Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 23 - Salvador - Belo Horizonte

For the first time in a couple of days there was no need to get up early, but my biological clock woke me up at 5am anyway. Thanks, biological clock! I did a bit of surfing before trying to get a bit of shut eye again but it wasn’t really any good. So I got up and had a shower and planned my strategy for the day.
I had a few goals: a) To drop off the Iran v Bosnia ticket I’d promised to the Iranian guy, b) Try to find the Charles Miller Bar in Salvador, c) To watch two of the simultaneous final group games in different venues, and d) Get to the airport in good time to catch the flight to Belo Horizonte.

I decided to wash my clothes I’d worn yesterday, to take full advantage of the availability of a washing machine and also to re-wash my white shorts and socks which hadn’t cleaned very well first time.

(Baby screaming on flight to BH causes pause).

Selma's Washing Machine - a very welcome item

That all started well so I decided to go off to drop the tickets and get some brekkie in back in Pelourinho while the cycle went through. I got to Pelhourinho ok and found the hotel Sylvian had told me about easily. I dropped off the ticket and found a café to have a bite to eat – one of those Brazilian cheese and ham thingies – which always hits the spot nicely.
Good deed for the day

Another wander around Pelourinho


Then, when I got back to the apartment I was disappointed that the cycle still had a fair way to go, so I decided to get packed and have everything else ready.

(Baby still screaming)

Anyway, eventually, I was packed and the clothes were washed so I put them back on the scary line to dry, being extra careful not to drop them.

Then, it was off to try to find the Charles Miller bar. Charles Miller, as everybody knows, was the Englishman (of Scottish descent) who brought football to Brazil. Born in Sao Paulo to Scottish parents from near Glasgow, he was sent to an English boarding school for a “proper” education at Southampton and came back with football on the brain. He used to be a bit of a legend in Brazil and there is a square named after him in Sao Paulo and, apparently, a football mad bar in Salvador. So, I tried to find it. After Googling gave limited success I had to explore the area it was supposed to be in on foot and ask local people (older ones) if they knew where it was. Eventually I found it: Closed down and ready for renovation. No longer will it be called the Charles Miller bar. No longer will it have a football theme. Another piece of the British contribution to the world eroded away by time and ignorance.

Charles Miller taught the Brazilians how to kick a ball

Looking for traces of Charles Miller. No, not there.

The ex-Charles Miller Bar. Another link with the past, erased.
Never mind. Just time to find a bar to watch the Group B deciders. Australia v Spain and Holland v Chile. Just after my Charles Miller disappointment I bumped into an aussie from Sydney in the street with key information – a place that was going to show Australia v Spain. I guess you can’t blame most Brazilians for being more interested in the other game but you’d think the FIFA fanfest would show both at the same time. Nope. So we had to walk some way to find the place: A two level bar place with Australia v Spain on the second floor and Chile v Holland on the floor below. It was good to see that about 30 aussies went to the trouble to watch the game, whereas downstairs it was pretty much empty. I guess people who wanted to watch that game had the fanfest.

Aussies enjoying the view at half time. 1-0 would get worse in the 2nd half

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.... Oi, Oi, Oi
As always, I was sat next to a fascinating chap – again from Sydney, a chef who’d just resigned from his job in order to tour South America for three months (obviously including the World Cup) before going to England for a few years. We exchanged notes on Brazilian food and beer and security in South America. Although he agreed with me that much of the ‘fear bubble’ thing was media generated, he told me enough stories to keep my vigilance on high.

Spain took an early lead in a pretty dull game and seemed set for an easy win. Chris (Forest fan) and Steve (from Perth) joined us and, at half time, said they were going to the fanfest to watch Holland v Chile. That made sense for me too, to get closer to the flat in order to catch my cab, and also because I’d quite like to see at least one game there.

It was all fully functional, including a cool chair lift ride across the screen. After another couple of beers, at the end of the match, I shot off and left Chris and Steve at the fanfest to watch the Brazil game. They would be following my footsteps to Belo Horizonte themselves later.

fanfest operational (Chris and Steve are happy)

Idyllic Spot

Getting ready for the Brasil game later
 I legged it back to the flat, grabbing a kebab from a street seller on the way (I asked for lots of different sauces on and one nearly burnt a hole through my throat!)  to find my cab driver waiting for me outside. Sometimes, Brazilians are very punctual! I said “Dez minutes, por favor” and went back to the flat to see if the clothes had dried (somewhat) and get everything packed.
Very tasty kebab
Then, having got everything ready, it was time to lock up and go. But what to do with the key again? I called Selma and she told me to lock the door of the flat and then put the keys through an iron grid above the door. "You can press the button next to the gate to get out of that" I think she said. I had already checked that the front door was still unlocked and so I did what I was told. But what about the front gate? That was locked and my key to unlock it was now inside her locked flat! Oops! My taxi driver, on the other side, seemed to know the score and tried a few tricks to open it, and then called several people in the apartment to unlock the gate. No one answered. I passed my phone over to him to eliminate any language problems but that didn’t help either. So I ended up climbing over an iron fence with nasty spiky bits to escape!
Locked in
The only way is over
Wora Illarious Laf!!

