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A World Cup Malcontent

By Julia F. P. Ostmann

RIO DE JANEIRO—“These dirty Argentines are all over the place,” says the Rio taxi driver, gesturing at another posse of young gentlemen clad in periwinkle and white.

“They’re showering in gas stations. Their decades-old cars are filling up the stadium parking lot. They’re even kicking out the bums and sleeping on benches and doorsteps. The bums have nowhere to sleep!”

I take it he is rooting for Germany.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been studying abroad in Argentina, but then again, my last name is Ostmann, so in the end my World Cup final game allegiance is deeply divided—just like the U.S.’s, according to a Facebook study.)

The taxi driver isn’t alone, I am finding out while strolling Copacabana beach, headed toward the giant screen FIFA has set up for cheapskate losers (like me), the so-called dirty Argentine hordes, and this one guy in lederhosen.  I am shocked to discover—amid the crowds, the vendors of freshly-cooked shrimp, and the military police who seem to be toting full-on machine guns—a plethora of folks wearing both Brazilian and German flags.

What, what, what are you doing?

Brazil, I’ve got some griping to do, and you’re the arbitrary target. Why, Brazil? Why are you (or 73 percent of you, to be exact, according to the aforementioned study) cheering for the team that decimated your own days earlier? What about Latin American solidarity against the European oppressor? Or, if that’s too third-world-Marxist for you, how about some basic pride? When I arrived on your balmy shores, you were depressed out of your mind over that 7-1 Germany-Brazil defeat. (Seriously. The beaches were empty, except for the Germans and oblivious Americans like me. Pretty great.)

And then yesterday, when the Netherlands smashed you up again, did you reevaluate whether it was fair and just to ally yourselves with another Western European power known for tight-fistedness and a fondness of meatballs?

But no, you got one nauseating glimpse of that cornflower-blue wave, your eternal rival, spewing its nasty little songs (let’s not forget that, were they in your situation, the albiceleste masses would behave exactly like you are behaving), and that was that. You sold your soul just to make sure the sky-blue devils would burn with you in hell.

“We won’t let Argentina win in your home,” reads a German-held sign in the stadium. I know because the Brazilian boy sitting next to me on the couch—I’m watching the game now in an apartment overlooking Copacabana—is shoving his iPhone in my face to ensure I see the words.

I have a confession, Brazil: I can’t stand World Cup soccer. Let’s ignore fact that I find watching soccer to be more monotonous than playing the Game Boy I received at age nine and abandoned after three days. What really infuriates me is how a bunch of dudes running between two nets can inflame destructive divisions among countries that are already underdogs on the world stage. (Brazil, before you throw some contrary statistics at me, recall that Germany effectively runs the E.U.) Brazil and Argentina should be teaming up against the mighty, not violently opposing each other.

And before you say I’m just a meddling, un-athletic Yank jabbering on about symbolism while mooching off your fresh beachside coconuts (all true), can we talk about the actual violence of this World Cup enterprise? Police brutality (and dead policemen), bus burning—and that was before today. Since this final game started, I’ve occupied myself counting potential concussions and future brain-injury-induced depression. And for God’s sake, now a man’s face is bleeding.

But wait! Suddenly, with that efficient German grace, the ball finally slips into the net. The Brazilian boy jumps up from the couch, throws open the window, and screams at the weeping baby-blue throngs below: “Argentina you son-of-a-bitch!  Don’t cry for me Argentina!” Cue illegal fireworks.

I leave the room for the last couple minutes of the game; it’s effectively done, and this Debbie Downer was more than ready. Brazil is cheering, but it seems to me the only winner in Rio tonight is the man in lederhosen: best costume in a horror film.

Julia F. P. Ostmann ’15, a Crimson FM editor, is a history and science concentrator living in Quincy House.

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HighlightSummer Postcards 2014