Football joy beyond language

Last updated 06:00 27/06/2014

YES THEY CAN: Algerian fans ready for the match against South Korea.

ATMOSPHERE: Arena Beira.

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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.

After catching the Ecaudor-Honduras match at Curitiba, Mumford and Pallett are greated by the sounds of drums and singing in Porto Alegre.

South Korea V Algeria in Porto Alegre

After the Ecuador vs Honduras game in Curitiba we have one day to drive 700km back to Porto Alegre to be at the Arena Beira Rio stadium for the South Korea vs Honduras match.

We take the inland route, as it is 100km less than the one via Florianopolis, and we want a change of scenery.

The BR116 traverses three states and cuts through the heart of the Santa Catarina timber industry. Pine trees and the umbrella-shaped Araucaria are everywhere and there are plenty of logging trucks on the road.

It's a very hilly and windy road, so it's slow going at times, but still great driving.

Highlights include a rock cutting with Easter Island-like faces looking down at us, a smile from pretty girl with a star tattoo at a toll booth, a beautiful wooden German style shopping mall, and a lunch stop with a match winning goal by Lionel Messi in Argentina's scrappy 1-0 win over Iran.

It's late and dark when we finally make it to Porto Alegre.

The next morning we are woken by the sound of drumming and singing. Outside the hotel about 50 Algerian supporters are singing loudly, dancing, and playing the drums.

They are excited and confident about today's game and are passing around a replica World Cup trophy while being filmed by a local TV station.

It's 22 degrees, the day after the shortest day of the year, and if this is as bad as winter gets here then it's not too bad at all.

On the walk to the stadium there are fans from many different countries draped in flags and wearing their nations' colours, but it's the Brazilians who outnumber the rest. Many of them are wearing the Brazilian team shirt but many more are wearing the red shirt of local club Internacionale, who will take up residence at the stadium after the World Cup.

Inter, along with arch rival Gremio, are the two biggest teams in Porto Alegre and many fans consider club more important than country.

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One Inter supporter sees my All Whites flag and calls out to welcome me to the stadium.

Inside, we climb up to the third tier where the view is amazing. The Arena Beira is a majestic stadium with sail-like roof structures, modern covered seating, and great natural lighting.

The game kicks off with the South Koreans using their speed and quick passing to move up field, but the Algerian defense is solid and up to the task.

Algeria too has its passages on attack and their forwards are strong on their feet and show good ball control.

The crowd is enjoying the game, especially the big group of Algerian supporters on the far side from us who are in constant motion.

Suddenly, Algeria strikes and with three goals in quick succession effectively deliver a knockout punch to South Korea. A couple of rows back from us, an Algerian woman is celebrating wildly and has tears of joy in her eyes.

South Korea play much better in the second half and when they score to make it 1-3 I look around to see the Algerian woman clapping and smiling.

It's wonderful to see the World Cup spirit being embraced so positively and so generously.

There is plenty of action in the second 45 minutes as Algeria scores again to take a 4-1 lead, before South Korea comes back to make it 4-2.

On the far side of the stadium the Algerians have unfurled a huge flag and are passing it across the heads of their supporters and when the final whistle goes, their celebrations reach a crescendo.

After the game we hang around at the stadium to enjoy the views and talk to fellow supporters. We meet a Brazilian with an All Blacks jacket who tells us that rugby is a popular sport in his town in the heartland of Rio Grande do Sul, a couple of Scots wearing kilts, and some disappointed South Koreans.

Outside the stadium the Algerian drums have started up again, this time with something very real to celebrate.

We can't understand a word they say but their meaning is crystal clear as the language of football joy needs no translation.


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