Rio and my final thoughts

You may or may not be glad to know that I am back safe and well from Brazil, but more on that later. I’ll try and finish off by going through my final few days in Rio de Janeiro before giving a final overview of my time in Brazil and what was, for me, a trip of a lifetime.

All the days roll into one, but one of the days Andrew (my friend from Swansea who had the displeasure of my company) and I went to the famous ‘Escadaria Selarón’ steps which a Chilean artist, now sadly deceased, decorated some dilapidated steps in front of his house in the early 1990s with colourful tiles and then made it his obsession. It is an iconic tourist attraction and luckily when we got there, there weren’t too many people around which meant no-one could get in the way of my photos (I hate that!).

Rio 1

 

 

Rio 2The famous Lapa Steps

For the next few days it did pour down, well it was winter I guess, so visiting the Christ Redeemer would have to wait. I did book a favela tour, called Santa Marta, it featured in the Michael Jackson video ‘They Dont Care About Us’ (apparently, I haven’t seen it).  This particular favela has been ‘pacified’ and it was really interesting to see how people lived and the conditions they have to put up with. There were lots of narrow and winding steps to get to the top of the favela and I went on the slowest cable car in the World. But it was worth it to see the views, as has been said by almost everyone who has been. The people who live in Favelas, really do have the best views of Rio. It was a shame it was raining so much, as I would’ve liked to have taken more photos, but that’s nature!

Rio 3

Rio 4

The weather improved slightly and we took a trip up to Sugarloaf Mountain where you can see more great views of Rio de Janeiro, thankfully we got there early so the queues weren’t too bad and took two cable cars up to the top, this was the day of the 3rd/4th Place Play Off match between Netherlands and Brazil, which we watched on the TV. The Argentine fans were in great voice revelling in the result. A disappointing performance and result for the hosts.

Rio 5I wondered what Al Fayed had done with the Michael Jackson statue…..

Rio 6

A simple message in a favela

The day after the World Cup Final, which I wrote about here (https://awelshmanattheworldcup.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/the-world-cup-final/) we went to the Christ Redeemer, completed in 1931, I wanted to get there early to avoid the crowds. But unfortunately, it seemed like everybody else had the same idea, the place swarming with mainly Argentinians and Germans. It was hectic up there and no way of avoiding ‘photobombers’. The views of Rio de Janeiro were impressive from up there though and it was a lovely day.

Rio 14

Rio 8The views from Sugarloaf Mountain

So all in all I’d say Rio was my favourite city of the lot, had the World Cup not been on I would have done much more touristy stuff, as there is plenty to see and do. I was going to watch Vasco da Gama play, as the Brazilian League season started 2 days after the World Cup Final, but they moved their game to the host city of Cuiaba (1900km away), so that was a little disappointing.

Rio 12Photobombers everywhere (argh!)

Rio 10

The views were good though (one for the programme)

Thoughts of the World Cup as a whole

The World Cup I thought was fantastic, even if the goals after the group stages dried up slightly. Spain going out was a shock, Chile and Colombia doing exetremley well, Costa Rica doing Central America proud, Greece boring everyone as usual, England failing as usual, Suarez biting as usual and so much more I almost forget. Algeria were mighty unlucky against the eventual winners Germany and USA v Belgium was a fantastic game, mainly for Tim Howard. I thought the Germans deserved to win overall, though I would’ve liked to have seen the reaction in Brazil had Argentina won.

The first two weeks of the tournament are definitely the best, it’s great to see all the different fans from different countries and you can sense the buzz around the airports and host cities. Someone told me, but I can’t remember who it was, that once the group stages are over, things start to get a bit more serious and it’s right. So if I was to go to Russia, I would probably go for the knock out stages

This was my first World Cup and I think I picked a good one, I have been, done and travelled a lot around Brazil. So difficult to remember everything. In total I watched 9 games at 6 different stadia, watched 12 different teams, saw 27 goals and no penalty shoot outs, which I was happy with. All the stadia were finished on time, there were no issues I could see when I was there. There was security as you entered the grounds, but all seemed to move pretty smoothly. The only disappointing thing for me and a few others was there was nowhere really to put up flags. Some grounds you could, others you weren’t allowed to. I’ll go through my ‘best and worst’ of the games I went to.

Best game

Brazil 1-7 Germany

Up until the semi final I would have said USA v Portugal, but then that night in Belo Horizonte changed all that. An amazing game that will be talked about for years to come and I can say ‘I was there’. Was well worth the 14 hour round trip on a coach from Rio de Janeiro, 8 goals, host humiliated, Klose becoming the World Cup’s highest ever goalscorer and grown men crying and I had a free taxi ride to the stadium.

Worst game

Iran 0-0 Nigeria

No contest for me, I had been saying for days that this game would be 0-0 as all the other games up until then had been great and full of goals. There were hardly any shots on target or great pieces of play, most of the crowd in Curitiba ended up losing interest in the end. That’s why I was so surprised that Iran did so well against Argentina in the following game, as against Nigeria they just parked their bus and seemed happy with a 0-0. If I ever have to watch this again, it would be too soon.

Best goal

Jermaine Jones (USA)

Götze’s in the Final was a good one, as was Schürrle’s against Brazil but I quite liked Jermaine Jones’s against Portugal for USA, a great curling shot from about 30 yards moved the momentum the USA’s way in that game

Best save

Tim Howard – USA v Portugal

Tim Howard’s (that man again) fantastic save from Eder after the ball had rebounded off the post stopped the game from going 2-0 to Portugal, I stood up and clapped anyway.

Best Player

Neymar Jr (vs Croatia)

No-one really stood out for me that I can think of. I got to see Messi and Ronaldo play (and Shola Ameobi), but they didn’t live up to my expectation really. I picked Neymar as against Croatia he was the only player on the field that looked as if he could win the game for Brazil. And he did. He scored a very good equaliser, which just crept in as well as a pressure penalty but he was exciting everytime Brazil attacked.

Neymar

Worst Player

Eder – Portugal

Fred almost made it! Eder came on for Heldar Postiga against the USA and the Emnes look-a-like looked as if he had won a competition to play International football. He couldn’t hold the ball up, his first touch wasn’t very good and looked a bit like a headless chicken. I was getting annoyed with him and I’m not even Portuguese.

Best fans

USA

Difficult to pick between them and Argentina, but the U.S.A fans were really enjoying themselves in Brazil and there were loads of them and maybe surprising to some, they were all really knowledgeable about football (not soccer) too. I felt a bit sorry for them in Manaus against Portugal as they conceded a 95th minute equaliser.

