A World Cup Odyssey: Part II
July 28, 2014 | by Ken Ilchuk
Martin Targett, president of the Dix Hills Soccer Club and coach of the BU16 Villians, made the trip to Brazil with his son David this summer to take in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, keeping a promise he made three years ago. He has shared this memorable story with LIJSoccer.com. It’s a story of determination, financial responsibility, and a father and son’s love of soccer. In Part I we heard about all the necessary preparations for the trip (and how it almost didn’t happen). In this, the second of a three-part series, we travel with the Targett’s to Sao Paolo for the first game action of the trip!
Thousands of fans from all different countries were packed into an area about twice the size of Times Square, cheering and shouting, watching the Argentina-Nigeria game on a massive high definition screen. Then Nigeria scored and pandemonium ensued! Nigerian fans and all those rooting against Argentina went crazy. It seemed like everyone around David Targett, his friend Shane, and David’s dad Martin Targett was doing the samba or just jumping up and down. And as Martin took in the scene around him, he had one thought.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is the start. THIS IS THE WORLD CUP and we are here!’”
On Day One in Brazil, after a mostly sleepless, 10+ hour night flight, the Targett’s and Shane took a bus across Sao Paolo. They dropped their bags at the Hotel Pan Americano, which was clean, and provided free breakfast, but was hardly the South American oasis the travel brochures had depicted. They set out to explore the neighborhood and mapped out their travel route to the stadium for the game they would attend the next day. Then they went to the Fan Fest and the eye-opening experience described above.
“We headed to the Fan Fest that was set up in downtown Sao Paolo to watch the Nigeria vs Argentina game,” Martin explained. “It was the last match of group play in Group F. The subways were filled with fans from all countries, and luckily for us, directions and information were bountiful. So we found the Fan Fest pretty easily and WOW! It was everything we could have expected and much more. It was a big area, with thousands of people, but it was also very well controlled with plenty of security.”
“The game was a thriller with a final score of 3-2 in favor of Argentina,” he continued. “Musa of Nigeria scored two goals, as did Messi, but Rojo of Argentina got the winner in the 50th minute. In the end, everyone celebrated because both teams advanced to the round of 16 thanks to Bosnia and Herzegovina beating Iran 3-1.”
After the game, the group left the Fan Fest and headed out to the city to do some sightseeing. It was a great experience, and as you can imagine, soccer was everywhere.
“We did some sightseeing of the city, picking up souvenirs from street vendors who represented many different nations,” Martin said. “The haggling for lower prices was quite entertaining for the boys!”
“We had an early dinner, watched the 1st half of the Switzerland vs Honduras game, then went elsewhere for desert and watched the 2nd half of the France vs Ecuador game,” he continued. “It was a great match that ended 0-0, but had the passion and excitement of 4-4 game. Then it was off to bed very early. Remember, we had not really slept since Monday night, and it was now about eight o’clock Wednesday night.”
Thursday morning brought the excitement of game day. The Targett’s had tickets to see Belgium play Korea. But the US was scheduled to play Germany the same day, so they tried to put together a plan to catch both games. But they soon found out they weren’t in Kansas (or New York) anymore.
“The original plan was to go to the Fan Fest in Sao Paolo city center to watch the USA v Germany game, then take the subway to the Arena de Sao Paolo,” Martin said. “But with a 45-minute subway ride to the stadium, we decided it would be safer to just go early to the stadium and watch the 1pm USA game in the stadium’s Fan Fest area, then be there in plenty of time for our game, which was scheduled for 5 pm.”
“Well, that turned out to be huge mistake,” he said. “Not only was the big high definition Jumbotron TV at the stadium Fan Fest not working, but for some inexplicable reason NO ONE (and I mean NO ONE) in this brand new massive shopping mall, attached to the brand new Arena de Sao Paolo, was showing the USA game. We weren’t the only ones disappointed by this, so now there were thousands of fans just wandering through this huge shopping center. Some of us found an electronic store, like a local PC Richards. Then someone figured how to change the channel, and low and behold, USA vs Germany was on all the TV’s in the store!”
But that didn’t last long. It turns out not everyone is a fan of the USA in Brazil.
“Some wise guy in the back room switched the channel and locked it in on some Brazilian Soap opera, “Dias de Nossas Vidas”, which apparently was easier and a faster result than getting security guards,” Martin explained. “So we wandered the mall, sat down to eat, and I turned to my trusty IPhone to get news feeds via one line texts of the game. That’s how we found out the USA were through to the round of 16!”
But while they were thousands of miles from home, in a different continent, in a different stadium, it turns out the world isn’t so big after all.
“I had one extra ticket for the game, which I managed to sell to a someone from Hewlett, Long Island, if you can believe it,” Martin said. “He had seen me in the mall wandering around and saw that I was wearing a Dix Hills shirt. We got to talking and he said he didn’t have tickets to the game but was here hoping to get one. So we snuck into a corner of the mall, peaking around like a pair of smugglers. ‘Here you go,’ I said, peeling the ticket out from my well-protected, body hugging, Swiss army-hidden travel waist wallet. My last ticket was sold, and what a small world, to someone from Long Island.”
Next, it was on to the stadium, and while just walking into the stadium was exciting enough. Things just kept getting better by the minute.
“The stadium was as spectacular as one could imagine for a purpose-built World Cup Stadium, but things got better as we proceeded to our seats,” Martin said. “We walked down and down until the realization set in that we were seated 10 rows back from the corner flag, right where the Belgium national team was warming up! David and Shane walked down to the rails and they could almost reach out and touch the players. Actually Shane, being a 6-foot 4-inch goalie with a big wing span, probably could have. I just plopped down in my seat exhausted from the feeling that we were finally here, at a World Cup game in Brazil, and the seats were AWESOME.”
The in-game experience was everything you’d expect. Filled to capacity, the crowd sang to their respective national anthems and the game got underway.
“Electric, awesome, fantastic - it was really was all of that and more, especially for the boys,” Martin said. “The IPhones were working overtime taking pictures and videos.”
David had been on the Belgium bandwagon early and had picked them to win the tournament, so he was rooting hard. Belgium didn’t disappoint, winning 1-0 and winning all their group games with a perfect record and 9 points. After the game, the ride home would provide more memories for the boys.
“The walk from the stadium was interesting as the crowd was ushered through a local neighborhood with many street bars and all sorts of colorful customers,” Martin said. On the subway ride back to the city, the Belgium fans were singing their hearts out, and even the Koreans fans sang too. A large group recognized that Shane was wearing a USA jersey, so knowing that Belgium would now play them in the round of 16, they got very loud with chants of ‘We Beat U-S-A! We Beat USA!’ Even funnier was their chant of, ‘We love SACCA, SACCA, SACCA,’ in fake American accents, making fun of Americans’ refusal to call the game ‘football!’”
So with their first World Cup game under their belt, Martin, David, and Shane headed back to the hotel.
“We were exhausted, but we had a great day,” Martin said. The trip home past some of the colorful bars by our hotel brought a smile to my face, but not as much as falling asleep in bed at Hotel Pan Americano. I did try to call my wife Stephanie back in the USA, but after discovering the phone in the hotel room had no dial tone, I lifted up the base of the phone to discover 4 wires just dangling there. I’m not sure when it last worked, but it but it certainly wasn’t going to work on that night!”
Martin’s head hit the pillow. He smiled one more time and quickly fell asleep. There was even more to come tomorrow!
Part three will follow the group’s journey from Sao Paolo to Rio de Janeiro and the beaches of Copacabana for the Round of 16 game between Uruguay and Colombia in the Estadio do Maracana.