FIFA: World Cup fever kicks off

By Patrice Dougan

A Brazilian fan watching the game. Photo / Greg Bowker
A Brazilian fan watching the game. Photo / Greg Bowker

World Cup fever has officially kicked off as the first game of the competition got under way this morning.

Brazilians have packed into Auckland bars, decked out in the yellow and green of their South American country, to cheer on the home side in the opening game versus Croatia.

In Cafe Santos in Ponsonby, Brazilian supporters are showing their colours. Marcos Leite, originally from São Paulo, said it was "awesome" to watch her home country in her adopted country of New Zealand where she's lived for 14 years. "There's nothing like being Brazilian when the World Cup is on, there's nothing that describes it."The score is currently 1:1 after Brazil scored an own goal but then equalised.

At half time two Brazilian samba dancers took to the floor to bring a taste of carnival to Ponsonby. They got the crowd going with whistles, cheers and clapping along to the rhythm. A few locals were pulled up out of their seas to join them, including one 66-year-old complete with woolly hat and leg warmers.

Chilean Pamela Vasquez Gutierrez said she was backing her fellow South American team - until tomorrow when Chile meet Australia. The atmosphere made her feel at home, she said. "I miss parties like this, you feel at home - it should be a little bit louder though."

She had been up since 6am "just excited", she said. Englishman Fraser Bingham, 24, said he wasn't supporting either side in the opening game but as a big football fan didn't want to miss the home team kick off the start of the tournament. "It's good to see the atmosphere coming to New Zealand when there's [usually] so much focus on rugby."

But I would like to see Croatia win because Brazil are a bigger threat to England."

His friend Ron Yap, 24, originally from the Philippines, was also a big football fan. "I don't really have a favourite [team], but I will be really curious to see who is going to win because the teams are really strong and quite young.

"He described the atmosphere at Cafe Santos as "great". "The Brazilian fans are really on point."Marcia Leite's entire family were watching the game in the stadium, she said, and her sister had sent her audio of fans cheering Brazil's goal against Croatia. She had faith in Brazil to win. "I'm sure they're well prepared, they know the pressure that's on them and it would be like [making] history to win the World Cup at home."

In Wellington, about 300 people ignored the perfect sunrise to pack into Shed 6 on the waterfront.

It was a party atmosphere, with a big screen, and the walls draped with the colourful flags of the footballing nations. The halftime show saw people dancing on the floor and in the aisles, as the Wellington Batucada percussion group provided musical entertainment.

Batucada bass drummer Gordon Cessford, a sports and recreation consultant, said he was supporting Brazil in the absence of the All Whites."I've always liked them. The style, the aura, the magic. And the music and dancing. They're great fun.

"It's kinda like the heartbeat of the band," he said of his drum, called a surdo.

"Everyone likes a big drum.

"He also supported Australia in their match-up against Chile tomorrow."It would be good if they did well. It would attract attention to our part of the world."Teacher Matt Kolic, clad in Croatian colours of red and white, said he supported them because he had Croatian heritage in his family.

"The boss has been very kind and given me the morning off.

"He was slightly nervous at halftime, noting that 45 minutes "can be a long time".

He praised the organisers - the Brazilian Embassy and the FIFA Under-20 World Cup Committee. New Zealand will host the Under-20 World Cup next May.

"It's awesome. Good on the organisers. This is the biggest show in the world. Even little old New Zealand gets a piece of it. The drums, the players, everything. Awesome."

He said he also had no animosity towards Australia for their game tomorrow."

They've got seven Croatians in their team."

- APNZ

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