USA 1USA! USA! USA!

 

Best stadium

Arena Amazonia – Manaus

On the edge of the Amazon jungle and impressive looking from the outside and seemed to hold the noise in pretty well. Not sure what’s going to happen to it now the World Cup is over though.

Manuas

Thoughts on Brazil

I went to 6 of the 12 host cities, (I would’ve liked to have gone to 12 but that was nearly impossible) and I was happy with the ones I picked (Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Manaus, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte). Maybe after speaking to people along the way Fortaleza and Salvador would’ve been good cities to go for, but I wanted to visit Iguazu Falls and the Amazon on my trip.

It was difficult to combine tourist stuff and watch the World Cup, but I’m glad I went to Iguazu Falls and even on my Amazon iver tour I watched games on the boat, so there was literally no getting away from the World Cup. I thoroughly enjoyed my 38 days in Brazil and there was a lot of scaremongering going on beforehand but Brazilians are one of the friendliest people I’ve met, all were very welcoming. Even though the language barrier was tough in certain places at times. Even going into a McDonald’s proved more difficult than you’d think.

No-one wanted to mug me, attack me, steal my things like many predicted beforehand and I’d recommend anybody going to Brazil. I felt very safe in all the cities I went to (And I was out at night!). There was a heavy military police presence, which wouldn’t have been there if the World Cup wasn’t in Brazil, but still no issues. I’m sure similar issues will arise before the World Cup in Russia and everyone will have a great time.

I have met so many great people along the way from so many different countries, I’d like to thank them all for their company, there were so many I have forgotten some of their names (oops). Apologies for not telling any of them that I had a World Cup Final ticket, but I thought the less people that knew the better.

I hope the majority of you have enjoyed reading my blogs throughout these past 6 weeks, hey even my haters read them after saying they weren’t interested!

I wonder if I have a job to go back to on Monday…..

 

Other things

No Brazilian is disappointed that Fred has announced his retirement, even his mother (probably).

I am personally impressed that I organised this whole trip myself, booked all the flights and hostels/hotels and there were no hitches. I also didn’t lose any of my World Cup tickets – which was a big burden on me for most of the trip! I was travelling alone for the most part too, but it didn’t phase me.

The language barrier was difficult at times, though I learnt the Portuguese word for ‘Wales’ to tell people where I was from (País de Gales) and they usually replied with ‘Gareth Bale’.

I wish I had done other World Cups, but can’t complain I guess!

Lastly I really liked this wall in Rio, it depicted the story of the World Cup (see below)

Wall 1

Wall 2

Wall 3

Wall 4

Wall 5

Wall 6

Wall 7

Wall 8

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The World Cup Final

I thought I’d try and write a blog just on the World Cup Final and the pre match and post match stuff. So here goes…..

I was lucky enough to be able to get a ticket for the World Cup Final, 4 years ago I was watching Spain v Netherlands at 4am in Sydney. I wouldn’t have thought I’d actually be at the stadium in Rio de Janeiro 4 years on!

I was personally happy that Argentina beat the Netherlands as I thought it would be a better final and it would be a chance for me to see Lionel Messi play ‘live’, purely selfish reasons. I wanted, as did most people probably, a Brazil v Argentina final. But it wasn’t to be.

This would be the 3rd time I would watch Germany in a row at this World Cup, I’m sure I would fit in well as many people have told me over the past week that I look German! (Do I?). Plus I am their lucky charm as they have won every game I have previously seen them in, including Wales games. (I missed our 1-0 win in Cardiff in 2002).

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The famous Maracana stadium

The night before the Argentinian fans were in fine voice on the Copacabana, obviously happy that Brazil lost 3-0 to the Netherlands in the 3rd/4th Place Play Off and confident that their team would lift the trophy for the first time since 1986 (the year I was born).

Most of the banter between the Argentinians consisted of the Argentinain fans counting to seven in Spanish (obviously in reference to the Germany result) and the Brazilians taunting back showing their hand (in reference to the 5 World Cups they have won). Also there is a song refering to Pele’s 1000+ goals (called ‘mil gol’) and someting about Maradona sniffing cocaine. I found it amusing anyway.

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I arrived at the ground a good 4 and a half hours before kick off (I wouldn’t want to miss this would I!?). There was a very heavy police presence, more than I have seen for any other game at this World Cup, there is no way anybody would be able to do something like run onto the pitch during the game…….. Oh.

The German fans definitely seemed outnumbered, as obviously they didn’t have the short journey that the Argentinians did. Most of the Argentinians I had seen during the week were sleeping and living in camper vans just off the Copacabana, credit to them for doing that, can’t have been very comfortable.

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A Welshman at the World Cup Final

There was a long walk around the Maracana and my seats were almost in the same place for when I watched France v Germany in the Quarter Final however long ago it was (I’ve been losing track of days and dates).

As chance would have it, I bumped into two other Welsh fans who just happened to be Swans fans (Chris and Matt), it’s a small World as they say. My pre match for this game was making new friends and contributing to alcoholism, as the cups that the local ‘Brahma’ beer was served in would make good souveneirs and some people had asked me  to pick some up for them.

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These Germans were happy with their free beer

I did ask whether I could just buy the cups and not have the beer, but for some reason I wasn’t allowed to. So I just offered free beer to people nearby to me, as long as I could have the cups back. They didn’t seem to mind…..

After buying a fair few cups it was time to watch the closing ceremony, which again, like the opening ceremony wasn’t really anything special, apart from Shakira. (No not the Switzerland midfielder).

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Shakira! Shakira!

The atmosphere was really building now and the Argentinians were definitely more exciteable than the Germans, but I got the feeling that everybody else was supporting Germany. The Brazilians would never live it down if their biggest rivals won in their country.

I won’t go through a match report, but overall I did enjoy the game. The first half flew by and even though Germany had the most possession, Argentina will rue their missed chances. Hugain and that guy with the daft pony tail are still probably having sleepness nights. I did initially think Hugain’s ‘goal’ stood but a guy dressed as a referee in the crowd (yes really! And it wasn’t me!) was standing with his flag in the air shaking his head.

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Good job I didn’t bring my kit to the game as well!

