Taking in the Cup: Local soccer fan and son experience the World Cup firsthand | TheUnion.com

Taking in the Cup: Local soccer fan and son experience the World Cup firsthand

Ray Oleson
Special to The Union

Ray Oleson is a local soccer super fan who has attended every World Cup for the past 16 years and this year is no different.

Oleson is currently in Brazil with his son, Dave, taking in the Cup and the culture and will be sending updates from the scene of the 2014 FIFA World cup.

Let the games begin – 6/15/2014

Despite the heavy downpour in the "Sun City", the enthusiasm for the World Cup reigns supreme. When Brazil played Croatia, the green and yellow of Brazil was everywhere. With players named Hulk (give him a green hue and he is almost a twin for the cartoon Hulk), Fred, and Oscar, we would almost think we are watching an American team. But the game belonged to Neymar aka Neymar da Silva Santos Junior who scored two big goals to put the home team ahead. The next is their big game against US rival Mexico.

Tonight we braved the torrential downpour to slog to a bar to watch England vs. Italy. The Englishman across the table was "in his cups" as they say. "England forever!", he kept sloshing, loudly and frequently.

The three danes at his table politely took their leave at the half. We took their places and by that time he was literally in his cups.

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Outside in the pouring rain, a Brazilian watched the game under his umbrella. For two hours in a downpour! He smiled as we took his photo.

Dave and I waded back to our hotel, my arm around my hulk-like son's shoulder as I struggled to keep my balance. I hope these World Cup experiences never end.

"Ole, ole, ole" – 6/16/2014

The city of Natal on the coast in northeast Brazil was the site of our first game, Mexico vs. Cameroon. A steady hard rain, like a Nevada City winter but warmer, was falling as we huddled hoping for a bus to take us to the stadium. Mexican fans were decked out in green uniforms and sombreros and singing "Ole, ole, ole."

Approaching Arena das Dunas, it is a magnificent sight. Natal is known for its sand dunes and "das Dunas" is built to look like a giant dune.

It does. Yet, Only two days ago, the fire Marshall had not approved this newly- built stadium — highlighting the last minute nature of these preparations. Some are renaming this the "Patience Cup.

Inside the stadium the atmosphere is festive. Mexican fans are sporting masks and other costumes far outnumbering the Cameroon fans.

Mexico controlled the game from start to finish but had two goals voided by questionable offsides calls. At half, the score was nil-nil. El Tri's Oribe Peralta finally put a ball in the back of the net after the 60th minute that the officials let stand. The stadium erupted in exultation.

After the recent scandals involving match-fixing by officials, FIFA should be concerned of these missed calls on the world stage.

US shocks Ghana — 6/18/19

The USA vs. Ghana game was preceded by a fan party two blocks from the stadium hosted by the American Outlaws — a fan support group for the USA men's national team.

Dave and I arrived to a large open air restaurant overwhelmed by Americans decked out in red, white and blue. Captain America and Teddy Roosevelt were there along with us in our Uncle Sams. We decided that the Americans got the award for best costumes even though we come late to the sport. Hopefully the team's skill level will keep pace with the fans' costume ingenuity.

We marched from the restaurant with the Outlaws, chanting "we believe that we can win," and singing the national anthem. Arriving at the Arena das Dunas, the American fans were already in a frenzy. Before we could catch our breath, Clint Dempsey scored a goal for our side. It was the fifth quickest goal ever for a World Cup. The red white and blue fans went berserk. When Jozie Altidore went down clutching his hamstring, however, the fans' ardor was chastened.

The second half was owned by Ghana, who mounted attack after attack, finally knotting the score at one apiece. It seemed that at best we would come away with the one point that a tie would give us — surely not enough to advance beyond the group play stage given our placement in the "Group of Death." In the waning moments of the game, a son of a USA soldier, living in Germany, scored the winning goal for the USA team.

The three points earned from the win have increased our hopes that maybe, just maybe, the USA will advance to the Round of 16. To be sure, the USA will have to win the next game in the Amazon city of Manaus against Portugal on Saturday. It seems hopeless to beat Germany on June 26. But, then again, Mexico tied Brazil in a game that seemed hopeless for Mexico.

