RIO DE JANEIRO – America gave the world the Mall of America.
Brazil has given the world The Food Court of Futbol.
In an otherwise empty mall here in this usually-bustling city, three subway stops from the Maracana stadium, a mob of Brazilians gathered Tuesday afternoon to cheer on their national soccer team from a food court. Yes, a real food court, with Pizza Hut and Bob’s Burgers and a fried chicken joint. (Sorry, no Sbarro.)
Four enormous screens were hung from the center atrium, and scores of people came with horns and hats to watch and scream and fret together as Brazil played Mexico in the group stage of the World Cup. Many more fans were arrayed outside the court, on a long concourse leading into the atrium. Every Brazil chance was greeted by a food-tray-rattling roar. Every Mexico opportunity was greeted by tile-scraping chair legs and hands on heads.
There was hardly any food served during the match, which ended in a 0-0 draw. In fact, one of the stores didn’t have any cashiers. The remainder of the food service workers stood behind their counters, watching the game. So did a handful of mall cops. Two custodians sat with the fans.
The only three people not watching the game were a trio of tots: two boys and a girl playing underneath the diamond of movie screens. As the game went on, they started to hit and kick each other. No one minded or even noticed.
What they did notice was every Brazil rally, and the fans were crushed when Mexico goalie Guillermo Ochoa made the game’s defining save.
The entire scene was a terrific display of one of the most passionate fan bases on the planet.
After the disappointing ending, most of the fans left. Some stayed to discuss the match and rue the non-victory. Pizza Hut started to hum again, though it took a while to serve any pies.
The oven had been turned off.
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