River Cities

July 14, 2014

Group of Miami Springs locals make trek to Brazil for FIFA World Cup

While many in the River Cities Area were busy watching the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament and the U.S. team’s great run in front of our TV sets or at local sports bars, these six — five of them local residents — got busy living it as they made the trek south to Brazil to root on the USA team and enjoy the fun of Rio De Janiero.

Let’s see. There was Bill and Ted’s Great Adventure. And, a few weeks ago, we got our own Miami Springs version of Kevin, Aaron, Artie, Steve, Ricky and Justin’s Great Adventure.

While many in the River Cities Area were busy watching the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament and the U.S. team’s great run in front of our TV sets or at local sports bars, these six — five of them local residents — got busy living it.

Following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Kevin Hume, his brother Aaron and Steve Florio made a pact that they would stuff their respective piggy banks again and save up for a trip to Brazil and attend the 2014 World Cup.

And, true to their words, on June 24, the three, who played on the same soccer team together at Miami Springs High School in the mid-’90s, along with other Springs grads Artie Snoke, Ricky Ramsingh and another Hume brother, Justin, boarded a plane at Miami International Airport and headed for Rio De Janiero. Despite not having a single  hotel reservation or knowing how they would move around once they got down there, off they went on their “great adventure.”

Kevin, who now lives in Atlanta having started up another restaurant after the successful revival of Tom’s NFL on NW 36th street which his other family members now run, actually went down a little earlier and met up with the rest.

“It was crazy to say the least but all in all we still had a lot of fun,” said Florio as he sat in Tom’s watching the final moments of Argentina’s dramatic penalty kick shootout semifinal win over Netherlands. “It was pretty obvious from the time we got there that Brazil definitely wasn’t prepared for this whole thing. The infrastructure just wasn’t there and how they are going to be able to host the Olympics in two years is a mystery to me.”

The biggest two hurdles that Florio and his crew encountered after landing in Rio was trying to communicate with the natives followed by trying to get themselves to Recife for the USA/Germany game on June 26. They had tickets in hand but getting there truly was an adventure.

“We wound up never even leaving the Rio airport because the native language down there is Portugese, not Spanish,” said Florio who is of Latin heritage and is bilingual but not ‘trilingual.’ “Cab drivers had no idea what we were saying and vice versa.”

So the group decided to stay right at the airport and head straight for Recife (about the distance from Miami to New York) which involved figuring out available flights and other modes of transportation.

“Unfortunately there were no direct flights to Recife,” said Florida. “The only flight we could get was to some outpost called Joau Pessoa. We just started laughing when we got there because this was some small tiny airport out in the middle of nowhere and it was still over 200 miles to Recife.”

Fortunately the cab driver knew the word “Recife” so off they went across the Brazilian back country hoping to eventually reach their destination.

“I was born and grew up in a third-world country (Dominican Republic) so I know what it’s like and it was even shocking for me,” said Ramsingh who tends bar at Tom’s and was busy rooting for Argentina. This country was simply not ready for any of us or this event. Between language barriers, transportation issues and just the overall condition of the country, it was pretty rough. The sad part is that they had eight years to get it together and couldn’t do it.”

Even after finally reaching Recife the night before the game, getting to the stadium the next day was another mission.

“The stadium was only 15 miles from our hotel and it took us two-and-a-half hours to get there,” said Florio. “Between flooded streets (Recife got 24 hours of non-stop raining leading up to and during the US/Germany game) and so many people not knowing where they were going, it was something else. Fortunately we anticipated problems and left ourselves enough time and wound up getting into the stadium just as the game was starting.”

Despite their disappointment of the U.S. team’s 1-0 loss, that was tempered by the fact that, thanks to a Ghana loss to Portugal, the U.S. team advanced to the knockout round anyway.

“We had a great time there,” said Florio. “Ricky, Kevin, Justin and Artie had incredible seats down low right at midfield while Aaron and I were about 30 rows further up. It would’ve been nice to pull the game out but we were just glad the U.S. had advanced when Ghana lost.”

The next day they were on a flight back to Rio where they would spend the next several days enjoying the World Cup atmosphere and hitting all the scenic sites including the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue along with the Copa Cabana Beach, the unofficial ‘World Cup Hangout Headquarters’ where the alcohol flowed freely.

“You could tell the difference when you were in Rio and when you got outside Rio,” said Justin Hume who helps run Tom’s. “Everything ran just fine when you were inside the city because that’s Brazil’s busiest tourist city and the focal point of the World Cup. But as soon as you went anywhere else, forget about it. It was a disaster.”

Which again, led to the group’s lack of success in getting themselves to Salvador for the first round knockout match between the U.S. and Belgium.

“Getting tickets to that game was never a problem,” said Florio. “The problem was trying to get there. There were simply no flights available and while we might’ve been able to get there by train or bus, the problem was our plane reservations to return to the states were out of Rio and the very next day after the Belgium match. So not being able to fly, we would’ve never made it back in time from Salvador to make our flight home.”

So our designated “River Cities” group hung out and partied in Rio while finding another large group of U.S. fans to sit and watch the Belgium game at one of the hundreds of Rio watering holes.

“Even though it was a little ragged, we still made the best of it,” said Ramsingh. “The one thing I will give Brazil credit for is that the presence of law enforcement was everywhere so there were very few fights or incidents of disorderly conduct which made things much more tolerable.”

And what about 2018 for the next scheduled World Cup in Russia?

“We’ll be ready,” said Florio who has now, along with Ramsingh, Aaron and Kevin Hume, been to three straight World Cups having first gone to Germany in 2006. “It’s probably the greatest sporting event in the world and the fact that it only comes along once every four years makes it that much more special.”

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