Blood may run thicker than water, but for some World Cup fans, loyalty to the shirt can rival ties to one’s own country.
There are 32 teams competing in Brazil, but the chance to watch the tournament in what the hosts like to call the “land of football” has proved irresistible for citizens from around the globe.
“If your own country isn’t here, that doesn’t matter too much – football is an international phenomenon,” said Chinese tourist Wang Wei, wearing the green and yellow scarf of Brazil
Case in point: Singaporean fans Nicholas Khoo and Wang Ying Shuang donned Spain jerseys for Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Chile at a cacophonous Maracana Stadium in Rio.
Undeterred by the defending champions’ unceremonious dethronement, the pair said they would now throw their support to Germany.
“I’m an Arsenal fan and they have some German players, so they’re my next choice,” Khoo told AFP.
He insisted, however, that he was not a fair-weather fan.
“I used to support (Spain) when they were perennial underdogs and they finally came good these past few years,” he said.
“I’d love to see Asian teams do well — but the standard is still a bit behind there.”
Wang said the biggest challenge had not been choosing a team but getting tickets back home.
“We tried with friends and finally got tickets for four matches in Rio. We had four computers lined up and kept pressing ‘refresh,’” she said.
“Finally, we got lucky.”
ROOTING AGAINST AULD ENEMY
Soaking up the World Cup vibe after Belgium edged Russia on Sunday at the Maracana, Raoul Kafuti, a fan from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was decked out in Brazilian green and yellow.
“What a wonderful atmosphere – I’m having a great time,” Kafuti, an exchange student in Brazil, told AFP as he posed with a giant Brazilian flag.
Luiz Espinosa, a 26-year-old medical student from Bolivia said he got the tickets just barely in time.
“It was great to see a World Cup game at the Maracana, although between Russia and Belgium, I’m pretty neutral,” he added.
Norman Chan, a Hong Kong Australian, was delighted to catch Chile’s win over Spain — though he donned a Harry Kewell number 10 Socceroo shirt for the occasion.
“Of course, you have your own team but you can enjoy and cheer as a neutral at a game,” the 31-year-old from Perth told AFP, saying the fact that Australia are out isn’t the end of the line for his interest.
Wang Wei said the great thing about the World Cup was meeting people from around the world.
“I have a ticket to see one of Iran’s games. It will be interesting to meet fans of such places,” said the Chinese tourist from Shijiazhuang, a town in Hebei province.
But some cultural exchanges are simpler than others.
“We don’t always get on with Japan. I shan’t support them,” he said.
Padraig, a 28-year-old Irish fan who did not give his surname “because I live in England and my mates will kill me,” likewise said he couldn’t bring himself to back Wayne Rooney and company.
He wore an Argentina shirt and was cheering as Italy downed Roy Hodgson’s men.
Scottish fan Mark McConville meanwhile preferred to don a Scotland away strip but still cheered wildly for Uruguay as Luis Suarez and company dispatched “Auld Enemy” England in Sao Paulo.