The best players, coaches and fans are bound for Brazil, with all eyes set on the Brazuca — the first football to be named. By Aakanksha Singh Devi
Not to be missed
The group matches that are worth 90 minutes of your life
1) Brazil vs Croatia, June 12 – Who gives the opening game a miss? Not us!
2) Spain vs Netherlands, June 13 – In a game of tiki-taka vs flair, defending champions open their account against the wily Dutch.
3) England vs Italy, June 14 – An important match for both as they have Uruguay giving them company in the group. Besides, it is Gerrard vs Pirlo and Rooney vs Buffon.
■ My World Cup Fixtures: Automatically synchronises the World Cup schedule according to your time zone. Add your desired fixture and get the local time for that particular match. Free on Android devices. Details: play.google.com
■ FIFA official: Complete with live coverage and updates, team profiles and guides to destinations in Brazil. Free for both iOS and Android devices.
■ Adidas 2014 FIFA World Cup LWP: A live wallpaper and clock widget app. Every time you unlock your device, the visual drops from space down to Earth and takes you into the Maracana Estadio, with the Brazuca in the centre circle. On Android.
■ Real Soccer World Cup 2014: Pick your squad from a list of 32 World Cup teams. This Android game has options for playing a tournament and single matches and ensures smooth simulation. Details: play.google.com
Official business referral partners of the FIFA, Fans on Stands (FOSS) is all set to pull in their biggest business thus far. “Brazil is the mecca of football, so the hype started two years ago and we have sold hospitality packages of over $1.7 million,” says Arun Raghu, director of the company, who expects corporate big-wigs, Bollywood A-listers and over 1,000 football fanatics from across the country to head over to the land of the Samba next month. And not on a shoestring budget either. “From single game tickets that go for $1,000 to the top seats for the two semi-finals and the final which start at $20,000, fans from India are shelling out the big bucks,” says Sandeep Jadhav, head of sales, FOSS. So, as 1,000 lucky countrymen will get to live the excitement, we bring the Samba carnival home – from live screenings and football banter to update apps and expert opinions.
Chasing the stars
“I am excited about just being in the country during the World Cup. Brazil has a diverse and flamboyant culture that is passionate about football,” says law and political researcher, Saurav Rana who is set to watch Italy play Costa Rica at Arena Pernambuco, and the other games from ‘various bars around the country nursing a capiriña’ as he roots for the underdogs from Uruguay. Scottish-born Pradyum Reddy, first team assistant coach of the Bengaluru Football Club (BFC), who is heading to Brazil for the first few games, says he expects “nothing less than a carnival, both on and off the pitch. With home ground advantage, I’d pick Brazil or Argentina with Uruguay as the dark horse”. BFC midfielder, Darren Caldeira, has his eye on Ronaldo (Portugal), Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and veteran Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), and echoes Reddy and BFC head coach of youth development, Richard Hood’s belief that the current Belgium line-up is phenomenal. “I think this one will be the only WC to look forward to for the next 12 years,” says Hood, citing Thibaut Courtois, homeboy Neymar Jr and favourite Lionel Messi as ones to watch out for.
In the fan zone
Mayur Satishchandra expects the South American country to be a total party zone. The football fan, who caught the previous World Cup in South Africa, is already gearing up for the next one in Russia. “They simply cater to the world arriving at their shores,” says the director and partner of the Bangalore Schools Sports Foundation. He suggests a quick dekko at fifa.com for those travelling to Brazil to check out the fan zones, officially called the Fan Fests in the host cities. “It is filled with food and alcohol stalls with massive screens where the atmosphere is almost as good as inside the stadiums,” shares Satishchandra, suggesting you look up online contacts for access to rooms (bbrasil.com). “Back in 2010, BnBs or people with rooms to spare, put up ads online. The best for that is airbnb.com. A German couple gave us a guest house saying, ‘as long you don’t destroy the space, it’s yours’,” he winks.
