RIO DE JANEIRO — In the neighborhood of Laranjeiras, in the South zone of Rio De Janiero, a black van with a silver “Megadeth” nameplate on its Volkswagen emblem pulled up to the side of Praca Sao Salvador (Sao Salvador Square), opened its doors and pulled out a speaker, a flatscreen, a grill and a keg. It was a one-stop party.
With the Brazil-Mexico game just minutes away, a small crew of guys clad in various Brazilian soccer jerseys raced around to set things up. One started the grill while another tapped the keg. Then they affixed the speaker to the side of the van and erected a 40-inch television on top of the van and strapped it to the rooftop.
A crowd had already started to form in front of the van and in front of a boxy, old-school TV that was placed on the other side of the square and was using a long white cord to steal power from a restaurant across the street.
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The crowd was men, women and children and almost everyone was wearing yellow and green. They cheered when the television came on and promptly complained when the generator inside the car gave out and it went off. But after a couple kinks everything went smoothly and the makeshift viewing party was underway.
This wasn’t a random event.
The Metal Kombi, as it’s called, had been scouting out this spot and had hosted a small gathering for the Brazil-Croatia game. That game drew mostly family and friends. This, however, drew a much larger gathering as word started to spread throughout Laranjeiras that there was a family-friendly place to watch the game that was free of all those pesky tourists at fan fest in Copacabana.
“There are less people but better quality,” said Camille Micault, who is French, but has lived in Brazil for a year. “Copacabana is not Brazil. These are people that live in the neighborhood. It’s more local. There’s churrasco barbecue. It’s a smaller TV, but people are happy, family. In Copacabana, I’m not interested in going there because it’s full of Argentinians and Brazilians don’t like it. Brazilians like to be with family. The Brazilian way of life is to watch futbol with family. It’s important. Copacabana is too crowded to bring children.”
Babies bounced on shoulders and kids weaved in and out of the crowd as most of the adults huddled around the television, most with subdued reactions to the happenings on the field. At times, during the second half especially, the fervor would increase, but the vast majority of the time fans watched in near silence, which was broken only by the occasional blaring of a horn or a firecracker from another part of the neighborhood.
But this was Brazil. The real Brazil. The Brazil many aren’t seeing on the television or reading about in the media. It was people getting together, enjoying each other and enjoying the game.
If the crowd was disappointed its team came away with a draw, it hardly showed it. When the game ended, the television went off and the American rock music came blaring through the speaker. The children started to leave the square, but most of the adults stayed and danced and laughed and enjoyed an evening where their team was still in first place in Group A and the Cup was still in reach.
“We have plenty of players,” said Ped Roseivalos, who helped organize the Metal Kombi watch party and was in the middle of cooking what he called "street pork."“When they won the first match everybody got really excited about the second. They just need to put the knife in their teeth and go get wins.”
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