BY KURT WEBER
We narrowly make our flight from Atlanta to Rio. As we board the plane, wearing our USA soccer jerseys and scarves, we notice an energy in the air. I count eight different team jerseys on the plane: Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, a Sounders jersey, and more. If this weren’t a 10-hour red-eye departing at 10pm, it would have been louder and more raucous than a Friday evening Vegas flight.
Bleary-eyed and zombie-like, we land in Rio ce Janeiro – and the entire plane cheers. It’s time for World Cup 2014.
Stepping off the plane into the humid, warm air of Rio, and lining up at customs, we breathe some relief. The sheer complexity of purchasing tickets on FIFA.com, and battling the paperwork and striking consulate workers for our visas – has, hopefully been worth it. Months of planning, and recent weeks of media scare tactics haven’t kept me and my wife, Anna, away. We are founding Sounders season ticket holders, and have always dreamed of traveling to Brazil.
Our first two nights, we spend in Rio before heading to the northeast town of Natal (pronounced “Na-Tao”) for the USA vs. Ghana game. Of course, our Portuguese is lousy, but the locals have no problem understanding our intent – and have been more than gracious.
We visit Christo (the epic sandstone statue of Jesus overlooking Rio). Breathtaking is an understatement. Christo is one of the few global tourist sites, similar to the Great Wall, that actually exceeds the hyped expectations.
The next day, we spend the day at Ipanema beach, watching the World Cup games on large screens throughout the beach. The locals are too worried to jinx their team, and claim that Germany or Argentina will win the championship, not Brazil. The world is watching…