Arjen Robben of The Netherlands dives over the tackle of Michel Bastos of Brazil during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa quarter final.I was drunk. Far too drunk to be walking around Rio de Janeiro at four o’clock in the morning.
As I stumbled along a main road looking for my hostel, while whistling Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, three young hoodlums crept up and pulled a handgun on me.
It was clear what they wanted I just wasn’t clear headed enough to give it to them.
Some say fear focuses the mind, mine was telling me to run. So instead of just handing over the 50 reais (about $20 Australian) shoved in my sock I began pushing away my attackers.
This went down as well as a handball in a World Cup football final.
If I was being judged on how to survive a Latin American mugging, then I just got red carded.
I like to think the pistol was a fake because instead of shooting me the gunman just began punching me.
Thankfully a young couple walked by and began shouting at the muggers to clear off.
As the man and his girlfriend shepherded me home and checked I was okay they
began apologising profusely for my experience with Rio’s dark side.
A dark side indeed. The city has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
Even though the rate has improved dramatically in recent years you are still more likely to be murdered in Rio compared to Sydney by a factor of about 30.
Compared to the NSW central west that factor doubles. And yet here were two cariocas willing to put their safety on the line for mine.
Their kindness wasn’t an isolated incident.
A few days later I managed to miss a bus stop and end up in the outer regions of Rio.
Maybe it was the armed hold up of a bus I’d just seen. Either way it wasn’t good.
Burned-out cars and high-wire fences dotted the suburban landscape.
A massive shanty town was quickly approaching from the horizon.
At one point I watched about 30 police officers surround a building and draw their machine guns.
I think it was my whimpering that drew the attention of my fellow passengers. One explained to me that I really shouldn’t be there.
He promptly took me off the bus and put me on another one, explained my predicament to the bus driver and demanded to pay for my return trip to relatively safety. Incredible.
If I had a flak jacket it would have been my shout all night, and yet here he was trying to pay my bus fare.
The whole public transport etiquette thing in Rio is an odd one.
Commuters who find themselves standing on a bus will hand over their handbags, briefcases or whatever they happen to be holding to
those lucky enough to be seated.
Imagine, in a city where muggings are nearly as common as soccer balls, handing over your possessions to a stranger on a bus.
I began thinking about this city of contradictions and the duality of my experiences there as I watched Brazil defeated by Holland in the World Cup quarter-final.
In the first 45 minutes the Brazilian soccer team dominated the Dutch, pinning them back while they played the joga bonito.
But in the second half an own goal led to a Brazilian implosion and a ticket home. Downed 2-1, it was a horrific sight.
The players lost the plot, acted ungraciously and ultimately it became an exercise of such self defeat that it was clear Brazil had lost the game rather than Holland having won it.
Commentators will call it poor sportsmanship and terrible discipline, and rightly so.
But I like to think it’s part of the Brazilian psyche – they don’t do things by half.
When the Brazilian soccer team are good they win five World Cups when they are bad they are woeful.
In four years under the shadow of Christ the Redeemer the Brazilian team will have chance at redemption itself when the World Cup comes to Rio. I can’t wait.
But I just have one small favour to ask from the big guy
in the sky – please contain the shoot-outs to the football fields.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.