Sunday, June 22, 2014

US vs Ghana and a lost ticket

Once we arrive at the stadium we see that the gates are running smoothly and that we have over an hour until kick-off so we make our way around the outside in order to find a place we can buy some beers and avoid paying the usual stadium mark-up. We find a nice little place with outside seating, falafels, pastry's and beer. As we sit and watch the area begin to fill the excitement is beginning to grow. People are talking quickly, making predictions and it is obvious that once inside we will definitely be heard. 


Now as I mentioned earlier Brett took a taxi to Natal from Recife. For those of you that are not current with your Brazilian geography, that works out to be about a 4 hr cab ride. Even in Brazilian Real's that is a pretty penny. His flight to Natal from Lisbon was cancelled and he was forced to wait until another was available, and much to his dismay the only flight that would get him to Brazil prior to the start of our game was not into Natal but rather, Recife. Now this put him in a very perilous position because ticket pick-up is unavailable at the stadium. Luckily for Brett when I arrived in São Paulo the day before I was greeted by an old friend Johnny Wanda and his lovely wife, Patty. I was equipped with Jimmy Powell and Corey Sanchez' ticket vouchers so when I picked up my tickets, Johnny played Jimmy and I was able to get theirs too. As a result, Brett now has a ticket to the game. 
So we are sitting around the table enjoying our beers and hoping to sell one of the extra tickets that we have and recoup the losses of our friends Jim and Corey when an American approaches the area with a stack of available tickets and is selling them for pennies. Game time is rapidly approaching so it seems as though our best bet is to make some kids day and give them a World Cup experience they will never forget, much the same way we were able to do for 2 young South African boys prior to the US v Slovania game in Johannesburg. I hand off the extra ticket and we make our way to the stadium gates.
As we walk Brett pulls his ticket from his pocket. I have just given the ticket that says Curtis White to some kid and I ask for the 2nd of Jim and Corey's tickets. Brett looks in his pocket and it's empty. I look in my pockets, and they too are empty. An icy hot chill runs up my spine as a fear like I have never known sweeps over me. Look again! Nothing...  I immediately race back to the area of the, until moments ago, good deed. I haven't moved this fast in years. The faces that I am flying past are a blur. Panic is creeping in and my mind is racing. How could this have happened?! WTF am I going to do?! I get closer. I arrive in at the window of the little store where I gave the ticket away and I say, "the ticket I just gave you, I need it back!". I am met with a group of confused faces. I repeat, "the ticket I just gave you, I need it back!", only this time louder and a bit more desperate. I am not sure what I am hoping for with the increased volume, maybe startled sympathy. A woman behind the counter asks me if I would like a coca-cola. You have got to be shitting me. I am in some horrible alternate reality. "No, the ticket...I just gave you a the game (I point behind me to the stadium), the ticket, I need it back!" She shakes her head no and waves to the stadium to indicate the proud new owner of my ticket is somewhere amongst the 40,000 other people, making their way to my seat. By this time our group has made it back up to where I am now. I have my hands atop my head and I am standing there feeling more like a painted clown than rabid, travels to the corners of the earth, US soccer supporter that always has a place in the stadium and isn't a complete fucking moron that just lost his ticket. I take a deep breathe, attempt to calm myself, I must think clearly about what I am going to do. I begin to check every possible orifice of my clothing when what do my nimble little fingers run across? Check your back pocket next time, dipshit. 
Now that everything is well in the world again we make our way inside the stadium. One of the problems with the way FIFA allocates tickets is that it makes it difficult for lage groups of people to get seats adjacent to one another. As a result, our group of 6 is spread out all over the place. So we decide that the section we would really like to all stand together in isssssss.....that one! We make our way to the first level behind the 1st half US goal. None of us have seats in that section but we know that the group of US supports that will be there will be ready for our kind of party. We were right. The seats in this section, with this group of people, are used for the sole purpose of making us all taller. We greet old friends, most we haven't seen in 4 years. We make new friends, and we sing our national anthem. 
There are no words to adequately describe the feeling I get singing the National Anthem in the stands of a World Cup game. It feels so good.
The teams are on the field and the game is about to begin. We are preparing for the battle when the whistle blows. As we are getting situated there is a deafening roar. Clint Dempsy has put us up 1-0 and it's a good thing that I didn't yet have my camera out because there was a shower of beer raining down from the heavens. Less than 1 minute into the game and we are up 1-0! We dance and we sing and we take in the moment. There is a palpable joy in the group of people surrounding us. It would soon start to diminish. 
Now, watching a game on the television and watching a game in the stands are two very different experiences. We have but one vantage and normally it isn't one with a very clear view. For the next 80 or so minutes of that game we watched as our team seemed to get outplayed in every area of the field.  We had no tempo, no rhythm, no transition or offense. It looked as though Ghana would at any moment equalize. We've lost Jozy, Bradley is getting eaten up, Johanson isn't doing a damn thing, we look like shit, and there isn't a single guy on the bench with a minute of World Cup experience. How can it be that there isn't a single guy to call into a game, in the World Cup, when a win is on the line that doesn't have a minute of World Cup experience?! We yelled and screamed and spit and cursed and screamed ourselves hoarse some more. In the row in front of us stood a man that must have grown up in Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood because he let us know that we should yell positive things to encourage our guys. We were forced to tell him to shut the fuck up. There were no children present and if Klinsman was going to hear me from all the way over here I had to give it everything I had. I was caught up in the moment. So much planning, saving and hours traveling to reach this moment. I was leaving it all in that stadium! Ghana equalized. Despair was the feeling rushing over me. How could this happen again? They've dashed us the past 2 Cups and they have just broken through the gate we have been trying so desperately to keep closed. The remaining minutes passed like hours. I felt as though the momentum Ghana had been building toward all game had finally reached the point that would allow them to turn the tide and strike the dying blow. In an instant we were able to create a push toward goal and earn a corner. As my old coach George Gorecki used to say, "that's half a goal!". The cross came in and Brookes headed it into the back of the net. Pandemonium. The Ghanaian thorn has been removed from our side, and we have won. My voice was gone for days.

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