Whilst the World Cup maybe the greatest football competition on earth it also provides the people who visit it with an education of the country that stages it, this may not be as true in the heavily visited European nations but when a country such as Brazil plays host it provides an opportunity to visit more than just the main attractions.
The only England ticket I had was for the game against Costa Rica in a place called Belo Horizonte, this city was completely new to me and we decided to stay here for 4 days before moving on to the capital Brasilia. I’ll be honest, I was so excited for Rio that I gave little credence to the idea of visiting other places, how misguided of me.
Belo Horizonte is situated in the state of Minas Gerais and has a population of ….. Fuck it, look it up on Wikipedia… This place is epic!!!
All the stars aligned when we visited Belo Horizonte, we had an amazing hostess in our apartment who took us out for food on night 1 then took us out on night 2 with her boyfriend and their friends for food and a party. There is no shortage of bars here and the people are more friendly than I ever imagined I would witness, certainly not in such abundance!! Brazil in general speaks very little English, leaving you to converse somewhere between root verbs and hand signs, in BH it is the same only here it comes with the biggest smiles!
Day 3 we went out to watch Brazil v Cameroon and decided it would be a good idea to buy Brazil flags to show our support for our adopted nation, this went down better than we could ever imagined. We went to a rock bar in the centre of BH and the place was rammed, fortunately Brazil won the game and afterwards they had 2 live bands playing rock covers (Brazil LOVES metal,) that’s right… Football, live music, alcohol and happy people, manna from heaven!! The owner of the bar treated us like celebrities and only let us pay for about 2 drinks, what a night!!
Day 4 was the game which frankly was irrelevant for us England fans but this did not dampen our spirits and despite being out done in the singing stakes by the buoyant Costa Ricans, BH showed its hand again with an amazing stadium and some fantastic support from the locals. In Brazil much like in the north east of England there are only 2 domestic sides to really choose from, and EVERYBODY chooses one whether you are a child, a pensioner, man, woman, dog. The choice is Cruzeiro or Athletic Minerao (Galo) and during half time, regardless of what was happening on the international stage, the fans of each commenced an epic chanting battle which I managed to video here.
After the game BH revealed the ace up her sleeve and some friends we had met the previous night offered to take us out, they picked us up and took us to a huge tower just outside the city which had a Japanese restaurant on top of it where you could see the entire city, after some sushi they drove us around BH and gave us the tour before taking us home, such great people and such great hospitality.
On our final day we visited a small restaurant we’d frequented twice before featuring a wonderful host and a woman I can only describe as my Brazilian grandma, they gave us huge hugs and took photos, these 2 spoke about 15 words of English between them, yet they still captured our hearts with simple gestures and human warmth, BH personified in my opinion.
Belo Horizonte = Beautiful Horizon I could not agree more.