Perhaps the USA could do the unthinkable.

We will be watching the Portugal game from the air-conditioned safety of a bar in Salvador. The Germany game will find us in full- throated roar at the stadium in Recife.

Germany vs. Ghana — 6/20/14

The other half of the USA Group, Germany and Ghana, played each other in Fortaleza today. Fortaleza is as close to the equator as we will get and the heat reminds us of that proximity. The town is choc-o-block full of foreigners and the restaurants are abuzz with German, Portuguese, English, and even the occasional Russian.

We board the free municipal bus headed nonstop to the game. Our transport drops us off half a kilometer away from Estadio de Castelao, and we begin the hot trudge alongside Brazilian opportunists hawking beer, water, and skewered meat sticks. We quaff a few brewskis on the way to "stay hydrated". We also spot an outdoor bar with a TV where the Argentinians are struggling to eke out a victory against Iran. As time is expiring, Lionel Messi again comes through for the blue and white. Perhaps the world's greatest player and yet still humble, it is gratifying to see Messi have the success that eluded him in prior World Cups.

Reaching the stadium, it is a temple of energy with the excited crowds chanting and singing for their favorite. The crowd appears initially to be rooting for the Germans, but when Ghana mounts attack after attack, it becomes clear the Brazilians at least are rooting for Ghana. Gana! Gana! Gana! thunders from the crowd. The Ghanese are faster and quicker than Die Mannschaft who seem sluggish and slow. How did the USA ever defeat the Black Stars let alone keep up with them?

Ghana strikes first, then Germany, then Ghana. Back and forth in a scintillating seesaw battle. The game ends in a tie when Germany knots the score at 2-2. Since two of the four teams will qualify to move on, we were rooting for a German win to knock Ghana out. With a hoped-for win over Portugal on Saturday, that would have put the Germans and the USA into the round of 16. This tie, however, assures that the Germans' last game against our boys will count for something.

With one game to play Germany leads our group with 4 points followed by the USA with 3 points and two games to play, and then Ghana with 1 point and Portugal with 0. The red, white and blue must defeat Portugal today in the steamy Amazon town of Manaus to control their fortune.

USA vs. Portugal 6/25/14

In anticipation of the momentous game between the USA and Portugal, we donned our Uncle Sams and helped our hosts paint their faces. Walking down the cobblestones of old Salvador, we landed in an open air bar inhabited by a combination of rabid Americans and restrained Brazilians with bemused expressions on their faces.

We had to arrive in the first half of the Algeria v Korea match in order to get seats for our group of 5, including a Brazilian, our American host living in Brazil, and his English/American friend also residing in Salvador. As Algeria was dispatching the hapless Koreans, the Americans began arriving at the bar in droves.

Round after round of American cheers rang out once again: "Ole, ole, ole"; "we believe that we will win"; and others requiring #*%*#%€¥#% for print in a general newspaper. The national anthem was lustily sung by the 150 present as the players stood at attention on TV.

Portugal began the game with gusto in the jungle heat and the Yanks gave up an early goal as they reeled from the Seleccao's attacks. The bar crowd moaned in agony. After the half, however, it was the USA that had chance after chance. Jermaine Jones tied the score at 1-1 which brought our crowd to a frenzy. When Clint Dempsey, playing with a broken nose, took the Americans into the lead in the 81st minute, more beer was spilled than made it down the hatch. The fans bedecked in red, white and blue were jumping, hugging, and dancing in ecstasy. Now the trick was to hang on for the final minutes of the game.

Our boys stopped attack after attack but a perfect crossing pass by Christiano Ronaldo, who bears Cary Grant 's good looks, knotted the score in stoppage time ("overtime"). The game ended that way, a tie giving the Yanks one more point which ties them for the lead in our "Group of Death".

The last game will be back on the east coast of Brazil after this rumble in the jungle. The unlucky Americans have not only had to play in the steam of the Amazon, but must also fly a full day across the length of Brazil to meet the mighty German Mannschaft, who have had one more day of rest. Nonetheless, two of the four teams in our group will make it to the next round and the odds are favoring the USA.

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