Early Wednesday afternoon at Coop De Ville in Oak Bluffs, flags from each of the 32 nations competing in this year’s World Cup hung from the ceiling. On the left hand wall, a large bracket was taped up, ready to be filled in. Drawings and posters with the World Cup trophy plastered every surface. Most of the seats were empty, but the restaurant was ready for a crowd.
“When you come here tomorrow, there will be 75 or 80 people in a sea of yellow and green,” said owner Peter Berndt. “This is the headquarters.”
And on Thursday, it was.
By the afternoon, soccer fans from around the Island flooded the Coop for the World Cup opening game of Brazil vs. Croatia. The tap-tap-tap of a man playing an improvised drum (actually an overturned Bud Light ice bucket) greeted newcomers to the Coop as friends high-fived and grabbed seats along the long benches. All faces turned toward the televisions, and a roar went up as Mr. Berndt flicked off the mute button and the broadcast began. On the screen, Brazilian stars Neymar and David Luiz stepped out of the tunnel and onto the pitch, prompting more cheers. And when the Brazilian national team stood at the center of the stadium and began to sing along with their national anthem — the crowd at the Coop sang along, too.
In Brazil, the World Cup is more than just a tournament; it is a cultural staple. Because the cup is being hosted in Brazil this year, the Brazilian spirit will run even stronger.
On Wednesday, Fillype Souza, a bartender at Coop De Ville who was born in Brazil, was eager for the action to get underway. In the past year he has watched his team win the Confederation Cup in a massive 3-0 victory over Spain, he has watched friendly games and he has studied the Brazilian roster. All of that has been leading to this.
“The World Cup is what we wait for,” said Mr. Souza. “Nothing stops us from watching it and supporting our team.”
Mr. Souza will be hard at work for the next month, joining in on the festivities from behind the bar. He’s lucky because he is able to watch the games from work, but not everyone has that privilege.
“Everybody is taking off work,” said Mr. Souza. “My cousin already told his boss, ‘you can fire us, but we’re taking two hours off for the game.’ His boss is letting them take off work for every game that Brazil plays. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of people doing that.”
Another face in the crowd cheering on Brazil this year will be John Oliveira. While Mr. Oliveira and his mother live on the Vineyard, most of his family is back in Brazil. Although the scene on the Island will not compare to the monthlong celebration in Brazil, Mr. Oliveira believes the Vineyard will also get caught up in the action.
“I’m involved in the soccer community on the Island and I think people are really anticipating this World Cup because we have such a strong Brazilian community here. A lot of people are taking off work to watch the games and there’s going to be barbecues and parties. I think the Island is getting pretty soccer-oriented.”
Although he was just a young boy at the time, Mr. Oliveira remembers being on the Island the last time the Brazilian team won the World Cup, back in 2002. He has distant memories of streets full of green and yellow shirts and cars with Brazilian flags billowing from the windows.
Since 2002, Brazil has failed to live up to World Cup expectations. In 2006, France knocked Brazil out in the quarterfinals before going on to lose to Italy in the finals. In 2010, Brazil was again eliminated in the quarterfinals, this time by the Netherlands which would also go on to lose in the finals, this time to Spain.
While Mr. Oliveira and the rest of Brazil’s supporters on the Island have not forgotten these disappointments, hopes are high for this year’s team.
“People are nervous after the disappointment in the last World Cup, but we’re excited,” he said. “Last time [the World Cup] was in Brazil we lost in the finals. With the spirit of the home crowd I definitely think we are at least going to make it to that far. We have a lot of confidence after the Confederation Cup with the 3-0 win. I think that if we go down, we’re going down in the finals.”
Although Brazil fans around the world hope that the home crowd will help bring the Brazilian team the cup, controversy over the large amount of money that Brazil has spent building stadiums and preparing for the tournament has cast a shadow on some of the celebration.
On the Vineyard, the controversy will not be so visible, but it is still on the minds of many Brazilians, especially those with friends and family in Brazil.
Gustavo Silva, who was born in Brazil and came to the Vineyard when he was young, will be showing his Brazilian patriotism and cheering loudly for his team in the cup, but he is angry with the way the Brazilian government has handled the preparations. Although geographically he is far away from the problems, Mr. Silva said the controversy will detract from the festivity of the tournament.
“I don’t think the soccer will balance out the corruption,” he said. “People are still definitely going to support the team. I hope we forget about the protest and just enjoy the World Cup, but at the same time, this is an opportunity for the people because all of the international media will be there. People are very excited for the games but it doesn’t change the fact that we are upset.”
Despite these frustrations, as soon as the team takes the field and the referee blows his whistle, the corruption will fade to background noise as the Brazilian community on Martha’s Vineyard rallies to cheer on its team. Like Mr. Oliveira, Mr. Silva believes the atmosphere on the Vineyard will be calm compared to the scene in Brazil, but festive in its own right.
“People here will get together and it will be just like any other party,” Mr. Silva said. “In Brazil there will be a bigger feeling of patriotism. People there will be drinking in the street and nobody will be working for two or three days. You get a bigger feeling there but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be happy and celebrating. Being in another country as a minority brings out the patriotism in different ways.”
The tournament is an opportunity for people of all nationalities to show their patriotism. Coop De Ville will be showing all 64 games and the owners expect to see people from many different countries come and cheer on their teams. “This place will be mostly Brazilians, but there will be people from all over the place. Spaniards come over here to watch, Portuguese, everybody,” said Mr. Souza from behind the bar. “There’s nothing like the World Cup. Once the tournament comes around you see everybody. From every country.”