United on Ipanema Beach: Welcome to the World Cup

20140616-003851-2331709.jpgThe 2014 FIFA World Cup was essentially the foundation for this entire year of travelling. This was what we had first on our list, this is what we planned around and for. A whole month in Rio, living in an apartment, surrounded by the most absorbing sporting event in the world.

We’re only a week in so far so I can’t harp on too much about the experiences, so I thought I’d share a quick story, the highlight so far.

One of the first things we did when we got here (aside from accidentally stumbling upon the hotel where the Dutch international team is based and seeing some of them walk right past us), was invest in a football, literally buying it off the first vendor we found on the beach. The other day we went for a kick around on Ipanema, just a block down from our apartment, thinking we’d just be messing around for a little bit in between watching the matches.

Not even five minutes in, two local Brazilian guys came and asked if they could join, and moments after that we had a group of five Argentinians proposing we play a small match against them. Our small match became a hot spot on the beach pretty quickly with new faces from all over the world joining in and switching out.

Eventually most of the guys decided to call it a day with us having the same idea. As we packed up and started walking off, yet another group of guys approached us, this time Dutch and British, and we were right back in the game, finishing off with a swim in the ocean as the sun went down. Needless to say we all imitated our respective nation’s style of play on the field, and needless to say us Aussies learned a lot about beach football that afternoon…

The dark side of FIFA is more palpable than ever this World Cup, but take away the evil rich boys, the corruption, and what you’re left with is the true beautiful game and it’s sheer power to unite people from all over the globe. It’s an incredible thing, it’s certainly nothing that hasn’t been said before, but it’s the first time I’ve got to experience it firsthand. It’s not just playing on the beach but the week as a whole, and that alone has already made it worth the money we spent to get here.