Travel the world, see the sights, sample other cultures, taste the local cuisine!! All very worthy aims when on a six month Round the World Trailfinders ticket taking in Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Before the trip you dream about getting out of the rat race and finding yourself. Forget totally about life back home. Buy a tape and learn how to speak colloquial Portugese of Brazil. Read all those books you never had the time to read before.
The reality was somewhat different. At least as far as forgetting about what was happening back home with regards to the football. It is a Sunday afternoon in late July and I am sitting in an outdoor restaurant overlooking Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The beach is full of beautiful people sunbathing and playing volleyball. I have just finished an excellent meal as I look at my watch and work out the time difference between Brazil and home. I lick my lips whilst deep in thought as to whether I have enough time for another coffee. A couple of gorgeous women stop in their tracks as they walk by and come and sit at the empty table next to me.
Celtic are playing their opening game in the 2000/2001 season and I only have half an hour to walk to that small internet cafe situated between Copacabana and Ipanema beach in order to be there for the final score coming in.
My deeply contemplative licking of my licks has been misunderstood by them to be a sign that says open for business. Sorry Girls but today is the day.
A few days later I go the Maracana to watch a match between Flamengo and Gremio. Just as well as I have chosen to go with an organised party as the environment around the stadium makes the Parkhead area look salubrious. For admittance to the stadium you go through a garden gate where your ticket is checked before you go into the stadium proper where a paramilitary policeman body searches you. The shape of the stadium is like nothing I have seen in the UK. I am in the front row of one of the lower tier stands. In front of me is a large standing area where the Flamengo fans taunt the away fans who are situated in the upper tier overhead. Ahead of them is a moat and then a running track. Behind me, the distance between the front and back rows of the lower tier stand is about 70 metres with only slight elevation. I will never complain about a restricted view seat at Celtic Park again. I have to try out a pie at the snack bar. The Brazilians are great pie eaters-they even have them for breakfast.
The only flare up from the fans
On second thoughts I ask for a cheese burger. They cook it on a portable grill, the size of a toasted sandwich maker. I know what once used to be a stadium holding 200,000 people has only 30,000 in tonight's game but I am still surprised they cater for fans in this way. As for the match, it is nothing to write home about as Flamengo win 3-0 in what is, due to the long winded way that the Brazilian Championship is structured, a pretty meaningless match. Denilson -on loan from Betis -plays for Flamengo and Ronaldinho for Gremio.
A few seats along from me a couple of young Japanese tourists. There are very strong football links between Brazil and Japan. Probably borne of the heavy Japanese immigration into Brazil at the turn of the last Century. One million Japanese live in Sao Paolo alone. This couple have obviously bought in to the Flamengo worldwide brand thing judging by the new strips they are wearing and the gifts they have purchased from the club shop. It reminds me of Manchester United commercialisation. As they hug and kiss each other excitedly after the third Flamengo goal goes in, I feel a real urge to give them both a good slap.
To be continued....
Ger Harley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Al McIntosh (Al@scottishfitba.net)