For the love of football: fans who travel

Top flight football teams have, increasingly, become international. Similarly, for the Olympic football, are the spectators, who are giving the terraces a League of Nations atmosphere.

Brazil’s game against New Zealand at St James’ Park in Newcastle yesterday even drew a group of visitors from Mongolia, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles, to cheer on Brazil, who won three-nil.

The Mongolian group comprised six adults, some working in accountancy in Ulan Bator, and four children, the youngest a 10-month-old baby girl, held by her mother Chinegee Bat. “Everything is so nice and very big; everything’s perfect”, said Mrs Bat, beaming. This was the first time she had ever seen a live football match, having previously only seen games on television.

The Mongolians had travelled to Newcastle from London, where they are spending most of their stay, in order to see Brazil play. But why would Mongolians support Brazil? “It’s the biggest team in the world,” explained Mrs Bat.

Brazil’s pulling power at St James’ Park extended also to Calcutta; spectators included 77 year old Binendra Nath Chatterjee, making the trip of a lifetime with a group of relatives from Calcutta and Atlanta in the US. Mr Chatterjee said he saw Pele play in 1977 in Calcutta and had supported Brazil ever since. “When he came to Calcutta, since then people in Calcutta have always been fans of Brazil.”

The supporters’ dedication was rewarded; Brazil play Honduras in the quarter final on Saturday.