Catching a World Cup match in Curitiba
Kiwi Rob Mumford and Aussie Paul Pallett are driving a 1971 Ford Torino from Buenos Aires, Argentina to southern Brazil for the 2014 football World Cup.
In this installment of their trip, Mumford and Pallet catch the Ecaudor-Honduras match at Curitiba.
Ecuador vs Honduras at Curitiba
It's game day today and the breakfast bar at the Hotel Hara is sprinkled with Ecuador and Honduras football jerseys, as well as fans from various other countries. You can feel the tension and excitement in the air. We talk to Colombians, Argentines, and Chileans - Spanish dominates today, instead of Brazilian Portuguese. We enjoy a sumptuous Brazilian breakfast buffet of fresh fruits, cold meats, and coconut cake, washed down with a cashew milkshake.
The FIFA ticket collection point is the upmarket Patio Batel shopping centre, so that's our first stop on this bright cool Curitiba morning. There are plenty of fans around creating a colorful and busy atmosphere but FIFA have things well organised so it only takes ten minutes until we have our match tickets in hand. We drive around the city and enjoy getting a look at the historic centre, as well as the modern suburbs and impressive state government headquarters.
Curitiba is home to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum and we are blown away by this majestic structure in the shape of a giant eye. Niemeyer is the Brazilian architect who designed the capital Brasilia in the 1950s and whose concrete structures with sensuous curves and clean crisp lines are inspired by Brazil's stunning geography and beautiful women. Inside we wander around the impressive and extensive exhibits by Brazilian sculptors, painters, and photographers.
We drive back to the hotel to get ready for the game, only to find that our street has been blocked off by police as part of the perimeter around the stadium. We tell them that we need to get back to the hotel and park the car but they are unrelenting in prohibiting our access. Luckily for us a sympathetic FIFA official is on hand and after talking to the police commander a policeman hops into the Torino and escorts us to the hotel.
Kickoff is at 7pm, and the streets are busy with fans as we walk the ten blocks to the Arena do Baixada stadium. I see a group of Mexican fans with traditional hats and congratulate them on Mexico's playoff win over the All Whites. There is plenty of noise and colour and the atmosphere is amazing.
The yellow of Ecuador dominates but there are also plenty of people wearing the blue and white colors of Honduras. We see a giant skull dancing as well as a couple who have brought their pet cat to the game. Inside we are seated with several hundred Ecuador fans and have a great view just a few rows back from the corner flag.
When the game gets underway so does the noise from the Ecuadorian fans who sing "Go Ecuador, because tonight we just have to win!" and chant "You can do it! You can do it!" Honduras dominate the early exchanges and when the Ecuador defense miscues a clearance they seize the chance and score. One section of the stadium erupts but in our zone it's a stunned silence.
Ecuador's reply is quick in coming, however, as Enner Valencia gets on the end of a cross and slides the ball past the keeper for the equaliser. Goal! The crowd explodes and jumps and we are sprayed with beer. Giant smiles reign on painted and happy Ecuadorian faces.
At halftime its 1-1. We talk to the fans around us during the break and meet a father and son who have ridden motorbikes 7000 kilometres from Quito via the Amazon, as well as a young fan who has been saving for the last four years in order to get here. This is what the World Cup means to South America and it's very special to share this football passion and national pride.
The second half is tense with both teams needing the win to have a chance of progressing to the next round. Honduras has two goals disallowed for offside and Aussie Paul gets the thumbs up from Ecuadorian fans after the Australian lineman's decisions.
On 20 minutes Valencia strikes again to put Ecuador 2-1 up and around us another goal celebration explodes. The noise is deafening as one country's dreams are alive and the other's are on the brink. The rest of the game is played out with tension and nervousness before the final whistle brings the loudest celebration of the night. We high five and hug our Ecuadorian neighbors and then hang around to soak up as much of this wonderful occasion as possible. We wander slowly out of the stadium with Ecuadorian chants still echoing in our heads.
"Si se pudo! Si se pudo!"
"We did it! We did it!"