• Tue
  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:46pm
Road to Rio
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 2:52am

Road to Rio: We may have to sell an eye to secure World Cup final tickets

Websites are peddling Maracana seats for upwards of US$6,000 each, but it all depends on which teams manage to get there

BIO

Paul Kay is a Hong Kong-based journalist and media consultant, and the former editor of Time Out Hong Kong and Hong Kong Tatler. A lifelong football fanatic, he is making the pilgrimage to Brazil for the World Cup to offer a fan’s-eye view of the greatest show on Earth.
 

For the past three weeks we've lived our lives according to the rhythm of the football schedule, but as the games start to thin out, we turn our attention to exploring the northeast and trying to bag tickets for the final.

The former invariably involves long and tiring drives down bumpy dirt tracks better suited to 4x4s than our two-wheel drive rental, and we needed the help of some friendly locals to drag us out of the sand after one adventurous detour. But compared to tracking down tickets for the main event, it is a stroll on Ipanema beach.

On ticket-reselling sites like viagogo and Stubhub, final briefs have been changing hands for upwards of US$6,000 a pop, and it seems every Brazilian has a story about someone who has paid the olho da caro (the eye of the face) for a seat at Maracana.

For sheer spectacle and atmosphere, the four of us agree before the quarter-finals that a Brazil-Argentina final would be impossible to top

We discuss our theoretical final-ticket budget and continually revise the number, sending off e-mails to friends who might have an in.

We ask almost everyone we encounter if they've heard of any tickets for sale and get some half leads here and there, including a tout in Barra Grande who says he might be able to get four tickets for 34,000 reais (HK$120,000) depending on the results of the semis - another hot topic.

As a side-effect of our ticket hunt, we've become vested in the results of games well beyond mere footballing preferences.

For sheer spectacle and atmosphere, the four of us agree before the quarter-finals that a Brazil-Argentina final would be impossible to top, but as that would greatly reduce our already slim chances of being there in person we keep our fingers crossed for Germany-Holland.

It seems somewhat apt then that the last of the tickets we had in our possession were Holland's quarter-final with Costa Rica in Salvador.

We had seen the Ticos' previous match versus Greece in Recife and had been won over by their never-say-die spirit and exuberant fans, but the results of our prematch score-prediction ritual looked ominous as we all backed the Dutch to win comfortably.

Plucky though Costa Rica were, Holland-Argentina is the semi-final we all want to see.

Salvador is a fun city, and deserving of its reputation for being the cradle of the country's Afro-Brazilian soul, but The Lord Of The Rings-esque landscapes we see in pictures of the majestic 1,520sq km Chapada Diamantina National Park are more than enough to convince us to fire up the engine for one last road trip.

We stay in the northwest of the park, close to Vale da Capao, a small village with an unexpected new-age vibe.

The area has long attracted those with a penchant for alternative lifestyles, we discover, and Capao's short main drag is a melange of vegetarian restaurants, shops selling tie-dye clothes and healing crystals, parlours offering tarot readings and Ayurvedic massages, and pousadas with names such as Lakshmi and Ganesha.

We eschew the crystals and buy a bottle of homemade coconut liqueur and head for our lodgings.

Our pousada is a couple of kilometres out of town, a series of bungalows set amid lush gardens. An at-best intermittent internet connection and no phone signal puts the brakes on our ticket hunt, so we play pool with a tip-less cue and swap stories with a bunch of Brazilians by the bonfire.

As the embers glow and crackle, we raise cups of the milky liqueur to the gods of fortune and football until a sudden downpour drives us indoors.

Whether this constitutes a good omen or not we will have to wait and see.

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