Anyway, the taxi ride to the airport… The driver was such a hoot! He’d already shown his sense of humour at the gate, taking photos of me climbing over, and on the way to the airport gave some delicious salty item – kind of like an unripe peanut – very nice. We chatted about family and football and he tried to teach me some Bahia football songs. The route included a drive by the fantastic stadium here. A lovely man. He got me to the airport in easy time to check in and then watch the 1st half of the Brazil v Cameroon game along with about 500 others.


A Brazilian lady of mixed background had kindly saved my seat for me as I bought a tinnie, where I met Aiden, a lovely man originally from Sligo, Ireland, but who now lives in Sydney. He was a hoot too and we downed a few trying to talk football whilst trying to be polite and engaging with the Brazilian lady about politics at the same time. They are happy people but they do all seem rather paranoid about their government. (Reminder: Brazil is a democracy, right?) Despite all the beers, Aiden and I made the “sensible Victor” decision to get through security nice and early and watch the second half near the gate, before getting on our respective planes. (He was on his way to Thailand for a friends' wedding.)

Anticipating Brazil v Cameroon

Aiden from Sligo was a hoot
It was 3-1 to Brazil and Mexico were beating Croatia 1-0 when I got on.

So, winging my way 1,000km south west to Belo Horizonte I was thinking about meeting Jake and Liliana, and maybe Chris and Steve and, no doubt, a bunch of others who will enhance the trip still further.

2 hour flight
Having arrived at BH, I caught a bus from the international airport (odd, when the flight was internal) to the domestic airport which I assumed I'd be arriving at - hence my location for the next three days, very close (walking distance almost)to the airport. That part went very smoothly, and cost just R$10. But the final bit, the last 5km or so, was a bit of a farce.
I went to the taxi rank, got in and showed him the piece of paper with the address written on it and a map printed next to it. Easy, right? Wrong. It would seem some Brazilian taxi drivers do not know their local neighbourhood very well or cannot read maps. After driving around some dark streets for five minutes, he stopped to ask a policeman and then again, a group at a bar, before finally arriving at the street. Luckily, right outside the apartment I'm staying at, No 700, Rua Deputado Jose Raimundo.
I must say I was a little apprehensive about this one because the hosts don't have much of a history with AirBnB. Actually, it turns out that they rent out a whole flat, usually to local workers for fairly long term periods and only because the World Cup is on, and only because a couple of their regulars have gone away, they decided to try using AirBnB to filla couple of rooms.

When I arrived, hosts Fabiana and Eduardo could not have been sweeter and friendlier. The place is really great again, and good value for the money. After settling into my room I met one of my fellow roomies, a young lawyer who is really into music. I wish Žemyna or Mike Rawlings were here to help me out with all the terms and band names. I always feel really ignorant when chatting about bands with people in the know. He even knew the Manics and asked me some questions I embarrassingly couldn't answer, like what was the name of that album.. ("Journal for Plague Lovers" hardly rolls off the tongue.) 
Anyway, so here I am in the much cooler Minas Gerais city of Belo Horizonte. Tomorrow, I go to the Minerais to see England and hopefully meet up with Jakey.
Spain 3 Australia 0
I only watched the first half of this game. Without the suspended Tim Cahill it was always going to difficult and Spain looked the better side. It was only 1-0 at half time, a beautifully back-heeled goal from Villa. But there was no marking so he shouldn’t have had the opportunity. I can’t comment on the second half but Australia clearly did us proud at this World Cup. Ok, they lost all three but it was a very difficult group and no-one really expected them to do as well as they did.

Holland 2 Chile 0
I only watched the second half of this one and until Holland scored it was looking good for Chile. Two more excellently executed goals from Holland won it for them and Mexico will have a tough game with them in the next round. Chile will face Brazil with more confidence than last time, in 2010. It could be tricky for Brazil because, apart from Neymar, they didn’t really sparkle.

Brazil 4 Cameroon 1
Brazil looked good at the start but then faded as Cameroon gave a spirited first half. A bit of Neymar brilliance put Brazil up only for Cameroon to equalise, exposing some frailties in the Brazilian defence. But Brazil were obviously the stronger team and Neymar almost set up the goal of the tournament at one point. I had to leave with Brazil seemingly coasting to a win to top the group and a round of 16 tie against Chile.

Mexico 3 Croatia 1
I did not see even one second of this game live but I am not surprised Mexico won. It’ll be interesting to see how they match up with Holland.

Two more high scoring games have set the average goals/game ratio back to exactly 3.

Goals per Game back to 3

As I wing my way to BH, tomorrow’s games conclude Groups C and D.
England are already out (wipes tear) of course but they can get some serious pride back if they can beat 100% group leaders Costa Rica. The optimist in me says they will do so. The other game, Uruguay v Italy should be a hum-dinger, but I expect Italy to deal with Suarez better than England and win the game to top the group, with Costa Rica second.

Columbia have already qualified from Group C and should have no problem getting at least the draw they need against Japan to top the group. Ivory Coast should win too, to join them. So the round of 16 games should be Italy v Ivory Coast and Columbia v Costa Rica.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to match day 3 and England v Costa Rica at the Mineiro as well as meeting up with Jakey.

Belo Horizonte


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