Road report: Match day in Manaus

Our multimedia-savvy correspondent Simon Hagens, who played the part of TV reporter in previewing the England-Italy match for CTV News on Saturday morning, turns scribe again with a summary of Saturday’s match day in Manaus and Italy’s 2-1 victory over England.

Dr. Livingston, we presume?

Dr. Livingstone (we presume) meets a member of Simon’s travelling party.

Game days generally start by properly nursing the hangover from the night before. On Saturday, this meant a long, slow breakfast with lots of tropical fruit.  It would have been wise to call it an early night on Friday, perhaps, but the street parties were just too appealing.  The bars just serve as a place to grab some drinks, while the squares and street corners are the place to be – anyone is welcome and the mood is amazing.

Our hostel that morning had a nervous buzz.  We, as partially-committed Canadians, clearly had less national pride and tense history on the line. We wrapped up breakfast and, along with many other groups of fans, began bumbling toward the stadium, making our way using a general sense of direction and whatever mix of transit seemed to be headed our way.  The locals were fantastic, very helpful in directing people all over the city during our stay, and this was no exception.  As we got closer to our destination, the crowds get thicker and more joyous.

Are you sure this is the right bus?

Are you sure this is the right bus stop?

England fans were the most vocal and visible.  Their distinguishing characteristics were flags, costumes, chants and copious amounts of beer.  Paul passed us in full crusader gear, with not a complaint in the world about the heat.  Neil, a British Airways pilot in full Dr. Livingstone garb, sweating under his pith helmet and with an elaborate fake moustache melting off his face, was similarly unconcerned.  Mad dogs and Englishmen as they say.  We settled into a nice barbecue restaurant next to the stadium to watch the Uruguay vs Costa Rica game, and continue the steady game day diet of beer and meat.  England fans flooded the place, buying beer to drink on the street outside.  The equalizer from Costa Rica brought cheers and a small group storming into the restaurant.  The go-ahead goal brought  another rush of ecstatic fans, screaming songs and bouncing a beach ball, overwhelming the nicely-outfitted wait staff.  Uruguay’s defeat would be a real help for England, but maybe Costa Rica did look a little too good.

Entry to the stadium was efficient and staff were highly accommodating, lending Eric a megaphone to perform his signature karaoke piece: Quando, Quando, Quando.  Once inside, the English were again the most noticeable, with local club flags lining the rails. Italian fans were relatively sparse, while Brazilians made up the lion’s share of the crowd, thrilled to be watching international football in their hometown.  By game time at 6:00 pm, the sun had gone down and the temperature and humidity were both quite pleasant – no excuses to be had there.

Shortly after kick off, as chants of “C’mon England,” and renditions of “Ten German bombers” were drowned out by rest of the crowd cheering back, we started to sense the leaning of the Brazilian fans.  This was confirmed when the stadium erupted for the first Italian goal.  “Fookin’ ‘ell” came the mutters from all around our England section (perhaps the “memories of conquests past” outfits aren’t loved by all?).  Shortly after, the English equalizer sent beer pouring down from our upper deck supporter’s section onto the Brazilians and Italians below.  With the exception of one particularly damp and enraged Italian couple, it was all in good fun. And the helpful line of burly gentlemen surrounding the England sections to service our needs provided a gentle reminder of the acceptable limits. (As would the actual army of forces outside, well equipped with many on horseback in robocop armour).

The scene inside the stadium in Manaus.

The scene inside the stadium in Manaus.

The second, and as it would turn out, winning Italian goal brought a sense of gloom, and perhaps a little inevitability.  Not even the incredible number of ant species they had encountered would cheer up this crowd. Nothing, that is, until we all got back to the street party, where for most it didn’t seen all that bad.  Seems there’s nothing another layer of beer, meat and revelry can’t cure.

We’re flew to São Paulo today for England’s second match on Thursday. Climbing out of Manaus brought an incredible view of dense urban mass surrounded by a sea of jungle and rivers.  Looking forward to plumbing with more than one temperature of water, not being sticky all the time, and a few less ants.  Thanks, Amazon.  It’s been a blast.

Next opponent: Uruguay.  May they be  as porous as they were against Costa Rica.

Simon Hagens

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