Whoever controls the weather seemed to know that a special game was taking place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The clouds had largely rolled away from the skies above Salvador and bright sunshine beamed down from the heavens, providing perfect conditions for the FIFA Fan Fest at Farol da Barra (Barra Lighthouse). The fans flocked in their thousands to the historic lighthouse at the entrance to Baia de Todos os Santos (All Saints' Bay), gathering in the shadows of Brazil's oldest military structure to cheer on their Seleção heroes as Neymar and company battled for a place in the Round of 16 against Cameroon in Brasilia.
"We're in Salvador because we're visiting friends who emigrated here," explained Thorsten, who travelled from Germany to watch the World Cup. "We applied for venue-specific tickets and this is what we got in the draw, so we're here now. We like Salvador. Salvador is beautiful, the stadium is beautiful, and the mood here is generally fantastic. The World Cup is getting better and better."
That mirrored the atmosphere at All Saints' Bay as the Fan Fest became even more densely packed with every passing minute. The supporters demonstrated their love for Brazil with weird and wonderful outfits, in many ways reminiscent of the outlandish carnival costumes for which Salvador is rightly revered.
"I come from Salvador," remarked local resident Hana. "The square at Farol da Barra is simply wonderful. That's why I've come here to watch the match." And Hana knows what he is talking about, as the square is one of the few places in Brazil where you can actually watch the sun sink into the sea. It is also the starting point for the traditional carnival parade.
The mood became even more excited and joyous once the game was whistled underway, although Joel Matip’s equaliser for Cameroon caused an eerie hush to descend on the crowd, the silence disturbed only by the rustling and whooshing of the sea. But Neymar restored his fellow Brazilians’ boisterous good humour, before second-half goals from Fred und Fernandinho banished any lingering doubts, as the world was put to rights once and for all in Salvador.
Perhaps not all of the fans at the fest were 100 per cent delighted by A Seleção’s performance, but at the end of the day a win is a win, and the celebrations at the Fan Fest and in the surrounding streets looked set to continue well into the night.
Hana and Co will doubtless make their way to the historic lighthouse for Brazil’s next appointment in the Round of 16, hoping to roar their team to victory and the next step towards the trophy. And if the hosts do end up winning the World Cup on home soil, the party in Salvador will be at least as exuberant if not more so than the traditional carnival celebration.