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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

June 14, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Joe’s World Cup Journey: Finding Brazil in a Milwaukee bar

BY JOE SIMS

Seattle native Joseph Sims, 21, is traveling around the country during the World Cup in search of the heart and soul of soccer in the United States. Read about his journey in the Take 2 blog.

MILWAUKEE – Seventy-five minutes before kickoff, the air at the Nomad World Pub is heating up with excitement.

A crowd of 40 or 50 are in an outdoor party area decorated as a favela, or Brazilian slum, and maybe 20 or 25 sport Brazilian yellow. A grade-school kid kicks a ball around with some patrons.

I walk around and ask fans what the World Cup means to them. I get a wide variety of answers: It is an integral part of their culture back home in Brazil. It’s a global celebration of something that most of the world loves. It is the only time the USA really gets into soccer. It is the biggest tournament in the sport they love.

Easily the most common answer given? “Everything.”

As kickoff draws agonizingly close, well over 100 people, many supporting Brazil, pack into the party deck, and the samba music that the bar had been playing fades out as the teams walk onto the pitch. The sun glares off half of the six TVs, so most squeeze close to get a good look. The Croatian national anthem comes first, and people listen politely or talk. Next, the Brazilian national anthem plays, and the bar swells with singing.

When the whistle sounds, the 2014 FIFA World Cup commences, and four years of anticipation is released in a loud roar from the crowd

Cheers and curses in Portuguese fly thick and heavy. Even the smallest events seem to set off mood swings: Screams of encouragement for Brazil advancing toward the Croatian goal; easy-to-translate swearing for giving the ball away.

The first big moment of the match comes when Brazilian defender Marcelo accidentally puts the ball in his own net. A cry of anguish goes up from the Brazilian half of the crowd, while the few Croatians and many neutrals watching the game yell in celebration of the World Cup’s first goal.

The Brazilian despair is short-lived. Eighteen minutes later, Brazil’s young phenom, Neymar, scores a wonderful goal, and  an ear-splitting roar fills the bar. Beer flies everywhere, and a deafening chant of “Brasil! Brasil!” pours out.

Another swell of noise comes when Brazil is awarded a penalty, but for the cheers turn into groans as replays show that Brazil’s Fred clearly took a dive. The Croatians and neutrals are livid, and even the Brazilians look around sheepishly, knowing that they don’t deserve the gift they have received. But that knowledge doesn’t stop another cheer followed by a Portuguese chant as Neymar buries the penalty kick, giving the hosts a 2-1 lead.

Less than ten minutes later, Croatia scores a would-be equalizer only to have their celebration cut short by a foul against the Brazilian goalkeeper. Five Croatians at the bar gather in a corner to discuss their ill fortune, while the neutrals mutter about how it might have been justice for Croatia if the goal had stood. The Brazilian contingent has fallen silent.

The final whistle sounds, and most of the crowd breaks out dancing and drinking while the Croatians look on in defeat. The Nomad pumps samba music out of its speakers again, and several people file out and gather on the street, talking about the match and waiting for their friends. A crowd is still there when I finally leave the Nomad half an hour later.

Walking away, I reflect that while the loudest people may have been the immigrants, the entire crowd was just as immersed in the game as they would have been for any NFL or NBA contest. To most, the game was all that mattered for those precious two hours.

Joseph Sims, 21, graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla in May with a degree in politics.  The graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle has an obsession with soccer that has taken him all over the globe, from the World Cup in South Africa, to the Emirates Stadium in London, to the Sounders-Timbers rivalry right here in Seattle. Follow his journey around the country during the World Cup to find the heart and soul of soccer in the U.S. in the Take 2 blog.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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