The town of Belo Horizonte, or Beagá as it is popularly known, is famous for its locally produced distinct Brazilian Cheese. It is the third largest metropolitan area in Brazil. We like cheese but that is not the reason we went to Belo Horizonte. We made a trip to Belo to watch the FIFA Confederation cup 2013 Semi Final game between Brazil and Uruguay at the old and famous Stadium Mineirão (Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto). Our life is ruled by Sports a lot, Belo would never be on our list of travel destinations if not for Football. Belo’s international recognition is bound to rise up the charts as the host city for several FIFA World Cup 2014 games.
Belo will forever be etched in our memories as the venue where we saw the Brazilian national team – the same starting eleven as the WC -win a cracker of a semi-final against Uruguay. It was such a surreal feeling watching some of the game’s biggest names such as Neymar, Suarez, Fred, Oscar in real :). We were at the game and it was hard to understand all the yelling and cheering. A fight broke out and that’s when we made friends with the locals sitting around us who were eager to help with real-time translations of the events unfolding. Apparently, it was club rivalries and loyalties that were causing the Brazilians to fight amongst each other. People were defending the players that belonged to the Clubs they have supported all their lives. The club loyalties run in a family for generations. In most of South America-, our experience of watching a soccer match live or on TV has been lots of Cheering, Fighting, Praising, and Cussing; even talking takes on another dimension with dramatic hand gestures. The new found friends made the game ‘funner’ as we got explanations of what was going on in the stands, including some of the raw words that were being exchanged.
Walking back from the game, and marveling at how we two Indians “uniquely” made it to this lesser known town to watch a Brazil game, we ran into a large contingent of Indian techie expats working for Infosys – what an ironical coincidence. We spent the evening with them enjoying a refreshing dose of Cachaca (Brazilian rum made from sugarcane) and left feeling less homesick… or maybe it was just the after effects
Next day, instead of following a standard tourist itinerary, we decided to take it easy and make a trip to Central Mercado, as recommended by one of the locals we met at the stadium. The market is colorful and is lined with shops selling locally produced “world” famous Brazilian cheese, fresh produce, Cachaca and handicrafts. All the fancy Cachaca shops gave out free shots to try the different aged liquor. It was also the day of the second semi-final between Spain & Italy. We watched the game at a local open air bar in the crowded market. What a fun ’local’ experience, even though we were the minority supporting the Spanish team.
Experiencing a Brazil victory in front of their passionate home fans made our short trip to Belo triumphant. Blended with the warmth & hospitality of belo-horizontinos, most of who spoke better English than their counterparts in Rio, was the most refreshing Brazilian cocktail we had.