class when he was three, but lost interest when he realized that the “games” the coaches led were just drills masquerading as fun. But, in Brazil everyone speaks Foocheebowl. As a matter of fact, the World Cup demonstrated that everyone in the world speaks Foocheebowl. All you need is a ball – no helmet, no expensive equipment. Despite FIFAs excesses, the game still has a purity to it. Now, my son is hooked – and our customs form declared a green and yellow flagged foocheebowl.

It’s ON!


5.   Protesting is better with Superheroes. If you’re in the mood to protest something it’s always good to bring along an internationally recognized superhero. Batman works well. Here he is supporting a teacher strike at the Camara dos Vereadores (equivalent of their city hall) downtown… …and later at Copacabana beach for a protest against privatization of health care.

Education Batman

Education Batman



Health Care Batman

Health Care Batman


6.  When in doubt, bring out the military police.

Here’s the view out of our window near Copacabana…  IMG_6819 - Version 2

And here they are bringing up the rear of Batman’s health care protest…


7. Nothing is more important than the World Cup. Nothing. During one round, the games were scheduled for 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm Brazil time. EVERYTHING shut down when the games started. Even the bars. Streets were deserted. Businesses were shuttered. At bars that showed the game, employees huddled around TVs in the back. And the government helped out by declaring national holidays whenever Brazil played.

An abandoned street in Paraty during a game

An abandoned street in Paraty during a game

The employee TV in our restaurant's kitchen

The employee TV in our restaurant’s kitchen

8.  Brazil fever is contagious! As we learned this week, national pride and team pride are inseparable. And demonstrations of this pride are everywhere, from big city to small hut (with the notable exception of the protests). It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this country and their passion for their team simultaneously. I mean, who doesn’t love Brazil? (Perhaps Argentina, but who else?)

An American stricken with Brazil Fever

An American stricken with Brazil Fever

Actual Brazilians with Brazil Fever

Actual Brazilians with Brazil Fever


Even the fruit is patriotic

Brazil Fever is found in the most remote Brazilian  locations

Brazil Fever is found in the most remote Brazilian locations

9.  Brazilian “team spirit” is passionate, but not blind. (i.e. They ain’t Redskin fans). I grew up in DC, and we cheered for the Redskins through the rain and snow, through strings of defeats, like happy minions, and after the occasional win, the city shut down. There is a saying in Brazil that people trade wives, but never teams. Brazil fans are crazy passionate and committed. But, don’t mistake that passion for blind love. Theirs is a tough love. It is the job of every Brazilian fan to gesticulate wildly, curse in front of small children and babies and throw things at the screen if a player misses a goal the fan deems unmissable. Otherwise kind, gentle people, pacifists even will mutate temporarily into blood-thirsty colliseum-goers. Nobody is blowing sunshine here.

An otherwise gentle, kind, and peaceful Brazilian doing her part for her team

An otherwise gentle, kind, and peaceful Brazilian doing her part for her team

A halftime with a tied score does not invite encouragement, but rather, depression.

Halftime Brazil vs. Chile

Halftime Brazil vs. Chile


But if the team makes a dramatic turn around fans will take you back. And with a win that same baby we just ranted to will be showered with kisses and thrown up in the air with something more joyful than ecstasy. A win – well, there’s nothing quite like it. I had the privilege of watching (on TV) Brazil beat Chile in the World Cup with my Brazilian friends in Copacabana. It was an emotional rollercoaster ride – ups and downs, twists and turns and a triumphant return.

And in the end, the Brazilian fans are resilient. They may trade wives after their crushing defeat, but never teams.


10.  And finally, #10 – Did I mention that Argentina sucks? 

Goodbye to Brazils World Cup

See you at the Olympics!

See you at the Olympics!

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4 thoughts on “BLOG: An American in Brazil: 10 Lessons from the World Cup

  1. Allison, you have portrayed the scene perfectly and most enjoyably; so glad you were able to be there. We were there in March with Patrick and Miriam, and Tim also joined us. Among other things, we did a tour of Maracana. What great people!
    Tom Kennelly

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