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In case I missed the real ref issue the yellow card

I was also glad that it didn’t go to a penalty shootout, it was also my first extra time of the tournament (at least I had value for money for my £402 ticket!). A little harsh on Argentina as the goal came so late on in the game and they probably won’t get a better chance. But I do feel that Germany were the better team ain this World Cup and a quality goal from Mario Götze won them the game.

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My favourite moment though, was Manuel Neuer taking a throw-in, you may have missed it on the TV but I thought that was brilliant. In a World Cup Final!!

I am lucky enough to say I have seen a World Cup Final match and it being in Brazil was special to me. I doubt I will ever see another one, so something to tell other people’s grandkids in years to come I guess. Around 200,000 saw Uruguay beat Brazil in the 1950 World Cup at the same venue, just the 75,000 there for the 2014 one.

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Could be Wales in 4 years……..

The Copacabana was pretty quiet compared to the night before, though I guess it would’ve been different had Argentina won. I hurried back to my apartment after the game as a few people wanted my cups that I was carrying!

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I will write a final conclusion of my trip when I return, but I did really enjoy this World Cup, I did miss a few games on the TV due to travelling around the different cities. I saw 9 matches in total at 6 different stadia including the opening game and the final, can’t see me being in Russia for the full tournament in 2018 (unless Wales get all the way to the Final), so I defintely savoured this one.

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The much sought after Brahma cups!

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A visit to the capital and the road to Rio

Sorry for those of you who have been eagerly anticipating my next blog installment, but I have been pretty busy recently. So I’ll do my best to remember everything.

I’m guessing most people would say Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil, well up until 1960 they would be correct. But Brasilia is the capital of Brazil.  I actually passed through it on the way to Manaus, but I would get to visit it this time. I had an early morning flight (4am) from Manaus, where again it was difficult to find someone who spoke English. In the end I did find somebody who said the time on my ticket was correct and the television screens were wrong (helpful).

I had been awake for almost 24 hours, but I daren’t go to sleep in case I did miss my flight. It took just 3 hours to go from Manaus to Brasilia and I arrived all blearly eyed at a Hostel called ‘Hostel 7’, they don’t have street names in Brasilia, just numbers – which is easier to find your way around I guess.

I had a great welcome from the workers at the hostel (Thiago and Pedro) and they even let me have breakfast before showing me to my room, as everyone else was sleeping. Around the same time, Lee (an Aston Villa fan) also arrived, so I hung around with him for the day and saw all the sights of what Brasilia had to offer (not that much really). What I liked is that Lee was also the same as me, regarding very fussy with photos, I also got interviewed by some local college, I think, regarding the World Cup – this was becoming a regular occurance for me. Whether this footage was ever shown around the World I do not know.

Brasilia2The famous cathedral in Brasilia

The next day, Lee and I decided to go to the FIFA FanFest to watch Brazil v Chile and some other English guys tagged along. It turned out to be a great day and usually I’d have probably wanted Chile to win (being the underdog), but as I’m in Brazil I like to see them do well (More on this later).

10366267_10152778320790101_7945603274685658298_nAt the FIFA FanFest

It didn’t seem as busy I had expected, I had plenty of room to move around and as there has been everywhere, a very heavy military police presence. The only downside to the Brasilia FanFest was that it took around a hour to get to and was well out of the city. Later that evening I just chatted to the other people in the hostel and became friendly with a great guy called Phill, who is a Southampton fan, from Guernsey (and he has met Matt le Tissier). I have never met anyone from Guernsey before, but also there were 3 guys from Nepal in my room. It’s better for me to list where I haven’t met someone from (Antarctica is one….)

The next day more people had arrived as the France v Nigeria game was the following day. Mostly from Canada and the U.S.A, I tried not to upset either by asking where they were from.

Most people were then cheering for Costa Rica against Greece, as two Scottish guys (both called John) had put money on them to qualify for the next round and bought everybody a drink. The next day they had lost on other bets, oops! You never see a poor bookie I guess!

Brasilia4

France v Nigeria was upon us and as I walk quite quick I just walked to the ground, which took about 30 minutes. I would say it was probably one of the more impressive grounds at the World Cup, it reminded me a bit of Wembley with the red seats but it was much much steeper. I had a great view on the halfway line (Thanks FIFA), as the ground was mostly full of Brazilians and France and Brazil have a slight history, most of the ground wanted Nigeria to win. (I didn’t as I would watch the winners of this one against the winners of Germany/Algeria).

Brasilia5Inside the stadium in Brasilia

The match wasn’t the best really, but thought France deserved their win as their class shone through in the end. Germant sneaked past Algeria in the later game and I had my wish of a France v Germany match in Rio a few days later.

As the World Cup is on and takes up most of people’s time here, it is difficult to do the toursit stuff. So 240 minutes of the following day was taken up with watching Argentina v Switzerland and Tim Howard v Belgium.

Brasilia6France vs Nigeria

This hostel in Brasilia is probably the best hostel I have ever stayed in, the staff are very helpful and happy to talk and join in with what’s going on and the other people staying there were great as well. There was  a 5-a-side match with everybody in the hostel involved, I offered to referee it, but people just made up their own rules. But I cannot play football and knowing me I’d get injured, but it’s great that the hostel do this and I’m sure I have made some new friends and will now know someone when I go to watch Guernsey FC………

Brasilia3The stadium from a high vantage point

So Brasilia as a city is nothing special really, thankfully there was football on or I would’ve struggled for stuff to do. It also seemed like everybody was then heading to Rio de Janeiro and that would be my next stop.

This was another long day to add to the list of long days I’ve had whilst flying internally through Brazil. TAM had changed one of the flight times, which meant I now had a 7 hour wait in Belo Horizonte airport, before arriving in Rio.

This time I was staying in someone’s apartment, through the site ‘AirBNB’ the taxi driver just dropped me off nearby to where I had to meet ‘Cris’, with me pulling my suitcase and having all my Worldly possessions on me. Thankfully I managed to find out where to go, but not sure why the taxi driver couldn’t just carry on. He just said ‘okay I go now, it’s over there’.

I then got to my apartment, which was just a 10 minute walk away from the Maracana, the venue for France v Nigeria on the Friday. After a long day waiting around in airports, I just wanted to sleep!

Rio2Inside the Maracana

I left early (as always) to have a look around the Maracana, have my usual photos and sample the pre-match atmosphere. Some Guatemalans were in front of me (another to tick off the list), but I wasn’t that happy with my seat for this game, people kept walking back and fore to get their food and drinks and some where taking ‘selfies’ (I hate that craze) whilst the game was going on, hopefully it won’t be like that on Sunday!

