So we set the alarm really early, well 7 o’clock so that we could get ready, have breakfast, get a taxi into the centre to drop our bags at the bus station, get a bus to the stadium and enjoy the game. How complicated could that be?
The hotel wasn’t actually in Belo Horizonte but halfway along a motorway to goodness knows where, a kind of IBIS quality truck stop reminiscent of the Bagdad Cafe. Consequently, when we ordered a taxi we had to wait 40 mins before one arrived.
At the bus station we discovered the left luggage place was full. Fortunately, a Brazilian woman who, judging by her uniform, worked at a nearby lanchonete, knew of another left luggage and offered to take us to it. We arrived, not only to find a large queue, but to discover that this one was also full, mainly due to the fact that they didn’t have keys for 200 of the lockers.
Unperturbed, the woman from the lanchonete led us down the stairs, across a couple of platforms and to the very edge of the bus station where, nestled under a fly over was yet another left luggage centre where a teenage boy was half-heartedly taking the particulars of a slow moving queue of stressed England supporters. Finally, and we seemed to be the last, we deposited our bag and went looking for the bus to the stadium.
Eventually we found the bus stop only to be told that we would first have to queue for half an hour at a little booth in the next street to buy a Glastonbury style wristband that would give us access to the bus to the stadium.
I was beginning to look at my watch and wonder whether we would actually make kickoff at this rate. The bus seemed to do three circuits of the city centre before finally finding its way onto the road out of town and to the stadium. Fortunately the bus had a dedicated lane so we whizzed past all the taxis queuing in traffic.
The bus dropped us at what looked like the edge of the demiliterised zone. A huge area around the stadium which had been cordonned off by armed police, partly in an attempt stop protests. This meant a long walk uphill from the main road to the stadium.
There was another perimeter where tickets were checked again and plastic bottles disposed of in bins and then a short walk further to the stadium perimeter where bags went through x-ray machines and people through metal detectors. The queue for this check was short but as we walked around to the opposite side of the stadium where our entrance gate was, we passed enormous queues for the other gates and I was now convinced we would miss kick off.
However, when we reached our gate it was remarkably queue free and we made it to our seats with ten minutes to spare.
The stadium seemed very full and the British national anthem was sung at full volume, though there were a disappointingly large number of people who sang ‘no surrender’ and then later a five minute rendition of that one about German bombers and the RAF. It was a shame because I thought that kind of rubbish was disappearing from English football support.
Apart from that though, the support was loud and passionate and the England contingent stood throughout the game, upsetting the Brazilian football tourists my refusing to take part in their silly mexican wave.
At half time I went under the stand to buy food and drinks and joined the incredibly well organised queuing system only to find, when I arrived at the front that they had run out of beer cups and that they planned to tell the hundreds of drunk England fans queuing behind me that they could not put beer into coca cola cups because the sponsor would not allow it. I tried, in my best Portuguese to explain the folly of refusing beer to large numbers of already inebriated England fans and fortunately, for everyone’s sake, they started pouring beer into coke cups.
The England team received a good reception when, at the end of the game, a very dull game, they came and apologised to the fans.
After the game we met friends at a nearby restaurant which was notable for the fact that the urinals had the handwashing facilities above the urinal so that the water from the handwashing cleaned the urinal – clever.
Getting a taxi back to the bus station was a battle against people using the easy taxi app who would jump into a taxi whether it was the one they had ordered or not. Last week there had been trouble with six Argentinian fans deported and rumour has it that getting taxis could have been what ignited the trouble.
Back at the bus station now full of England fans, some in full body suits, others carrying crates of beer, others looking longingly at full power sockets seeking to charge their phones, we waited for our bus and the long trip back to Sao Paulo.