Growing up in my Mexican family, soccer or also known as “fútbol” around the world was the only sport we watched. To be able to attend the World Cup was the ultimate dream for me. Working at Fox Sports, particularly in the soccer department, my fascination and appreciation for the sport only grew with every game I worked.
I had to work in Los Angeles during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Once it was announced Brazil would be the next host- I knew this was my chance. I had one ticket to the Quarter Final game at the Arena Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, Brazil. Albeit, I went for just the last two weeks of the World Cup- but that was the best time of my entire life.
I discovered Brazil on my own. Yes, alone. With only plans to meet up with friends in Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre. Was I afraid? Absolutely not. Friends kept telling me “are you crazy,” “isn’t Brazil dangerous?” I would ask them, but have you been there before? “No, but I heard about it on the news,” was the common theme I kept hearing. Well, turn on the American news I told them- it’s can be just as dangerous in the United States.
Once I arrived, I was overwhelmed with the city Rio de Janeiro. A truly breathtaking city that pictures can’t capture alone. The backdrop of the mountains, the ocean, the statue of the Christ the Redeemer staring back at me from every angle. The locals working out on the beach, riding their bikes, outnumbered by the tourists sporting their home team jerseys. I kept hearing Bossa Nova music playing in my head, especially the famous song “The Girl from Ipanema.”
My entire stay I felt safe. I met the nicest Brazilians. On the way to visit Christ the Redeemer- I accidently left my cell phone charging in a taxi. Ten minutes later, the taxi driver came back and returned it to me. Then while waiting in the three hour long line, the guy in front of me began a conversation. Turns out Sravan was also an American who had just arrived to Brazil the previous night. As we were waiting, I mentioned that I was looking for places to watch the July 4th match. “Oh you mean tomorrow’s game?” said Sravan. “I have an extra ticket, do you want it?” Without even thinking, I shouted yes! The next day we met in front of a coffee shop in Copacabana, and then we rode the metro to the Maracanã stadium for the France versus Germany match. Right before we entered the stadium we passed many soccer fans with signs asking for tickets. One guy came to up me and told me he would pay me anything for my ticket. Sravan just looked at me and said, “let’s go.” We passed the media and walked towards the stadium, Sravan then gave me my ticket, which I handed to the FIFA official. The light on his scanner turned green and I entered the stadium. Once inside, I began to cry- tears of joy, tears of a dream happening in real time. I could not believe I was lucky enough to get a second ticket to a World Cup game. After the incredible game, Sravan did not want to charge me for the ticket. He gave me a hug and said it was his pleasure to see the game with me. The rest as we can say is history.
That night I had a flight to Salvador for the quarter final July 5th game. Which turned out to be Netherlands against Costa Rica. While in Salvador, I met two very nice Brazilians Everton De Macedo Correa and his father from São Paulo. Along with a couple from Peru, Karla Zayerz and her boyfriend Jorge Jacobo. We all stayed in the same hotel and ended up going to the game together. I had an amazing seat, right in center at Arena Fonte Nova stadium. To my left were three Brazilian friends and to my right were four American friends. The Brazilian guys taught me how to say things in Portuguese, while the American guys cheered and bought me beer. I felt so excited with a big group of new friends. The game ended in a draw and went to penalty kicks. The tension was so high, I remember feeling the excitement and anxiety from all the fans.
I also had the chance to fly to Porto Alegre to visit my dear friend Mari Borges- she took me the most delicious Churrascaria in the city. Sadly, that was also the day that Brazil lost to Germany. We kept our spirits high and ate a lot of good food. On my last night in Brazil, I was inside the Marriott hotel bar watching a rerun of the semifinal match Netherlands versus Argentina, when out of nowhere German soccer player and ESPN analyst Michael Ballack sat next to me. A few minutes later, ESPN analysts Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman joined everyone at the bar. It was so great to watch a game in Rio de Janeiro next to these soccer legends. They were very nice and easy to talk to. That was an epic way to end my fabulous trip in Brazil.