Brazilian fans get early start

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:24 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG - After wiping the sleep out of these weary eyes, the time on the airport clock unfortunately comes into focus - 4:57 a.m.!

A time where most soccer fans should still be cozily tucked in their beds. A time where most soccer fans should have their musical instruments cozily tucked into their equipment cases. Why didn't someone tell these crazy Brazilians that?

Decked in their trademark green-and-yellow, they already are at the gate for their 6:30 a.m. flight to Port Elizabeth, where their beloved Brazilian national team is poised to take on the Netherlands on Friday in a high-profile quarterfinal game at World Cup 2010.

And they are far too excited about it. At least at this wee hour. One fan, wearing a Brazilian flag as a cape, is rhythmically beating on a set of what appears to be mini-bongo drums that dangle from a strap around his neck.

For the entourage of Brazilians around him, it is reason to dance. For the rest of us, it is reason to shop for headache pills. Except none of the stores are open yet, damn it.

Such is the unbridled passion of the World Cup soccer fan which, obviously, is a 24-hour-a-day passion. For a first timer attending this event, more than two decades of scribbling about sports has brought with it the privilege of experiencing some pretty rabid crowds.

There have been whiteouts in Pittsburgh, redouts in Calgary and a sellout for a hockey game at Fenway Park. There has been the roar of almost half a million people standing up in unison as 33 cars approach the strip of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the start of the 500. There was the final out of 1996 World Series that allowed the Yankees to win the title at home, causing the press box to shake and vibrate because of the number of euphoric fanatics banging their feet in the stands.

But nothing like this. Nothing like the passion and the furver of the World Cup fan.

Like the Japanese guy in Durban who spent the entire Japan-Netherlands game beating on a life-sized mannequin that was wearing a Holland jersey, and then used a red marker to insert alleged oozing bloodstains.

Like the Dutch man, once again in Durban, who wore a hat with tulips growing out of it. Like the English chap who needed to go to the loo and ended up in the team's dressing room, much to the chagrin of a naked Joe Cole who was coming out of the shower.

Like the English fans en masse who came to South Africa without lapsing into any hooliganism while being the only national crowd that can with its singing drown out the sound of the vuvuzelas.

Like every one of the 80,000 -- primarily South African supporters -- stuffed into Soccer City for Bafana Bafana's opener against Mexico, a vuvuzela-blowing throng that was so loud, earplugs didn't even help.

Like the U.S. couple who stole the show in Rustenburg last week during Ghana's 2-1 victory over the U.S. at the Round of 16. Forget about dressing like the Statue of Liberty, Too mundane. Knowing the former president was in the house, they dollied themselves up to look like Bill Clinton AND Monica Lewinsky. Ouch.

Like Mick Jagger and Kobe Bryant and Reggie Bush and John Travolta and a host of other celebrities who have travelled halfway around the world to get a taste of the South Africa 2010 experience.

Like the two Greek supporters who slapped on a couple of bed sheets that passed as togas and braved freezing temperatures to watch their team play Argentina in Polokwane. Surely Mount Olympus was never this frosty.

Like the curvaceous Brazilian woman who wore a green-and-gold bikini to Brazil's 2-1 win over North Korea at Ellis Park on a night the wind-chill was minus-4.

Like the Australian dude who planned to bungy jump from the cable-car archway that runs high over the playing surface of Durban Stadium.

Like all those fun-loving, music playing Brazilians and Argentines, who seems to think any airport they are in is a concert venue.

Like the thousands of Dutch fans who have descended on South Africa bringing along every piece of orange clothing you could think of. And some you couldn't. Don't ask.

And like these wonderful South African fans who have greeted the world with open arms, sometimes welcoming us by tooting their vuvuzelas at 3 a.m.

Yes, the crowds that come to the World Cup truly are something special and unique.

But don't these people ever sleep?

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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