I was impressed with the Maracana as well, a ground full of history too, it seemed to keep the noise in well. I just found the stewards more of a jobsworth here than at anywhere else and there seemed to be some minor disagreements amongst opposition fans (I’m surprised it’s allowed).

Rio3France vs Germany

The game itself wasn’t much of a spectacle, Germany scored early on and needn’t have worried about France as they didn’t really do much, disappointingly. Most fans were leaving early as Brazil were playing Colombia in just a few hours.

My mate Andrew, who I met in Sao Paulo, was at that game. I was a little envious as I thought it was a great game and would’ve like to have been there when David Luiz scored that free kick (I know I sound greedy!).

Rio4

Rio5The Copacabana

The next day I then tried the metro system and went to the Copacabana and Ipanema and tried to familiarise myself with my surroundings, again there were two World Cup games on. So it’s difficult to do anything else. I was glad Argentina won, as I desperately want to see Messi play live.

I met up with Andrew the following day, who had been to Salvador and Fortaleza since we last met in Sao Paulo. This now means that my trip is nearly over, but I try not to think about it…….. Had some good anecdotes to share but it was back early to the apartment for me, as I was off to Belo Horizonte for some match between Brazil and Germany.

This is when my stress levels rose and I don’t ge stressed, I first had to wait 45 minutes in a small supermarket (imagine that happening over here), the cashiers seemed to have the Michael Laudrup approach to serving people (No urgency shown), then had the pleasure of being cramped on the tube for over a hour. I got back to my hostel to find the power out, so couldn’t access wi-fi or charge my phone and then it was very difficult to find a taxi to take me to the bus station.

I went on the Internet cafe there and had a message from Cris saying that electricity has gone, but obviously I couldn’t read it as I didn’t have wi-fi. I was hoping it would be fixed by the time I returned.

The coach journey took 7 hours, but these coaches had reclining seats and lots of leg room (shall I get the company game for Ugo?).  I still find it difficult to sleep on moving transport though.

Belo H2Belo Horizonte

I had a few hours to spare in the morning and afternoon before going to the big match. It would be the second time I would watch Brazil play, the first being against Croatia. I walked to Praça do Papa (Pope Square), though I hadn’t realised it was such a trek and such steep hills, but I live near Kilvey Hill so I just about managed. Apparently the Pope said ‘What a beautiful horizon’ when he visited there in the 80s, so that’s where it got it’s name.

Belo H 1Belo Horizonte

I managed to catch a free lift to the stadium with some Brazilians (who could actually speak English). I just jumped in their taxi, but they wouldn’t let me pay! If only we knew how the game would turn out.

Again another impressive stadium, with a much more relaxed security this time. I saw 4 Faroe Islanders, who I just had to go and appraoch, people who know me well know I dream of playing the Faroe Islands every tournament, but it never happens. I want to go there!

Two of them told me they used to play for the Faroes (against Wales in 1993) and one of them scored against Spain. I have their names written down somewhere, but the are the ‘Hansen’ brothers (no I don’t think they went onto sing).

FIMy Faroe Island friends (One of them called Tummas Eli Hansen

Onto the game I have to say it is probably the best half of football I have ever witnessed, it was like watching a Germany training session. Brazil defended like schoolboys, as you all saw. Was like me playing on Amatuer level on FIFA. Both sets of fans were just in shock, German fans couldn’t believe it and one of my new Faroe friends said that even they would have a chance against Brazil!

bELO h 5Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte

I saw one guy crying on the phone, I’m guessing it was either because his dog had died or the fact the scoreline was 5-0. I wasn’t sure.

The second half was just about trying to restore some pride for Brazil and Germany went a little easy on their opponents. I’m not sure of the stats, but it must be one of the biggest ever semi final wins in World Cup history and I think Brazil’s first competitive loss since 1975?

Belo H 6My usual stadium shot

Fred got booed by almost everyone in the crowd too, maybe more than Sepp Blatter at the opening game.

Was a great ‘I was there’ moment that will be talked about for years to come, as well as Miroslav Klose becoming the World Cup’s highest ever scorer in front of a watching Ronaldo. This game now narrowly pips Iran v Nigeria as my favourite game that I have watched ‘live’ so far.

Belo H 4Yes it did really happen!

That 14 hour round trip was worth it in the end, still no power at my apartment but at least I now have an excuse to when people ask me ‘Did you get dressed in the dark’?

My 9th and Final game will be the World Cup Final on Sunday.

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Pearcey’s 2013/14 End of Season Awards

Pearcey's Blog

The 2013/14 season finished for me in Amsterdam so to sum up the season in a blog, it’s time for the end of season awards show. In typical end of season football awards show fashion, please feel free to wear a poorly fitting suit whilst reading this, get quite drunk, and then go out to the most expensive bar in town afterwards.

Best Ground

The soon to be coveted prize of Best Ground kicks off the proceedings. Now, every year there could be one winner, Wembley Stadium. It is comfortably my favourite ever stadium, and I can never see it being beaten to be honest. Because of this I plan to go every season to add to my five visits, next season’s voyage is already planned in fact, with a slight twist (keep an eye on the blog around the end of September). However, because of my clear favouritism, I…

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Football in the Amazon

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So here is my 3rd blog on my World Cup trip and I’m still having a great time. I haven’t been writing things down, so doing all this from memory (but actually on a computer this time!). The 3rd host city on m trip was Manaus, on the edge of the Amazon Jungle.

I picked to go here when I first planned my trip, as I like to be a little different, plus I thought I would have a better chance of getting tickets for the games – which turned out to be the case! There were only 4 games in total played at the Arena da Amazonia (England v Italy, Croatia v Cameroon, USA v Portugal and Honduras v Switzerland). Manaus is also the only host city, where there isn’t a local football team. So the stadium will not have a main use when the World Cup is over.

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Arena da Amazonia, Manaus

I left from Curitiba to go to Manaus (via Brasilia), not sure what it is with Brazil and their connecting flights. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that you are able to take liquids through the airport security and nobody cares. Someone even brought a cat in bag onboard (yes really!) and before anyone says, no it wasn’t let out!

The main theme for the next few days would be ‘Americans’ they were everywhere, barring the South American fans. The USA fans were the fans who have travelled in the greater numbers at this World Cup (awesome), I got talking to a few and they were all very knowledgeable (not sure why I was surprised though).

