The World Cup On The Drive
The World Cup has generated a lot of interest in our office, and so I was sure of a response when I offered my place as a gathering point for a group trip to see the game on the Drive. I offered to have coffee ready from 3:30am, and five hardy souls showed up. By 4 o'clock we were on our way, walking through ever thickening crowds towards the cafes.
Lynda and Lenore brave the dark night
Our original plan had been to try to get into the Portuguese Club, which would no doubt be full of cheering Brazilian supporters. But the place was already jammed, the doors closed and hundsreds milling about outside. The police had thoughtfully blocked off this and a couple more blocks, allowing the thousands of early risers to wander the streets. We walked on, to the Abruzzo -- impossible to see --, the Amici -- same story. Crowds everywhere, the smell of beer and matrijuana hanging heavy in the warm air. Walking on, with plans to try the Roma next, we found ourselves outside the Paris Bakery.
The Paris Bakery
The Paris Bakery is a small bakery with a small cafe out front. It is the hangout for the few young Vietnamese in the neighbourhood. I have never seen more than three or four people in there at any one time, and the atmosphere has always reminded me of what I imagine Saigon was like in the 50s after a dispiriting rainstorm. When we passed by, the cafe was full -- maybe thirty people sitting quietly at tables, watching a TV set high above the counter. Outside, only a few people were looking in the windows or the door, so our group of six took up position with great views of the TV. Within moments, our example was followed by dozens of others and the whole area was packed by the time the game was in full swing. I didn't see a German supporter anywhere.
I got a pretty good view!
There was an odd time thing happening: Usually, sporting events take place in the afternoon or evening and the sky getting darker is a feature of the event. Last night, by the time Brazil scored the first goal, dawn was about to break over Vancouver. I am sure that very few if any of the thousands of real and adopted Brazilians took any notice as they ecstatically and noisily celebrated Ronaldo's strike.
We're on our way to victory!
Technically, I suspect most would agree, the second half of the game was less accomplished than the first. But, as the certainty grew that Brazil was going to win, the emotion behind me and around me and in front of me grew ever louder and more friendly and more excited. Ronaldo's second goal was swiftly followed by the final whistle and Brazil had won the World Cup for an amazing and record-breaking fifth time. It was the cue for a massive party on the Drive.
I have witnessed some good times and great parties on the Drive over the years, but nothing before compared to the sheer numbers and sheer happiness of the crowd this morning. The crowd seemed to gather in the Portuguese Club block and then walked south along Commercial. We walked in the opposite direction, sampling the crowd's atmosphere as it passed around us.Whistles and rockets and horns and drums and cymbals and bells rocked the air. Brasil-la-la! Brasil-la-la! Brasil-las-la! Brazilian flags were everywhere, as was yellow and green. Everyone was Brazilian today.
The ad-hoc parade takes over
Finally we were through it, watching the tail of the parade and the detritus in its wake.
After the parade
It was a great night and one I wouldn't have missed. Soccer is the people's game worldwide, and there is nothing better than watching a great and famous game in the company of thousands of equally enthusiastic people. My friends and I went for an early breakfast and then they dropped me back home.
As host -- and not wanting to oversleep in that role -- I had decided to stay up all night. It is the first all-nighter I have pulled in an impossibly long time. I had kept myself awake watching "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without A Cause" (noticing this time that many in both casts were better in their roles than James Dean in his), with my wife falling asleep around two. At 8 o'clock, gratefully tired, I joined her in bed and slept real late.