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Destination: South Africa
Posted by Jayaditya Gupta on 07/02/2010

Casa Little Brazil in full swing.

Two hours before kick-off the joint is jiving, the liquor is flowing and it’s yellow as far as the eye can see. I’m at Casa Little Brazil, formerly known as the Sea Point Civic Centre, an otherwise nondescript municipal building a stone’s throw from Cape Town Stadium. It’s been given a vibrant makeover for the World Cup, donning the yellow and green of Brazil to welcome the 5,000-odd fans who’ve made Cape Town their base.

There’s a party on every matchday – heck, there’s probably one on every day – with music, dancing, food and drink all sandwiching the two hours of football. I buy my ticket online – only 300 allowed inside so you have to book early – and turn up at the appointed hour, walk past the foyer, covered in sand to resemble the beach, and enter a hall that is as noisy, colourful and chaotic as it should be. And that’s before the vuvuzelas have started, though Pedro and his troupe of samba dancers are the visual equivalent.

There are closer to 500 people here, I later confirm from an official, and everyone, it seems, is a Brazil supporter, even those wearing the Bafana Bafana jerseys that closely resemble Brazil’s famous canary yellow.

Kick off. Cue vuvuzelas. Within minutes Robinho’s scored. Cue pandemonium. No, he hasn’t, offside. Cue more pandemonium, fist-shaking and curses in many languages. No matter, within a couple more minutes he has really scored and this time the noise blows the roof off. I’m standing at the back with a bunch of Angolans, who share a history with the Brazilians of being colonized by Portugal.

Just past half an hour and there are gasps and cheers as Robinho dribbles his way past one defender, then another, finally laying the ball off to Luis Fabiano, a neat back-heel to Kaka. The shot is saved by Stekelenburg. Cue howls of protest – how dare he! Foul given against Brazil and Dunga falls to his knees in anguish, clutching his forehead and screwing up his face. The scene is replayed all around me, literally and metaphorically; this is an emotional group of people.

Cue Toto the drummer, whose job it is to move around the room and keep the beat going. He does that with amazing dexterity, manoeuvring arms and hands in the tightest of spaces. He’d be Messi if he was as nimble with his feet. The rhythms keep changing, flowing effortlessly from his brain to his hands to the drumsticks, and to the people all around. It’s a seductive beat and soon the reporter’s objectivity goes for a six.

A funny thing happens, though, when Netherlands score early into the second half: there is loud cheering, mainly from the back of the hall where I am. Where were they when the MC, before the game, asked all Netherlands to raise their hands? The second goal, a quarter of an hour later, is greeted with even louder cheers. Clearly Casa Little Brazil has opened its doors a bit too wide.

In response the Brazil gang step up the volume, Toto takes it up one notch and the veins stick out in his forehead. The Angolans enter into a heated debate with Lewis, a South African who’s supporting Holland – and very loudly too. Lewis’s wife calms him down, then calms down the Angolans. One pulls at his Brazil jersey. “I paid a lot of money for this!” The anger goes way beyond football.

More confusion as the referee orders Felipe Melo off the field. The anger mounts when, minutes later, he pulls out a red card for a Dutch player but quickly replaces it with a yellow. As Brazil’s game alternates between foul and fantastic, there’s even time for a bit of flirting. “You look like Luis Fabiano,” a young Brazilian girl tells one of the Angolans, and gets her picture taken with him.

Faux Fabiano doesn’t really comprehend what’s going on but you can tell he doesn’t really care about the detail. His compatriot pinches his nose – “I can smell a goal here”, he says. I’m presuming he means the score on the pitch.

Alas, there is no further goal. The whistle goes for full-time. On the giant screen the Brazilians sink to their feet. All around me there is a stunned air – not silence, the Dutch fans have seen to that. Angolans and Brazilians console each other with thoughts of 2014. The night is young, the bar is full, Pedro and his dancers are swaying their way on to the floor. Life will be good again.

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