Dispatches from the Maracana: Smells Like Team Spirit


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


That’s the only way to define watching the United States Men’s National Team take on Ghana at the FIFA Fan Fest on the Copacabana beach in Rio. The game didn’t start until 7 PM local time, after the nap worthy Nigeria-Iran game.

However, Sam’s Army was out on the beach early. Like too early. We got to the Fan Fest, which is incredible in it’s own right, at around 4:15 PM. We were right on time. The Outlaws were dressed in their full regalia. There were American flag themed leggings and shirts and jackets and more. I saw Michael Jordan and Penny Hardaway dream team jerseys, not to mention some Laker gear. It was unbelievable! I’ve never seen so many USA flags in a single place. It was clear from the start that the US was going to dominate the Fan Fest.

It’s true that Americans purchased the second most tickets behind the Brazilians; however, who knew so many of those Americans would be centralized in Rio?

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The hosts of the fan fest, who may as well have been Bruno Mars’ cousin, was ready to throw a party for America. And boy did they ever! The event really kicked into high gear once the Nigeria-Iran game came to a close and they brought out the Michael Jackson experience. Apparently Brazilians love Michael Jackson. He’s something of a god down here. Well, for a solid 45 minutes they cranked out Jackson hits to an awestruck crowd who was more that willing to participate, partly for America, partly due to liquid encouragement.

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Then came Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, which just about finished off my voice. Meanwhile, the game was just about to start. I already had no voice. I knew I was in for something. I didn’t know what, but I was ready.

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  • When the US marched onto the pitch, the place went bonkers. 50,000 strong clad in the red, white, and blue belted out the National Anthem in a style that Gigi Buffon would have been jealous of. We screamed that thing like our life depended on it. To a certain extent it did. Oh yea, they played a game last night too. Sorry, the lead up was more draining. We all know America brought it home. John Anthony Brooks is now a national hero, as is Clint Dempsey and his 1st minute genius goal. I will say this for the game: the Dempsey goal is one of those moments I’ll never forget. 50,000 fans did one of those “I’m in shock but I have to celebrate and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my hands” dances. I know. I was one of them. It was a shocking goal and one that almost instigated a riot.

    The Brooks goal was epic in it’s own right; however, the crowd was so down after the Ghana goal that I think some of the fans weren’t watching as feverishly. It was still an epic celebration. However, the real celebration would be waiting for us on the other side of the whistle. When the clock struck 94:57 and the whistle blew we at the FIFA Fan Fest were treated to the greatest “rave out of nowhere” in the history of modern civilization. Ok, that’s not true but it felt like it at the same.

    Once the game was turned off the speakers kicked in and blasted “Back in Black”, which led everyone in the crowd to break out the air guitar and jump for joy. But it was the encore that really got us going. There are plenty of American songs that would get you juiced after seeing such an epic match. However, FIFA’s decision, or the MC’s, to play Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” was either completely foolish or secretly the greatest idea of all-time.

    The crowd, which was predominately male and between 22-30, rocked out to Nirvana like there was some sort of prize at the exit for partying as hard as possible. The memories of watching 50,000 Americans jump up and down and lose their collective sh*t during a Nirvana song, on the Copacabana, after defeating Ghana, is something that I will never forget. Like I said before, there’s only one word to describe the events of yesterday: