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Thursday, June 26, 2014
Patrick Patterson went to the World Cup

By Patrick Patterson
Special to ESPN.com

You know who’ll be watching USA vs. Germany? Patrick Patterson. The Toronto Raptors power forward is just back from Brazil, where he took in the World Cup and got a first-hand lesson in fan passion. He kept a journal for ESPN.com.

The best thing about Brazil was the coconut with just a straw stuck in it. The fresh fruit is amazing.

And even the plane ride was celebratory. I met some people on the plane who were going to every single U.S. game.

We rented an apartment so we took the first day to hit the beach and walk around Rio.

It’s not as crazy as people make it out to be. I felt safe, everyone was very friendly. There were thousands of fans there, firecrackers going off -– a very celebratory atmosphere. You see an incredible level of competitiveness in players and fans, but no hatred for each other. There is a love and respect and passion for the game among fans -– you even see it on the field when opponents help each other up or talk to each other.

People always ask, “Is it like what I hear with favelas?” It’s like North America. We have projects and the ghetto. They’re not as bad as favelas with crime and drugs and poverty. The favelas don’t have modern sewer systems in some cases, and instead of concrete, it’s dirt. But you still see kids running around happy, playing soccer. Reminds you not to take things for granted.

Soccer is the easiest sport to play in terms of equipment. You just need something round. You can draw goals on a wall with chalk or set up posts. It’s so easy. People are playing everywhere.

In Rio, every day Brazil plays all you see is green and yellow. When they first played we were walking around and all the shops and businesses closed in the afternoon. Literally, the whole country, except grocery stores, shuts down to watch the game.

The Super Bowl is the only thing that could kind of compare.

We watched some games with a bunch of fans in a lounge. We talked to Brazilians about Neymar, his progression and ability to lead the team, about the World Cup environment and how it changed the city with protests. Despite all that, they all still support their team.

I was walking downtown and I heard someone yell “Patrick Patterson! Patrick Patterson!!” It was two American guys from Sacramento. Small world!

On the beach, you see everyone carrying soccer balls, just kicking them around. They have a game called footvolley, which is basically volleyball that you play with your feet, head and chest. It’s a combo of soccer and volleyball. There are kids everywhere playing soccer in the streets. You cannot walk a block without seeing some sign of the game.

One day we were walking down the beach and there was a crowd of about 2,000 fans in a circle around a volleyball net. Cheering, yelling, taking pictures, I go over and look and it was actually a couple of players from the Netherlands playing footvolley on the beach. Here for the World Cup to rep their nation and they’re right here on the beach playing footvolley in front of thousands just for fun!

We didn’t have tickets to the U.S. vs. Ghana, so we watched at Fan Fest on the beach. Thousands of fans dressed up with painted faces.

When we scored it was out of control.

U.S. chants consist of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Or, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” or AC/DC.

The Belgian and German fans were cheering for Ghana.

There were some USA people in latex costumes. The Brazilian fans had some pretty amazing dresses and head pieces. I saw a few Spanish fans with men dressed as women and women as men.

We had tickets for two games, including Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina. Just getting into the Maracana stadium there were thousands of Argentine fans yelling, holding pictures and chanting. Right next to them were swarms of Bosnian fans, cheering equally as loud. All of a sudden there was a back and forth competition with whoever chanted loudest won.

Walking in to the arena was pretty cool, but the teams coming out of the tunnel and standing for their national anthems gave me goosebumps. You could feel the passion. It’s a different feeling when you are rooting for a country than for a club or local team.

I wore a Messi jersey.

There were about 100,000 fans in the stadium (officially attendance was 74,738). Even when nothing particular was happening in the game, there was so much energy and passion, everyone just jumping up and down. Even with fans from the two nations so close together, I saw no negativity or criticizing. Fans of opposite teams were friendly with each other. The energy reminded me of Game 7 of the playoffs in Toronto.

And when a goal was scored? It was mayhem, people throwing things in the air, singing the national anthem and then tons of cheers and chants. Incredible.