Luis Suárez: the pain and the privilege
It was a night of mixed emotions for my Liverpool-supporting son in São Paulo’s Arena Corinthians on Thursday. There was the bitter disappointment of defeat at his first England game — he is only 11, so the prospect of a lifetime of crushed hopes and expectations has not quite registered with him yet — but he has the consolation that at least Luis Suárez will again be terrorising Premier League defences in a red shirt next season. Although I shudder to think of the reception he will get from both Liverpool and opposing fans.
Which is a pity because we witnessed one of the world’s great players at the peak of his powers. As one glum-faced England fan put it as we trudged towards the exit: “I hate the bloke, but he’s in a different class, isn’t he?”
Indeed he is. Suárez’s breathtaking pace and menacing anticipation are such that you cannot take your eyes off him, which is more than you can say for England’s defenders. As an England fan, it was a painful defeat, but as a football lover, it was a privilege to watch a genius at work.
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Best song heard at the England-Uruguay game: “Your teeth are offside, your teeth are offsiiiide; Luis Suárez, your teeth are offside!” A couple of Uruguay fans rose to the occasion by holding up an image of Suárez during the English national anthem with the words: “God Save Our King.”
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For all the pre-tournament trouble, worries about transport and the state of the stadiums, getting to the game in São Paulo was surprisingly easy and trouble-free. Directions to the stadium were clearly posted throughout the spotless and safe Metro system, with an army of helpful volunteers on hand. And in a city that can match Bermuda for prices, the 25-minute ride out to the Arena Corinthians was an absolute bargain — just 3.00 Brazilian Reals (about $1.50) each way.
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This World Cup may be in Brazil, but once you reach the stadium area you are in Fifa’s world where sponsors, not fans, are the priority. Fifa’s lucrative sponsorship deals mean that the experience has now become so generic you could just as well be in Berlin as Brazil. As with recent World Cups, you can forget about getting a taste of local food and drink. It is Coca-Cola only (or Coke-owned soda brands and water) and the food is truly disgusting: lukewarm pre-cooked burgers or hot dogs. You want a beer with that? Then this Bud’s for you. Oh — and don’t even think about using your MasterCard or American Express card to pay for the privilege. They accept only Visa.