*This post is way overdue. Apologies.*
Match day had arrived and I was still without a ticket. I knew that this was a chance that would seldom come so invitingly close. After much consternation, pacing back and forth and cups of water, I plopped down for a ticket. My mission was now set: get myself to the new Meadowlands Stadium. As a resident unfamiliar with his own surroundings much less those of a neighboring state this proposition carried a high degree for potential failure. One way or another I had to get to my destination. The journey, it turned out, would be just as memorable as the game played that evening.
With shoddy directions in hand and a resolute determination in mind I set forth. Destination - New Jersey. Every person wearing soccer paraphernalia seemed a friend to me on this night. The guy wearing the Germany jersey on the 6 train. A girl staring at my Brazil shirt. The dudes talking about French soccer. Even though I knew not of where these people were headed; soccer was in the air.
The miserable directions I had attained told of a bus. This bus would depart from somewhere downtown. This bus would take me, it said, directly to my destination. This was bus served to ease my worries. I never made it to such bus. Fate, as it would turn out, had other ideas. Somewhere between Grand Central and Times Square I had the fortune of coming across an Irishman named Jeremy that claimed to have “better directions.” The xeroxed scrap of paper didn’t look like much, but it mentioned trains, and I knew train beats bus every time.
Off we set.
We searched for the 1 train. Or was it the 3 train? Which direction were we to go? We raced frantically across subway stations in search of the right one. Along the way we managed to find fellow sufferers. We chose the right car in the end. Along the way we fell in with other lemmings; all with the same destination, all without a clue on how to get there. Penn Station greeted us with her late afternoon hoarde, providing little direction or reassurances. We managed to figure out the train across the Hudson and raced along with the rest of the gazelle in tow.
We could sense it now.
The transit to Secaucus shot out of Manhattan right on time and as we left the city behind we knew we were set. Soccer was definitely in the air. USA jerseys became more prevalent everywhere I looked. I heard Portuguese spoken. I saw Brazilian league jerseys appear everywhere. One final transfer at Secaucus to the direct train into the New Meadowlands and we’d be there. That final train ride was pure atmosphere. Delirious chants of “USA!, USA!, USA!” echoed from cart to cart. My yellow shirt and hat were met with a glaring eye save for the other brave Selecao fans giving me the thumbs up. People talked soccer like they talked about the weather.
Upon arrival everyone marveled at the sparkling nature of the newly constructed facilities. Somewhere far off the sounds of samba drums thumped like heart beats. Flags, of both nations, doubled as capes. Both fans were in fantastic form and a festive night of football was guaranteed by all. And indeed, it was so. And as it turns out my Irish friend had hospitality access which he gladly let me accompany to. Free drinks and free food are two things to never refuse.
The energy inside the grounds had become irrepressible also. The US supporter section, traditionally known as Sam’s Army, were in great spirits. Shouting. Clarmoring. Chanting. But Brazil was well represented with chants of their own. “Brazil!, Brazil!, Brazil!” Back and forth it went.
Vocal tides swelled to newer upon louder heights. This had already been well worth those moments of pacing and deliberating over that ticket. Kickoff neared. Someone announced a crowd over 77,000 for this glorious night. And soon we were were all enjoying the greatest game before our very eyes. I had made it.