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The Opera Theatre, Manaus

As my original hostel messed me around slightly, I tried the website ‘airbnb.com’ where people put their house up for people to stay in (I will be doing the same in Rio). So Maurico picked me up from the airport at 11:30pm and he couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, I was disappointed I was only staying there for the one night.

But one of the pros of staying in the ‘Gol Backpackers Hostel’ was the location, it was about 20 yards away from the Opera House and main square of Manaus. It was game day (USA v Portugal) and I had arranged to meet Rhys Hartley and his Dad Tim, who I know through watching Wales away games – so at least I got to chat with some friendly faces. It was a ridiculously hot and humid day, but guessing the norm for Manaus.

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USA v Portugal

Tim, Rhys and I caught a taxi to as near as the ground as possible, then walked into a bar nearby to watch part of the South Korea v Algeria match. The USA fans were in great voice, though I’m not sure I like their ‘I believe that we will win’ chant.

The match itself was probably one of the more entertaining ones of the World Cup and probably one of my favourites so far, a great double save by Tim Howard, a goal line clearance and a cracking goal by Jermaine Jones (Shouldnt he be Welsh?). I felt a bit sorry for the U.S as they probably did deserve to win and Ronaldo was disappointing.

The next day Brazil were playing Cameroon, so the main square in Manaus was packed out, it wasn’t even the Official FIFA Fanfest! It was another humid day and I didn’t really feel too well, maybe it was the Malaria tablets I’ve been taking or the heat, or both. It was a great atmosphere in the square as Brazil eased to victory in the end, hopefully Brazil will get to the final as I’ll be in Rio then, the atmosphere from the locals with probably be amazing.

I had arranged to go on a ‘Jungle tour the next day and after a bit of usual Brazilian disorganisation we were on our away on a boat out to the Amazon river. I had got talking to an American couple, Doug and Melissa, who were very friendly and good company for the day.

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We got taken to ‘ The Meeting of the Waters’ which is where the two Brazilian rivers meet to form the Amazon, but from sea level I couldn’t really see much in all honesty. Would probably be better viewed from above, we sped through the Amazon river and saw a few River houses where the local people live, most complete with satellite dishes!! My main thought was how do they take their dogs for a walk, or do they walk around their house 30 times? (Answers via email please).

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We saw some pink dolphins and visited an indigenous tribe, who performed their traditional song and dances – though probably went to watch the World Cup games on their teles when we left! Speaking of which, there was a TV on the boat showing the Italy v Uruguay game, it is virtually impossible to get away from the World Cup in Brazil. o instead of seeing mosquitoes biting on our trip, we all saw Suarez do it instead.

I met up with Rhys and Tim again that evening to have a chat about all things Swansea, Cardiff and Wales. Though they were leaving to go home after around 3 weeks in Brazil, I tried not to rub it in too much that I was here for the long haul……!

The next day was the match between Honduras and Switzerland and this time all the Swiss fans were rolling into Manaus (get it? Ok apologies). As I knew where the ground was this time, I got on a bus to the ground (me and buses in foreign countries don’t tend to get on!) around 2 hours before kick off. Again, like every other World Cup game I have attended, the organisation has been great and no major issues. Stewards don’t bother you, they let you wander around the ground and all fans seem to get along, despite no segregation.

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Honduras v Switzerland action and my flag on display in the ground

Switzerland ran out easy winners with three goals to nil and a Shaqiri hatrick, another thing to tick off my list. Not many hatricks get scored at World Cups! In the night 4 guys from Liverpool (Chris, Terry, Adam and Ryan) befriended me (I’m not sure why either), so was good to have conversations in English (well sort of….). As the lack of English in Manaus and Brazil in general is worse than I thought it would be.

So I think I have covered everything, Manaus was an, erm, interesting city. There wasn’t really too much to see or do in Manaus and there was a serious lack of restaurants and bars, so the only time I really ate well was on the Jungle tour (I’ll be coming back 5 stone probably!). Thankfully it was too hot on the final few days and I had no issues with mosquitoes.

I am currently in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, where my next game will be France v Nigeria on Monday in the Round of 16. Thanks for reading.

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A few things

I was disapointed ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ wasn’t played when I landed!

I am fed up of explaining (mostly to Americans) to why there isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a United Kingdom football team.

If you’re a vegetarian, do not go to Brazil. You will hardly find anything to eat!

The locals in Manaus obviously aren’t used to foreigners, as I had a fair few strange looks.

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The two tales of Curitiba and a waterfall

So my second city on my World Cup trip led me to Curitiba with a population of just under 2 million, for the record I booked all my flights and accomodation before the World Cup draw was made in the December – as I knew there would be games here, just not sure what teams at the time. Otherwise there is no way I would’ve picked Iran versus Nigeria!

Also I really wanted to visit Iguazu Falls, and Curitiba is the closest city to this (there is method behind my madness sometimes). I guess I can´t complain too much, after going to the opening game a few days ago and a further 7 matches to look forward to.

The journey from my hostel in Sâo Paulo to the Airport, only took 30 minutes this time and there were loads of French and Hondurans making the trip to Porto Alegre (this is where I would get my connection to Curitiba). It was great to see both sets of fans mixing together and getting along well, I chatted to a few as the plane was delayed for 2 hours. Thankfully I managed to catch the whole of the Colombia v Greece game in the Airport terminal.

After arriving in my hostel in Curitiba, I was shown to my room – which is the smallest I have ever stayed at, the bathroom was bigger! But I was only in the room to sleep, so it was no big deal. Though the door to the room was causing me no end of problems!

I then went to the TV room to watch the Italy v England game and Ivory Coast v Japan (I think they were the same evening, all the days seem to merge into one).

Some Brazilians were trying to converse with me, this is when I had the most bizarre experience of the trip so far. As their English wasn´t so good and my Portuguese is non-existent they were talking to me (and vice versa) on Google translate. I felt just like Chico, just without the dodgy haircut!

They were very friendly though, as are most of the other Brazilians I have met on this trip. They wanted to know where I was from and why I didn´t want England to win in the football. One of them had heard of Gareth Bale and I informed them that the English don´t stop going on about 1966!

The next day I took a walk to the Botanical Gardens, as there wasn’t that much to do in Curitiba (according to TripAdvisor anyway), typically I got soaked while out walking in the morning, then when I wore my coat the rain stopped for the rest of the day!

