The boys in Brazil - a dream (foot)ball odyssey

Gazza’s tears. 1990. I was 7 years old and that was my first World Cup memory.

My dad let me stay up late to watch and I was absolutely transfixed, hooked on a concoction of pure skill, drama and emotion.

I went to my first live football match just weeks later and became a football obsessive for life.

My dream? To go to a World Cup when I was old enough.

Fast forward 23 years and I’m at work with people whooping and cheering, smiles all round.

I’ve just won the very first Propellernet dream ball and I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to say as I didn’t expect to win (who expects to win?). I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind: “I want to go to the World Cup in Brazil next summer”  

Fast forward a year and I’m at Natal airport, desperate to get through passport control so I can watch the England vs Italy match which is on the big screens in baggage reclaim. There’s a group of Ghana fans who were on the same flight all singing, all dancing, a blur of colour, noise and excitement.

I’m buzzing and I’ve only been on Brazilian soil for 5 minutes. England lose but it doesn’t matter as we’re off to live the dream – a World Cup match live in the flesh. USA vs Ghana.

I’ve never seen anything like it. The fans are all mixing together and taking photos with each other. Everyone’s in fancy dress and everyone is smiling. That might be due to the free-flowing beer but is more likely to be down to the fact that everyone is aware that they are here. Part of it. Part of an actual World Cup which, like every World Cup before it, will go down in history and be played and replayed on TV screens in every country in the world.

A goal 10 seconds in. USA fans going crazy, someone throwing beer around, someone I don’t know hugging me and telling me this is the best moment of his life.

I feel it too. I was there and I’ll never forget it.

By Stephen Baker

16 September 2014