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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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World Cup party moves on from Recife leaving calm after the storm

Mikey Stafford checks in from the northern Brazilian city, where the action is now finished.

Only the locals remain in Recife.
Only the locals remain in Recife.
Image: EMPICS Sport

Mikey Stafford reports from Recife.

NOTHING KILLS THE party spirit like waiting for a bus that never comes and after almost two hours waiting for the bus to Porto de Galinhas we were convinced it would never arrive.

The plan was to get out of Recife for the day, swim without fear of becoming shark bait and maybe see some sea turtles, but the plan wasn’t working out. We abandoned the bus stop and resolved to spend our final day in the former World Cup host city of Recife.

Of the dozen cities chosen to host matches at this World Cup half have now completed their duty. Manaus, Cuiaba, Natal and Curitiba were not allotted any games beyond the group stage, while Recife, along with Porto Alegre, finished up this week with the second round games.

By the time our bus didn’t come, more than 24 hours had passed since Costa Rica’s Michael Umana smashed home the penalty to send Greece home and complete Arena Pernambuco’s World Cup duties.

The rain started to fall, hard — as is its wont in Recife — so we sought shelter in the Golden Tulip, the hotel where Umana and his Costa Rican team-mates stayed the night before and the night after their historic victory over the Greeks.

Gone were the crash barriers in front of the entrance, gone were the fans standing vigil and gone were the menacing-looking security guards and the television cameras and the helicopters circling overhead.

photo 4 All is quiet in Recife as the World Cup moves on. Source: Adelle Hughes

Gone too were the guests, seemingly. The lobby was all but deserted and, at 11am, there was nobody staffing the restaurant-bar.

The beach too was much quieter than it had been. The friendly gents renting umbrellas and seats were more actively pursuing your trade than they had been a week before when the sand was clogged with Americans and Mexicans and Germans.

The rain began to fall again, harder still, and as we sought shelter under a lifeguard station, Recife took on the appearance of a northern Brazilian coastal city on a dreary Monday afternoon.

The World Cup goes on, of course, and as we sought shelter from the rain a third time at a self-service lunch buffet underneath a printers, we watched Argentina-Switzerland in the company of lots of locals who were very enthusiastically cheering for the Swiss.

But they all went back to work before the extra-time was played.

The Brazil flags and bunting are still hanging and everyone is talking about Neymar’s knee and the dangerous Colombians, but the city as a whole feels like a stretch of road lined with spectators after the last float of the St Patrick’s Day parade has passed.
The party is going on as before, it’s just you can no longer see it.

photo 2 (1) Recife in the sun last week. Source: Mikey Stafford

The locals are pretty nonplussed by the whole thing. “It was as busy as Carnival for two weeks and now it is back to normal,” was how one customer in the bar where we ate our last supper put it. If you party like the Brazilians you have to be able to deal with the hangover. The hope is you profited in some way from the soiree.

Another diner, an optician, told us he sold new glasses to two fans who had theirs broken or lost during the festivities — an American and a German. Little profits that combined mean a significant boost to the economies of Recife, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Natal, Manaus and Porto Alegre.

Making money out of Arena Pernambuco could be another thing. Built out of town in the Sao Lourenco da Mata district the plan was/is to build a shopping centre, cinemas and restaurants, along with 5,000 new homes, to boost the economy of this deprived part of the metropolitan area.

So far they have the stadium and a lot of very big car parks, which will open once again on July 15 when Nautico play their next home match, against Sampaio Correa. The Serie B team, one of three professional sides in Recife, attracted 3,054 to their last match at the stadium, a 2-1 win over Portuguesa on May 20.

Nautico, who were relegated from the top flight last season, average a little over 13,000 at their home games. There were 41,242 spectators at Costa Rica-Greece.

photo 2 (2) Recife locals remain focused on the fortunes of Seleção. Source: Mikey Stafford

Runners-up in Serie A in 1967 and 21-time state champions, Nautico are a proud team with a regular following and their elephant is nowhere near as white as Arena Amazonia in Manaus, which will play host to the remote city’s fourth division Nacional and their 1,000 fans.

The hope is Arena Pernambuco can be used as a concert venue too and, when not in use, the electricity generated by its banks of solar panels will be diverted to houses in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The World Cup has left Recife but a lucky few, at least, continue to bask in its reflected glory.

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Mikey Stafford

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