Sport

Inside the Maracana, a dream come true for me

Wednesday, June 25, 2014    

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ON Sunday, the World Cup dreams started my family and me. We watched our first match.

This match would be between dark horses of the World Cup Belgium and the well-coached and unpredictable Russia. The match was predicted to be a very competitive one as Russia had dropped points very foolishly in their first game against Korean Republic in a goalless draw. And Belgium, considered to be the favourites to top the group, wanted to continue their winning ways as they saw of Algeria in their first match 2-1.

The match would take place in the historic Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which holds close to about 80,000 spectators at a time.

The journey to the Maracana stadium was a quite simple one as it was just one subway ride and a short walk away. I was impressed by the lengths that Brazil had gone to insure that patrons were well catered to. At every subway station, there were volunteers to aid people heading to the Maracana, directing them on which subway line to go on.

An added surprise was that ticket holders were able to ride the subway free of charge by showing the volunteers their tickets to the match, which was a relief as my family and I expected to pay for trips to and from the stadium. After a quick 30-minute ride on the subway and a brisk 15-minute walk, we arrived at the famed Maracana.

The police were out in their numbers and had cordoned off at least three blocks on each side of the Maracana as part of their crowd control strategy. Even with the roads closed and three hours before kick-off, the streets were littered with people. People in red, black and yellow jerseys of Belgium vastly outnumbered the Russian fans, who were dressed in either white or blue jerseys. Many fans had been preparing for this day for months as certain fans had custom-made wigs on their heads representing the Belgium and Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, the game winner from the first match.

Upon entering the stadium, the first thing I noticed was its massive from just walking around and realising that this was where some 80,000 people will watch the match.

Near the start of the game, both teams arrived at the stadium and came onto the field to warm up, which was shown on all four giant television screens located at each corner of the stadium. After the warm-ups came the national anthems of both teams, the handshakes between the platers, the exchange of national flags and finally the coin toss involving the two captains.

As both teams made their way to the field, the announcer called out each team's starting 11 and the biggest cheer or praise came for the Belgium and Chelsea winger Eden Hazard. Hazard is a well-known player throughout Europe and is the focal point of the Belgium attack.

Whenever he touched the ball the crowd would go wild.

Being there and part of the crowd was a whole new experience than being at the National Stadium in Jamaica as the crowd was more enthusiastic than in Jamaica. From different cheers for both teams to taking part in the Mexican Wave, I had enjoyed just being in the crowd, plus the match was a great one to watch. The match ended in a win for Belgium after a late goal from Origu, which was orchestrated by Hazard from the left wing.

The next day would be a travelling day as my family and I would be moving onto Belo Horizonte for our next match on June 24 (yesterday) featuring England and Costa Rica.

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