I made it to my last stop in Brazil, Fortaleza. A 5am flight from Natal on one hour of sleep was easily the worst leg of my trip, but so far Fortaleza has been a nice surprise. Meireles, the area of town we’re staying in, is modern and has a lively beach lined with bars and restaurants. Kind of like a mini Rio wannabe.
We were hoping to go to the Ghana-Germany game, but the lack of sleep and not having tickets kind of killed that dream. Turned out to be a great game, and it was nice to see a happy bunch of Ghana fans here in Fortaleza after the game. We did manage to make it to the FIFA Fan Fest to watch Brazil play Cameroon.
The World Cup experience has been better than expected. The best part besides actually being at the games is meeting fans from all over the world, seeing all the colorful flags and jerseys out on the streets, and the respect shown by these fans to each other. I’m so used to going to huge games and seeing rival fans trash talking to each other (I’m talking to YOU, Philly) and hooligans smashing up bus stops and cars (in Turkey), that it ruins the experience of actually going to the games.
The most difficult part about being at the World Cup is the wait between games. The anticipation is agonizing. Five days between attending games is an eternity, especially when you have an emotional investment in one of the teams. There are three or sometimes four games to watch in a day, but you want to be at all of them! Even being in one of the most beautiful countries in the world isn’t enough to distract you from World Cup Fever. I’m someone who loves to explore his surroundings and see a city to the fullest, but I’ve put all that on hold for the World Cup.
The worst thing about World Cup in Brazil is the organization. The stadiums have been nothing short of amazing, but everything else is a joke. Roads are not finished, transportation is completely unreliable, and there hasn’t even been food in the stadiums! Everything seems to be a construction zone.
Getting dropped off 3km from a stadium by an official shuttle and made to walk is unacceptable. I can imagine some of the elderly or physically challenged fans are having a very difficult time with this, especially in the heat. And getting OUT of the stadiums is worse! Thankfully, private shuttle companies have been picking up the slack, but they aren’t much better than the public shuttles. You still have to walk a long time to find them.
At the Greece-Japan game, no less than 30 minutes BEFORE the game, I went to a concession stand to get some dinner. I figured the traffic and walk to the stadium would be long, so I would save some time and just eat at the stadium. I ordered a hot dog. “No hot dog.” No problem. I ordered a cheeseburger. “No cheeseburger. No food.” So how does an entire stadium run out of food BEFORE a game begins? I don’t even think they had any to begin with! My friend Mike had the same problem with beer at the USA-Ghana game. They stopped serving beer because they ran out of cups and refused to give bottles to the fans.
The Fan Shops have been just as bad. They promised jerseys and souvenirs for most of the teams playing at the World Cup. I guess Brazil is the only team playing.
The amount of money that could have been made but has been left on the table is staggering. Brazil did a great job with the theatrics and the atmosphere, but they really blew it with everything else.
UPDATE (25 June): Fortaleza was by far the most organized city. We were still dropped off about 3km from the stadium, but they had food and were selling Germany and Mexico shirts in the fan shop. Not much better, but better.