Divided for a day
Gabriel awakes, rolls over, and places a tender kiss on the cheek of his beloved, Claire. It is a daily ritual. It is one that he failed to accomplish this morning.
Explanation comes from ethnicity. He is a proud Brazilian, utterly devoted to A Seleção; his wife is a South African, a passionate follower of Bafana Bafana. Today, their teams will meet in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup. Today, rivalry will supersede the unity they have shared for 12 years.
"Today I'm committed to my other love, Brazil!" joked Gabriel. "Tomorrow I'll give her a kiss, we'll be friends again, but for now we're rivals." Claire interrupted: "He's sleeping in the spare room tonight!"
Gabriel Figueira arrived in South Africa in 1987, courtesy of his work in international trade. However, after flitting between the country and his homeland for ten years, he decided to return to Brazil indefinitely. That was, until, he met Claire Watson. His plans were immediately aborted. Johannesburg became his permanent home.
"I've always been really passionate about football," Claire explained. "South Africa have always come first but funnily enough I used to support Italy too - I supported them in the World Cup Final in 1994. But if you ask anybody to associate one country with football they'd say Brazil, and when I met Gabriel in 1997, I also fell in love with Brazil."
So, when Gabriel insisted they name their children after Brazilian footballers, Claire offered no objection. And Ronaldo, ten, and eight-year-old Marcelo, named after O Fenômeno and Marcelinho Carioca respectively, have consummately blended into a family that lives, sleeps and breathes football.
"We're all football crazy," explained Gabriel. "But my kids are huge supporters of Brazil. They have always idolised Kaka and Robinho, and having the Confederations Cup here gave them the chance to see them play. We went to the 3-0 win over the United States and they loved the experience."
Claire added: "We all love football but the kids support Brazil. It's not fair - I have the three men in my life against me! But I don't mind. We'll be going to watch Brazil again at the World Cup next year, and we'll be going to Brazil 2014."
Such is Gabriel's devotion to A Seleção that the registration plate on his car reads 'BRASIL'. It is figurative of the Rio de Janeiro native's passion for football and his country. It is also a potential set-up for a fall. "If we lose I'm not driving my car for two weeks," he said. "Imagine, everybody laughing at me, saying 'you're the guy who supports Brazil. What happened?'"
Not that Gabriel is anticipating an upset at Ellis Park. "Joel Santana, you're a Carioca like me. I like you, my friend, I always support you, but just not for today. Tomorrow I'll be behind you again. I'm 99.9 per cent sure that Brazil will beat South Africa, and I'm 100 per cent sure that we'll beat the United States in the final," he declared to the renunciation of his spouse.
"South Africa can win this game," she said. "I think we've done really well to get this far, and there would be no shame in losing to a side like Brazil. They are my second team and I'm going to be watching the game with a bunch of Brazilians, so if we lose I'll just join in the celebrations and cheer for them in the final. But I know Bafana Bafana can do it. It can happen. Look at what happened with the USA - who would have said they'd beat Spain?"
Gabriel chuckled, dismissive of his partner's confidence. This provoked a teasing riposte from Claire. "I always make him carry a South African flag!" she exclaimed, giggling. Gabriel immediately retorted: "I make her paint her nails in the Brazilian colours."
This banter will evidently continue until 20:30, when the second semi-final kicks off. Afterwards, they will resume their role of man and wife, the Figueiras. Until then, they are Gabriel and Claire, fervent exponents of colliding causes.