I again watched whatever games were on that evening, convincing myself that Iran v Nigeria would be the first 0-0 of the tournament.

The walk to the ground was about 40 minutes from my hostel and there were lots of military police along the route, but again everybody was in good spirits and actually saw a fair few Nigerians as I hadn’t seen any up until then!

The game, as I knew it would be, was a dour affair. There was a Mexican wave before the game had started, which was probably another sign of what was to come.

I felt Nigeria were at least trying to score, whereas Iran seemed happy with a draw, disappointingly. Some boos rang out at full time, I witnessed the first draw at the 2014 World Cup! Anyway I was looking forward to visiting Iguazu Falls the following two days.

It was only a hour flight from Curitiba to Foz do Iguacu and I got talking to an American guy next to me on the plane who was also in Brazil for the World Cup. I just find it interesting talking to different fans and hearing about where they’ve been and where they’re going next.

I almost missed my bus to the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls and anyone who knows me well, knows I am rarely late for anything. When I checked with the tour guide she told me it was a 8:30am start, when it was actually 8am. My refereeing training was put to the test and I made it just on time. Phew!

There were about 15 of us altogether on the tour including a very exciteable 6 year old (called Kaua) keeping everybody entertained. He had, amazingly, heard of Sam Vokes as well as some guy called Gareth Bale. He didn’t stop talking (in Portuguese) for the whole trip.

There was a bit of a delay to get through customs, but our guide Marlene (who kept saying I was from England!), sorted it all out. I now have an Argentinian stamp in my passport!

There had been a lot of rain and flooding recently which has caused high water levels and damage to bridges, one reason why the water didn’t look that clean. It was quite impressive to see and hear the power of the waterfall from quite close up, thankfully the weather brightened up later on.

The following day I took no chances and was ready to catch my bus half a hour before! This time it was a self guided tour of the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls. Personally I prefered the Brazilian side, but people say the Argentine side is better.

Maybe the nicer weather on the 2nd day helped I’m not sure, but I am glad I went to see them. Some of the views were quite breath-taking at times. I do like a good waterfall!

I got back to the hotel (yes spoling myself with staying in a hotel) in time for the England v Uruguay match, to see some guy who was in a wheelchair a few weeks ago, beat England. Shame….

The day of the Honduras v Ecuador match and it was a race against time whether I would make it on time. I was due to land back in Curitiba around 3 hours before kick off, its the only time on my trip that I get to a city the day of the match. Risky!

Thankfully there were no issues or delays and I made it, there were also a few other people on the flight who were doing the same thing as me. I made a new Brazilian friend called Filipe, who seemed interested in my trip. As I’ve said before, Brazilians are a friendly bunch!

In the end I made it to the stadium around a hour before kick off, I had to queue for around 30 minutes, but not too bad considering the amount of people. Again fans were in good spirits and there were a fair few Ecuadorians!

I had a Honduras shirt on, mainly because I would watch 2 of their games in total (against Switzerland in Manaus) and I quite like the big ‘H’ as their badge. I don’t think anyone mistook me for a Honduran though.

At least this was a better match than the Iran v Nigeria game there a few days previous, both teams attacking and I saw Carlo Costly (the best name at the World Cup) score. Apparently this is a big deal in Birmingham! Ecuador won 2-1, though I didn’t feel there was much wrong with a Honduras disallowed goal myself.

A great atmosphere in and around the ground. Again I wish for the day that Wales qualify for a major tournament, our fans would be brilliant (biased?). I had a better view than the last game at the same ground and I could see the screens this time, also it seems FIFA stop showing that goal-line technology works when everyone can see the ball hit the net.

And this ends my second blog and a trip into the Amazon Jungle of Manaus awaits me. I will watch 2 games there, USA v Portugal and Honduras v Switzerland. An interesting set of matches. I will also try to meet up with some Welsh fans who I know will also be there.

Look out for my posts and pictures on the usual social media sites!

A few things

The ‘Selfie’ craze has seemingly hit Brazil, at the grounds and the tourist sites. What’s wrong with asking someone to take a proper photo? For the record I offered to do this for most people.

The doors on my rooms in the hostel ‘did my head in’ I cut my fingers a few times and I just couldn’t get the knack.

I have been getting some funny looks when I speak English (and when I say I’m from Wales), but I gather that some Brazilians see foreigners, or ‘Gringos’, as quite strange.

Lastly Curitiba was the first time I felt a little uneasy about walking around, I was just yards from my hostel – which was in a lively area – but at night I could sense there were some dodgy characters about. Nothing happened, but I had to be on guard.

It was different on match days as there were lots of military police around, so had no problems walking back at night.

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The first week in Brazil

Hello all, I am still alive. Not got caught up in any riots or anything, I am writing this on my phone so apologies for any spelling mistakes. I couldn’t find an Internet cafe and the computer in my hostel doesn’t work.

Anyway, I have spent the last few days in Sâo Paulo. One of the biggest cities in the World – never mind Brazil or South America.

After 25 hours travelling I arrived in Sâo Paulo on the Monday morning, all bleary eyed. I always find it difficult to sleep on planes and the leg room on Iberia Airlines is non existent!

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In Sao Paulo Market

As you may have heard there has been a tube strike in Sâo Paulo, in protest of the World Cup and apparently traffic is chaotic at the best of times so it took me a hour and 45 minutes to get to my hostel when it should only take around a hour. At least the price was set before I got in.

Upon arriving at the hostel, I was greeted by the owner, Carlos, who had been expecting me. He was very friendly, spoke very good English and showed me around the hostel. All I did was just relax and chat with the one other guy in the hostel from South Africa and the other worker Maria from Argentina, who is from the same city as Lionel Messi. (Rosairo). Unfortunately she doesn’t know him personally.

Technically I am travelling ‘alone’ in Brazil, but back last year when I booked the trip I was conversing with another Swans fan, Andrew Davies, (better known as Pele). And we were both in Sâo Paulo at the same time and will also be in Rio de Janeiro at the same time in July. Thankfully the tube strike was over, as I think I’d still be on the bus now as I think I’d get lost. Credit to Maria at the hostel she couldn’t do enough to help me.

So after nagivating the tube, with the help of my phone app. We both met up and went to the football museum (Estádio do Pacaembu) – where Corinthians used to play (they will now play at Arena Corinthians, where Brazil played Croatia). It was a pretty good museum in fairness, similar to the one in Manchester, but in English! There was a good World Cup display on, showing all the goals from the various World Cups. I’m guessing quite informative but as I am unable to speak Portuguese I don’t know.

