Tuesday, June 17, 2014

FIFA Fan Fest Natal

FIFA Fan Fest Natal with the distinctive Ponte Newton Navarro in the background
Today was the day to check out the FIFA Fan Fest site at the Praia do Forte, the far northern point of the City of Natal.  Each of the 12 host cities in Brazil has a designated "Fan Fest" site where fans can gather to watch the games live on ginormous screen TVs.  In Rio de Janeiro, for example, the Fan Fest site is on Copacabana beach.  In Natal, it is Praia do Forte.  We went to watch the Brazil v. Mexico game being broadcast live from Fortaleza.

To get to FIFA Fan Fest Natal, exit on Av. Praia do Forte, right before the bridge
We were hoping that there would be an obvious parking area before we got to the Fan Fest site.  Brazil, not being an automobile-centric culture, had no such thing.  In fact, we were right at the gridlock of Fan Fest when we realized this would be our only chance to park before being forced over the long, long Ponte Newton Navarro bridge.  And, then, all the sudden, a parking space opened up and we parked.  It was like one of those movies where the characters are always able to park right in front of their house in New York or San Francisco.  Only this was Natal.  And I was driving a rental Fiat to FIFA Fan Fest.

Natal skyline in the deep background
 It was a short walk to FIFA Fan Fest.

The fort, Fortaleza dos Reis Magos, in deep background
It was too close to actual game time to visit the fort.  Plus, all of Brazil was getting ready to shut down for the Brazil/Mexico game.  Didn't want to get trapped in the fort.  So to Fan Fest it was.

So much to do at FIFA Fan Fest Natal.  You could shop for officially licensed FIFA souvenirs at the one lone souvenir stand!

At the souvenir stand
Yup.  One small souvenir stand selling the officially licensed FIFA souvenirs.  And not much seleçao either.  Only a few T-shirts.  Some armadillos.  (Yes, the official mascot is an armadillo.)  Slim Pickens, really.  Apparently Brazilians don't obsess over game souvenir merchandising like we do in the states.

But there was more to do than shop.  You could get your picture taken with the official FIFA licensed Armadillo.

Posing with the Armadillo
His name is Fuleco.  He's a three-banded armadillo, a special kind of armadillo.  What's so special?  A real three-banded armadillo curls up into a ball, a soccer ball, when the mood hits.  Sadly, at the officially-licensed, FIFA-approved souvenir stand, there were no Fuleco "inaction" figures that curled up into a soccer ball available for sale.

So, OK, if neither shopping nor getting your picture taken with an armadillo held any appeal, there was more family fun for all.

People dressing up as beer cans
You could go to the Brahma Beer booth and dress up like a beer can!  Which would've been fun if they had like 20 of those can suits and a large squash court sized room where you all could run into each other.

So, OK, there was only one thing to do at FIFA Fan Fest Natal.  Watch the game.

Dancing Fuleco
But not so fast.  There was a band playing an energetic axê music set, which followed by the musical stylings of Fuleco The FIFA Armadillo.  He got some moves.  At least I presume he's a he, since the name ends in an "o," which usually connotes masculinity.  I'm not checking the armadillo parts in the soccer shorts.  Some things can remain unknown.

Mexico was in the house, represented well by its raucous fans.

Mexico fans
Then the game started:
Watching the game
The screen was sufficiently huge that it was easy to see the game.  Brazil was continually on the attack in the first half, but Mexico's defense was impenetrable.  The game was nil-nil at the half, when we did our imitation of L.A. Dodger fans and left early to avoid traffic.

The rains held off.  And there were mounted police at the exits.  The police presence in Natal has been heavy in numbers, but light in touch.

Oh.  And I saw this tree that I thought looked cool on the walk in:

I shall never see / A soccer match as lovely as a tree

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