This last month has seen arguably one of the greatest ever World Cups of our modern era.
Throughout my journey I experienced not only football as a game, but as a way of life. You only have to stay in Rio for a few days for the footballing experience to take over your body, mind and soul. I was very quick to learn that football is much more than a game to the people of South America, it runs through their blood, it’s a religion. It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to a rich footballing culture which you would never see back at home in Australia.
Not only was this my first World Cup, I was travelling by myself for the first time half way across the world. Different emotions were running through me as I stepped off the plane at Rio international airport. There were always going to be nerves towards the safety of the country after the media were quick to hype up the dangers in Brasil leading up to the world cup. It was this type of unpredictability which I believe made the whole tournament a success.
The world has been lucky enough to witness a barrage of stunning goals, saves and most importantly some of the most passionate fans in the World. Every team gave it their all in this World Cup and we saw some of the smaller teams take it to the giants of the world.
I always wondered why a European team could never win a World Cup in South America, but I soon realized why.
The support that the South American teams receive is unbelievable. A great example of this was the Argentinians who travelled in the tens of thousands across the Brasilian boarder. I was lucky enough to experience a ride on a train full of Argentinian supporters to their group stage game against Bosnia at the famous Maracana. Although 20 thousand fans couldn’t get a hold of a ticket they still travelled to the stadium in full voice for the support of their team.
You don’t have to travel far to find a football pitch here in Brasil. This is why I think they are so talented and naturally skilled. They always have a ball at their feet and it becomes a second nature to these kids.
The children of Brasil live and breathe football. It will always be a childhood dream to play professionally and gives many of the children who have grown up in poor families hope. Ronaldo, Romario and Zico are some of Brasil’s footballing legends who grew up in the Favela’s of Brasil. As long as football continues to be a part of their lives, a smile will always be on their faces.
Although the quality of life in Australia may be better than Brasil, the locals here know how to enjoy life and forget about things that may stress them out.
Copacobana beach was a fan fest 24/7. There would always be a set of different fans chanting away for their country.
It was amazing seeing so many Australians supporting the Socceroos in Brasil for my first World Cup. I believe that fans go a long way in playing as a 12th man for a team and I believe that’s what happened in this World Cup. We were faced with a group of death and still managed to outplay Chile and Netherlands for a long periods of time throughout those matches.
Australia is remarkably one of the highest buyers of World Cup tickets with over 50,000 tickets sold. Only five other nations had a higher number of ticket buyers which is an amazing stat considering Australia is one of the furthest countries from South America.
The World Cup plays an extremely important role in the growth and popularity of football in Australia for the average neutral supporter of the world game. An incredible 2.28 million Australians tuned in to SBS for the Australia V Chile game.
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to attend this world cup. I know for a fact that we will not see a world cup come close to the one we just had in Brasil. One of the greatest things about attending a world cup is that you meet so many amazing people from different countries that all share a different story.
This is an experience I will never forget and I hope football can continue to grow in Australia so that one day everyone will be able to experience the feeling of being there at a World Cup.
Words by Ari Charilaou.