 

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The Original World Cup in the Football museum

Some guys from Al Jazeera television wanted to interview us, (I’m not sure why) about the museum. I blabbered something and finished the tour. There were so many media there, anyone would think there was a World Cup on!!

In my hostel when I returned that evening were a Croatian couple (Lea and Marin), who were also going to the game against Brazil on the Thursday. What I love about staying in hostels is that you get to meet so many people from around the World. There was also a Venezuelan in the room who wasn’t a big fan of football, but had heard of ex Swan Giovanni Savarese.

Tube

The tube on a non strike day

The next day I decided to do a walking tour, the Croatians said they’d come with me. So being the expert on the Sâo Paulo tube, they followed me to the location. I have been on a few walking tours in various cities before, but this one was ridiculous. There were over a hundred people there, you couldn’t hear what the guide was saying so in the end we went for food and wondered around the market. I tried an acai fruit (a fruit from the Amazon) drink, like a slush puppy – very nice and worth a try if you’re ever in Brazil.

Sao Paulo 1

Flags of the World Cup teams on a building in Sao Paulo

If you’re still reading now, I’m surprised, but we are now at the day of the game. The Croatians in my room were very excited, not that I can relate to the feeling of my team playing in a World Cup. (One day I hope!).

I’d arranged to meet Andrew at noon Brazilian time (5 hours before kick off!), just so we didn’t have another Napoli debacle and also to soak up the pre-match atmosphere.

I also have a reputation of getting to games early, so why break a tradition!?

Ever since receiving my World Cup tickets I have been worried about losing them, checking they are there every 5 minutes. Added to the fact they are huge and can’t be folded, say FIFA. Getting to the Arena Corinthians stadium was very easy and non stressful. It was around 10 tube stops away from the famous Paulista Avenue, the business side of the city.

If any of you went to the Olympic Stadium in London in 2012, the organisation was similar – probably the same at most major events but I haven’t been to any before. Volunteers pointing the way to the ground entrance, we just followed a sea of yellow. Meeting David Luiz’s brother along the way (or so he said anyway!).

Stadium 1

Arena Corinthians 4 hours before kick off!

There was airport style security before entering, but again it was hassle free. We were in and I could relax that I didn’t lose my ticket and I was looking forward to my first ever World Cup match – in Brazil as well. It was safe to say my excitement levels were building.

For the record, being in a ground 3 and a half hours before kick off is a new personal record for me!

I was personally impressed with ‘Arena Corinthians’ and I had a very good view from my vantage point, not too high up and not too low down. What was also good about the ground was you could, if you wanted to, walk around the whole of the inside of the stadium. Which is something you wouldn’t be able to do back in the U.K.

Stadium 2

Inside the Arena Corinthians

I have to admit I didn’t really understand the opening ceremony and as I gather from reading Twitter, the sound wasn’t very good in the ground or on the tele – though I’m used to that at the Liberty!

                                                                  Stadium 4 Stadium 3

Opening ceremony and J-Lo

The atmosphere was building and it was very colourful with most people wearing yellow (me included). Finally the teams were out on the pitch and the noise from the home crowd was incredible for the Brazilian National Anthem.

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Brazil and Croatia line up for the anthems

I won’t do a thorough match report, as I’m guessing you all watched it – or at least saw the highlights.

There was a deathly silence when Croatia took the lead through a Marcelo own goal. Though because there was no segregation there was not much singing from the Croatian fans after that unfortunately.

There were some chants towards the Brazilian president, but again I don’t speak Portuguese. Only understood the ‘Bra-zil, Bra-zil’

Stadium 7 Stadium 8 Stadium 9

I felt the 1st half was better than the 2nd and overall felt Croatia deserved a draw. It didn’t look a penalty to me at the time and didnt on the reply. As a neutral, I didn’t mind who won I just wanted to see lots of goals!

Brazil won and most people were happy, it wasnt a convincing performance from the hosts and they will have to play much better in the later rounds. But I guess it didn’t really matter, Spain lost to Switzerland in their first game in 2010 and went onto win it.

The journey back to Paulista Avenue was very easy again and the locals were tooting their car horns and dancing in the street. The Croatians and the Brazilian fans getting along well too.

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I now have more World Cup appearances than Gareth Bale

So my first World Cup experience. I can’t complain at 4 goals and a Brazil win. Hopefully Iran v Nigeria in Curitiba on Monday will be just as entertaining. I’m just looking forward to seeing Shola Ameobi at the World Cup and one of the biggest names in football Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Just to finish off, I doubt my other blogs will be as long as this. I didn’t feel unsafe in my short time in Sâo Paulo, the Brazilians are very friendly. Next stop Curitiba and the impressive looking Iguazu Falls.

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Final score

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Gonna be brill in Brazil

So here we are, my last blog until I am out in Brazil. It seems so long ago since I first booked the trip, but by this time next week I will be in Sao Paulo. You may or may not be glad to know that I have all my itinerary sorted, from how to get to and from the various airports and the nearest tube line in all the tourist attractions in Sao Paulo (Have I mentioned I am organised!?).

I wouldn’t say there is one main thing I am looking forward to the most, obviously the football and sampling the World Cup atmosphere first hand. But Iguazu Falls look amazing, where I’m lucky enough to be spending two full days there. Along with a Jungle tour in Manaus as well as the sights of Rio de Janeiro and Sugarloaf Mountain.

ArenaArena Corinthians at one of their test games last week. The venue for the opening game

I won’t really be spending a long time in any of the cities (Rio the longest for 10 days), so I aim to make the most of the time that I am there. People ask me if I’m worried and at the moment, I’m not. I’m used to travelling alone and 4 years ago I went to Australia and New Zealand and had a fabulous time with no problems. The ones who say they could never do it, have never tried. I always think you see much more of the World by travelling solo.

South America may be a little different to what I’ve experienced previously and obviously the language barrier maybe a minor problem, but it’s all part of the travel experience. Just like anywhere in the World, you have to be careful at night in a place you’re not familiar with. Hopefully with security heightened at the World Cup, there won’t be any major problems. I can’t remember hearing much about muggings and that in South Africa for the last World Cup.

I won’t be totally on my own for the whole trip, there are a few Welsh people I know personally and from Twitter who are also going, so I will meet up with them along the way.

