Brazil, football and the Pelourinho kid
Our first day in Salvador had us driving around town and picking up tickets. Last night we had a night out with family and friends in the historic cobblestone town of Pelourinho, famous for its stretch of multi-coloured buildings.
The steps of an old church had been transformed into a concert arena for a local band. I asked one of my local friends if this was all for the start of the world cup. He said no, “this is because it’s Tuesday.” Turns out, every Tuesday there means a street concert like this one.
We were a little on edge as we didn’t know what to expect and I had to bite my tongue as locals would whistle and hiss at the girls of our group. We witnessed some violence but no more than one might see if they were out in King’s Cross back home.
The hiss of the locals might seem rude to tourists but it is a common sound throughout Brazil. The word is “Psiu” and is used as an attention grabber, kind of like saying “hey you”, they put all the emphasis on the ‘s’ and hiss like a snake.
The streets were all blanketed with tiny flags in the green and yellow of Brazil. We had seen the same sea of decorations earlier in the day as our friend and host Anderson drove us through the poverty lined back streets.
He explained to me why people are so passionate when the World Cup comes around. People in these areas don’t have much. Their living conditions are poor and there is little to make them feel good about who they are in the world.
“When the national team plays, this is their chance to be something more” he said.
“It’s like you are going to war. When your country beats another country you feel this power, like you are important in the world.”
That brief explanation answered any questions I might have about the passion for football in this part of the world.
While out among the masses partying in the streets I had my first encounter with a Brazilian child asking me for money. He was maybe 11 or 12 years old. I had seen him moving through the crowd and targeting tourists. Unfortunately I did what I was told to do, I ignored him. It was either that or buy him some food from a street vendor, but I was cautious about pulling money from my pocket.
“Não desculpa,” I said, “No sorry.” He stood next to me with his palm extended while I stared away from him and waited for him to leave. It felt terrible ignoring him like he was nothing. Truth be told I would’ve loved him to join us all for a nice meal, but the general feeling is he wouldn’t want the food over money. The assumption seems to be that it will most likely be used to buy alcohol or weed, which just makes the situation even sadder.
Thinking about this kid, and what the rest of the night might bring him, I thought again about what Anderson said – that kids like this live life, probably all of their life, feeling like they’re nothing. But when the national team plays he, just the same as everyone else here, is a true Brazilian, and if they win he feels like a winner.
For this reason and this reason alone, if Australia can’t achieve the ultimate and lift the trophy this year, if it makes this kid feel like a champion, like he matters for a day then I hope Brazil go all the way and win their 6th World Cup.