“So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever.
“We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.”
The excerpt from Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch sums up the feelings of those who will have their eyes glued to TV sets over the next month, watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup unfold in Brazil.
The world’s biggest soccer—or, more appropriately, football—tournament is expected to be watched by billions globally.
A few million of those viewers will be Canadian, despite the fact Canada’s last World Cup appearance was in 1986.
But according to the CBC, the official broadcaster of the tournament, World Cup viewership in Canada is on the rise.
Coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final in South Africa brought in an average audience of 5.1 million: A 105 per cent increase from the 2006 World Cup final ratings.
It’s a trend that doesn’t surprise passionate fans, and one some Okanagan businesses hope to cash in on.
In this week’s Close-up, Capital News reporter Wade Paterson checks in with a local fan headed to Brazil for the tournament, interviews a diehard Ghana supporter and finds out how local businesses plan to feed the footy appetite.
Most of Guilherme Rodrigues’ friends and family are in Brazil, cheering on their home country in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
But he didn’t look lonely Thursday as dozens of his new Kelowna friends stood and cheered beside him, waving Brazilian flags and yelling at the TVs in Rivals Sports Theatre and Grill.
“For me, the World Cup is very important,” says Rodrigues.
“I’m very happy; I’m very nervous. Football is my favourite sport.”
Gabriel Nery, also from Brazil, stood beside Rodrigues, yelling at the TV screen for most of the opening match.
Although English isn’t his mother tongue, Nery manages to relay his thoughts about the tournament.
“Football: It’s the best, for me.”
Rodrigues, Nery and their fellow supporters watched Brazil win the opening match 3-1 over Croatia.
“Brazil, (they’ll be) champion this year,” says Rodrigues.
Rodney Goodchild will be boarding a plane to Sao Paulo in less than a week for a trip that’s been in the works for years.
The sales and marketing manager at Okanagan Spirits discussed the dream of travelling to Brazil for the World Cup with a friend of his two years ago.
Goodchild knew he wouldn’t likely travel to Russia to watch the tournament 2018, nor Qatar in 2022. The more they discussed Brazil in 2014, the more the dream become reality.
The clincher came when his friend mentioned the idea to his wife, and “she didn’t say, ‘No.'”
Goodchild and two others proceeded to book their flights; however, at that stage, there was no way of knowing if they’d be lucky enough to purchase tickets to any matches. And even if they were, they had no idea what matches they would get.
“The excitement really came when we entered the lottery for the tickets,” says Goodchild.
All three friends applied for sets of three tickets to various matches. Then they waited, checking their e-mails often.
“Two of us failed to get anything, but one of the guys got two games.”
Goodchild had no idea at that point what teams would be playing in the games he had purchased tickets to, but he knew he’d see at least some World Cup action in Brazil.
Another lottery took place last November, but the trio struck out at the chance to purchase more tickets. However, they snatched up two more games in the final lottery draw.
Goodchild and his pals had to wait until FIFA drew the World Cup groups last December before they knew what teams would be playing in the matches they bought tickets for.
He equates watching the final draw to being a child on Christmas morning.
“You get to a certain age in life where there are very few surprises…but genuinely not knowing which games you’ve got—it was proper excitement.”
As luck would have it, the three soccer fans purchased tickets to a few exciting match-ups.
The first match they will watch is Uruguay vs. England in Sao Paulo June 19.
Goodchild was born in Northern Ireland; however, he has lived in England and been to several Premier League matches.
“To get an England game is pretty exciting.
“I’ve seen competitive games, but certainly not any in an international tournament.”
Next the group will travel to Porto Alegre to watch South Korea vs. Algeria June 22, and then Nigeria vs. Argentina June 25.
Finally, Goodchild’s crew head to Rio de Janeiro for a knockout stage match between the winner of Group C and runner-up in Group D.
Although there is global excitement surrounding the tournament, it is juxtaposed with social unrest in Brazil.
Protestors and police clashed Thursday morning in Sao Paulo, hours before the opening match of the World Cup.
But for Goodchild, the excitement far outweighs any concerns of danger.
“I don’t think I’ll have an opportunity to get to another World Cup any time soon.”
Joseph Otoo has already warned his friends and family they probably won’t be able to reach him during the next month.
The 27-year-old Juice FM host plans on spending all of his spare time sitting in front of the TV, with his Ghanian flag nearby.
“I live for this. It makes my soul so happy,” says Otoo.
Otoo finished third last year in season five of Gillette Drafted: A reality TV show that saw aspiring sportscasters compete in hopes of landing a one-year contract with Sportsnet.
Although soccer isn’t typically as popular with North Americans as hockey, basketball, American football and baseball, Otoo predicts interest in the World Cup will gain momentum as teams progress further in the tournament.
“I don’t think it’s lost on Canadians, I just think it will take a few weeks…the fever will spread as the tournament grows.”
Born in Ghana in 1986, Otoo moved to Vancouver at the age of five.
Although he has spent most of his life as a Canadian citizen, he “swells with pride” every time he gets the chance to watch Ghana play.
But Otoo’s love for his team was put through heartbreak during the last World Cup in South Africa.
Ghana was a penalty kick away from becoming the first African nation to advance to the World Cup semi-finals after Uruguayan Luis Suarez was given a red card for illegally stopping the ball with his hands to prevent a Ghana goal.
The score was 1-1 with only seconds remaining in extra time.
“I’ll never forget, I was standing on a table in Smithers, BC, where I was working at the time…I was just ready to celebrate.
“I’m thinking: Last kick of the game, we’re going to score the penalty, we’re going to be the first African nation in the semi-finals.”
Asamoah Gyan took the penalty kick for Ghana, but kicked it too high as the ball struck the top of the crossbar and sailed over the net. Ghana went on to lose the match in a penalty shoot-out.
This year, Otoo is optimistic about his team’s chances, even though they have been placed in arguably the toughest group of the tournament. Ghana will play Germany, Portugal and the United States.
“It’s a tough group, but I think they can go very deep if they can get out of their group stage.”
No matter how deep Ghana goes in the tournament, Otoo says the World Cup is the world’s best sporting festival.
“People just get united.