If for some reason you are interested in my trip and what I’ll be getting up to, I will try (I did say try!) and blog about it along the way, as well as uploading photos at all the usual social media places. I also like to do this in case something should happen to my camera/phone. Another way of me trying to cover all angles! (FIFA should’ve employed me to get things organised on their stadia construction).

You can see the list of games I will be watching at the link at the top of this blog as well as the cities I’ll be visiting. I’ll also try to count how many people that I meet will ask me If I’m supporting England.

 

Random World Cup thoughts

 

Just a few random World Cup thoughts. It was brought to my attention the other day that Brazil won’t play any games at the Maracana until the Final, should they get there of course. Amazing to think FIFA didn’t do the draw so that Brazil would play at least one group game there.

France played all their games at the Stade de France in Paris in 1998 and England played all their 1966 World Cup matches at Wembley.

 

There will be 15 players (someone correct me if I’m wrong) representing 9 different Championship clubs at the World Cup. (Not counting QPR/Leicester & including Cardiff/Fulham)

 

Bolton – Lee Chung-Yong (South Korea)

Cardiff – Medel (Chile), Kim Bo-Kyung (South Korea)

Charlton – Reza Ghoochannejhad (Iran)

Fulham – Mitroglou & Karagounis (Greece), Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica), Dejagah (Iran)

Middlesbrough – Adomah (Ghana)

Norwich – Fer (Netherlands)

Nottm Forest – Jara (Chile)

Watford – Kenneth Omeruo (Nigeria) & , Essaïd Belkalem (Algeria)

Wigan – Beausejour (Chile), Espinoza (Honduras)

 

And two players from two League One clubs will be at the World Cup with Australia

Preston – Bailey Wright

Swindon – Massimo Luongo

 

The players who will be commentator’s nightmare – Sokratis Papastathopoulos & Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Greece) Reza Ghoochannejhad (Iran)

 

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Counting Down

So it’s a month to go until the World Cup starts in Brazil, Brazil v Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12th, it’s safe to say that my excitement levels are going up and up as each day passes. The announcements of the World Cup squad just adding to it! As well as collecting the Panini Wolrd Cup stickers (Yes I know I’m nearly 28!), I aim to finish it by the time I leave and I still haven’t stuck any England players in yet.

IMG_20140510_120804Still haven’t stuck them in the book yet

You are all probably fed up of me going on about it, but it’s always good to be looking forward to something I think. Just hope everything goes to plan and there are no hiccups.

All I need now is for the stadia to be finished and it looks set to be a great World Cup and Swansea will probably have 3 representatives at a World Cup since 1958 in Ki Sung Yeung, Michel Vorm and Wilfried Bony – I’m not counting Jonathan de Guzman as he isn’t technically our player at the time of writing.

BonySo come on Wilfried Bony, why aren’t you shiny…..?

Hopefully I will get to watch Ivory Coast, Netherlands and or South Korea along the way, but all depends if they progress far enough. But singing ‘Come on Wilfried Bony, score some goals for Ivory Coast’ doesn’t really have a good ring to it.

I really do want a Brazil v Argentina final to happen, two big rivals on the International stage. Though Brazil fans still haven’t got over losing the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay on their own patch – even though they have won 5 World Cups since!

 

In the week I received my World Cup tickets (finally) with an accompanying letter stating not to fold or puncture the ticket. I do have to say though the size of the tickets are ridiculous. How on Earth can I keep these hidden and safe throughout my trip? Not exactly the best FIFA!

 

TicketsI think I’ll need a bigger wallet…….

The thing that did dawn on me this week is how many people I will probably encounter that will either ask me. ‘Wales aren’t in the World Cup are they?’ to ‘Are you supporting England?’ (The answer is no to both by the way!).

 

These 24 days cannot come quick enough.

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Vaccines, mosquitoes and the Amazon

I am still on World Cup countdown mode, generally in private though as you are all probably annoyed enough already (86 for those of you that aren’t). I like to be pretty organised in life and especially when planning trips abroad, after checking with my nurse I clarified that I needed a Yellow Fever vaccination to stop me from getting killed by mosquitoes.

It is only needed if you are going to Manaus though, right on the edge of the Amazon jungle, I didn’t think it would be much of a problem but I soon found out that there is currently a World shortage on yellow fever vaccinations. Only one place in the World makes it, oddly.

Yellow Fever is spread by a bite of a female mosquito and symptoms include nausea, headaches, muscle pains, bleeding and kidney problems. 30,000 people die from it every year apparently.

yellow-fever-mosquitoMosquito. Not something I’d like to see if I had a choice

After a few Google searches I found out that the Nomad Clinic in the centre of Cardiff had lots of stock available, thankfully, so off I trotted to Cardiff (Had my vaccinations to enter Cardiff years ago….. Sorry couldn’t resist).  It did cost me £70, but needs must  I guess! I thankfully didn’t suffer from any side effects, the worst one being organ failure! I do have to say that the staff at the Nomad Travel Centre were very helpful and seemed to know their stuff. I had to purchase mosquito spray as well which has some harmful chemicals in it.

As well as all that I also need to take malaria tablets for 2 days before, every day I’m in Manaus and for 7 days after I leave, so I do really need to remember to do everything correctly or my trip to Manaus may be my last. All very confusing.

Saying all that, I think my trip to Manaus and the Amazon is the one I am looking forward to the most personally, totally off the beaten track. Even though I am not a fan of animals or intense heat, the humidity can get to almost 100% at times, it’s somewhere I would probably never go again. I definitely aim to do some sort of tour into the Amazon jungle, but not sure which yet.

Arena da Amazonia

Arena da Amazonia and the match between Nacional and Remo

The stadium is called Arena da Amazonia and the capacity is just over 40000, the two games I will be watching there will be Honduras v Ecuador and USA v Portugal. That last one looking quite intriguing. The first match was played there last week between Nacional and Remo, one of two ‘test’ matches before it can be officially opened.

Arena da Amazonia 2

Arena da Amazonia from the outside, supposed to look like a straw bucket…..

I also couldn’t turn down the chance to see the World Cup (probably wasn’t the real one), as the trophy has been doing a tour of the World. It was in Cardiff on Sunday, as was Fuleco the Armadillo – The World Cup mascot. I was a bit disappointed if I’m honest, but not sure what else I expected to see/do.

We were rushed through, had a photo with the trophy and rushed out again, whilst being given a free (small) can of coke. But it makes for a good profile photo I guess.

World CupThe closest a Welshman will get to the World Cup

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