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BRAZIL BEAT: Sao Paulo traffic grinds to halt

June 17, 2014
Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) — Sao Paulo traffic crawls on a typical day. When Brazil is playing a World Cup game, it barely moves.

So workers could get home on time to watch the 4 p.m. match, employers let them leave early, creating an epic traffic jam on major thoroughfare Avenida Paulista and all surrounding streets. It took a half hour to travel four blocks — a whole hour to complete the requisite U-turn to get off the avenue.

Agitated drivers blared their horns for minutes at a time as pedestrians whizzed by on the sidewalks and enjoyed the street music playing. Everyone on the sidewalk was happy and dressed in yellow. Everyone in the cars was hot and miserable.

Claudio Jose Rodrigues, a taxi driver of nine years, said he'd never seen anything like it before.

"This is different from the first game because that was a holiday," he said of the opener last Thursday in Sao Paulo against Croatia.

Nelson Davis, a Sao Paulo executive, said he was sending his workers home early and hoped to evade the traffic.

"It's like Super Bowl Sunday on a weekday," he said.

— Aron Heller —



FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — More than 3,500 Mexican fans arrived on a cruise ship to watch their nation play host Brazil on Tuesday.

The ship arrived early Monday and will depart a day after the match in the northeastern Brazilian city.

The fans are spending several weeks in Brazil, traveling to each city where Mexico plays — Natal, Fortaleza and Recife, all in coastal Brazil in the northeast.

The Mexicans who paid for the trip also got tickets for the team's games during the World Cup.

Nearly 30,000 Mexican fans were expected in Fortaleza for Tuesday's match. The loud crowd took over parts of the Arena Castelao, although the stadium was still filled mostly by Brazilians wearing the green and yellow colors of their national team.

— By Tales Azzoni —



BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — They traveled for 50 hours by bus from Lionel Messi's hometown, Rosario, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Argentina star.

On Tuesday, 120 teenage boys from the Renato Cesarini football academy clustered around the entrance of the team's base in Belo Horizonte, all wearing Argentina's blue and white-striped shirt.

After some negotiations with security guards and team officials at the gate, it was agreed that 10 of them would be allowed in to watch Argentina practice.

Named after the late Argentina player and coach Renato Cesarini, the academy has seen several national team players rise through its ranks, including Javier Mascherano and Martin Demichelis.

Messi, however, did not. The Argentina captain moved to Spain and FC Barcelona at 13, which has made it difficult for him to win the hearts of many of his countrymen, despite all his accolades.

The teenagers from Rosario, though, expressed no doubts about Messi's Argentine heart as they jealously watched journalists pass through security.

"People think that because he went abroad he doesn't play with passion for the national team," said Ezequiel Luna, a 17-year-old defender. "But he keeps it well inside. He wears the Argentina shirt with pride."

— By Karl Ritter —



FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Hundreds of Mexican fans showed up the last two nights outside of the team*s hotel to serenade the players.

The Mexicans gathered around the Luzeiros hotel in Fortaleza, many of them wearing their huge sombreros, while the younger generation wore the popular wrestling masks with the team colors.

A mariachi group began to play songs as everybody joined in what became a huge Mexican fiesta.

The songs were so loud and so emotive that the Mexican players came out to the balcony to listen to the music and thanked the fans.

"We had a rough year, 2013. We owed the people, and that show of love motivates us to come out to thank them," Mexican manager Miguel Herrera said. "The people are doing a great effort to be here and support us. We wanted to show them that we are not untouchables."

The second night of serenading did not have the same happy ending. Players and the coach opted to rest before a tough match against Brazil on Tuesday.

The good news for the fans was that, as can happen with some angry fathers in many serenades in Mexico, no one came out to quiet them by throwing a bucket of water.

— By Carlos Rodriguez —



BERLIN (AP) — Germany forward Lukas Podolski got his selfie with Chancellor Angela Merkel. So did midfielder Julian Draxler and backup goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler.

One of their teammates missed out, however, when their country's leader dropped into the dressing room to congratulate the players after Monday's 4-0 victory over Portugal.

Defender Per Mertesacker wrote in German on Twitter: "The chancellor didn't have a selfie for me today," followed by a frowning face. "But," he added more optimistically, "maybe I'll get a rose," followed by a smiley face and four exclamation points.



SAO PAULO (AP) — One London-based flight crew on British Airways traveling to Sao Paulo just missed getting to watch England's World Cup opening match against Italy, as they were flying during the game Saturday and didn't have an in-air broadcast.

The crew is headed home to Great Britain on Tuesday, just missing getting to watch England's second Group C matchup against Uruguay on Thursday in Sao Paulo. But that's OK — they'll be home in time to catch it on television.

One of the flight attendants said that just by luck, she happened to have a flight to South Africa four years ago during the last World Cup.

—By Janie McCauley —



SAO PAULO (AP) — Some outsiders think Latin America is one big culture, but with only a few thousand Mexicans living in Brazil, a tortilla can seem as exotic here as Indian curry.

A day before Brazil took on Mexico in the World Cup, a few Brazilians lined up to take pictures with a sombrero that read "Viva Mexico!" on Monday. Mexican tourists brought two of the hats with them from the city of Leon.

The Mexican fans were quite the attraction, standing up on their chairs while they sang "canta y no llores." That's Spanish for "sing and don't cry," from the popular folk song "Cielito Lindo."

A young Brazilian woman said she wanted a photo with the sombrero to prove to her friends that she had run into a seemingly incredible number of Mexicans, who had all arrived for the tournament.

— By Adriana Gomez Licon —


Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter:



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