Take some time off the game with Broken Compass, a travel curating and holiday design firm, for a quick break. “We’ve just done an adventure tour for three guys who are following England, Spain and Italy. They’re off on an Amazon cruise, an overnight camp at the white sand dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Maranhão, and a hike up to see the Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio,” Avni Patel of the firm, tells us. Ela Nobbay, owner of the popular Travel Consult (firstname.lastname@example.org) agency in the city is happy to get you tickets for the game, air tickets and accommodation using her passion for travel and her familiarity with Brazil, having caught the Rio Carnival last year. “A trip to Mogi das Cruzes in the metropolitan area of São Paulo to see where homegrown hero Neymar Jr grew up is worth it,” she says, adding, “Another popular player, David Luiz, also lives in Sao Paolo in Diadema, while former players Kaka and Pele also called the state home. A bike ride through them could make for a fantastic way to catch up on sports, culture and heritage,” explains Nobbay. Her packages begin at Rs. 3,00,000 for a single destination with mid-level accomodation and economy fares and Rs. 7,00,000 upwards for more elaborate trips.
Saurabh Srivastava, VP marketing at ixigo.com, the travel search engine, says, “We have seen 15-20 per cent surge in flights and 12-15 per cent in hotel searches for the 12 cities in Brazil.” He recommends Belo Horizonte, Memorial Minas Gerais Vale, a spectacular museum, Cafe Com Letras for food and music lovers, and in Brasilia, Palacio da Alvorada, the presidential palace for architecture buffs.”
Brazilian national Jesh Wilson, an investment banker in the city, agrees that Brazil is spectacular. “I lived in Salvadore, in the north east, and they have beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, the waters might not be warm as it is winter right now, but a session on Capoeira – a Brazilian martial art form which combines dance, acrobatics and music – is a must-do. And you simply must try the shakes they make from the fresh açaí berries,” he shares fondly.
Samba fever in the city
If you’re planning to catch the action on your home turf, the city is gearing up for the tournament big time. Ardent football fan and owner of Arbor Brewing Company, Gaurav Sikka, hopes to replicate the atmosphere of the stadium in his pub. “We are the official home pub of Bangalore FC, and have a huge base of footy fans as regulars. I’ve seen multiple matches at club levels for both American and association football, but the magic will be to see it all come together at the real epitome of great footballing,” Sikka tells us. Expect friendly competition, real-time quizzing and beer rewards if you win here. Vapor, in Indiranagar, will up the ante with guests wearing team colours and teaching fellow fans chants. For early morning games, we suggest you hit Church Street Social for the best of footy banter and a sumptuous bacon and eggs bacon.
Own the Brazuca
The first ball to ever be named by the fans, the Brazuca, a contraction of Brazilian and Bazuca (Portuguese for bazooka) is a collaborative creation of FIFA and Adidas. In bold white, midnight blue and neon streaks with a multicoloured colour way, the Brazuca replica could be yours for just `9,500, while official match balls are also on sale for `10,700. Replicas available at Adidas stores (Brigade Road: 41712312) and official match balls at store.fifa.com
Where to stay
As hotels are almost all sold out, Rana says that staying with friends is a great option, especially if you know locals. Or have a gander at couchsurfing.org for people who are happy to share their homes with you. “Go through Facebook and trace everybody or anybody remotely connected to Brazil,” he suggests cheekily. Vapor’s Akshat Prasad, who caught the last World Cup, says that he likes to land in the country and play it by ear. Especially since Brazil is so tourist friendly. “Just stick to the crowd. That is where all the fun is. Don’t be afraid to chat with people or go out for a drink with your fellow fans.” An unlikely but popular choice is Villa Reggia Motel, a love hotel with luxury, super luxury, imperial and honeymoon suites, all fitted with Jacuzzis, leather couches, raunchy photographs and neon lights that are typical to the concept of love hotels in the country. `5,000 upwards. Details: motelvillareggia.com.br. For a taste of luxury, the Copacabana Palace on Copacabana beach is one to indulge in. `85,000 upwards for suites. Details: fivestaralliance.com
Wear your colours
Fan wear from Puma goes beyond jerseys with shoes, bags and even baseball caps on offer for Brazil, Mexico, USA, Italy, Germany and England. Serious fans can head straight to Adidas stores for their fill of official jerseys from Spain, Argentina, Germany, Columbia, Japan, Mexio and Russia. Details: 41712312 (Adidas) and 41122788 (Puma)