With beers and a view, favela anxiously awaits Brazil match
The moon over the Vidigal favela seen from Ipanema Beach at sunset in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 1, 2014 - by Christophe Simon
The streets were strung with flags in the green and yellow of Brazil, and locals were noticeably anxious in the tense build-up to the match, taking place at the National Stadium in Brasilia.
Residents of all ages -- many in Brazil jerseys -- climbed and descended the shantytown's sloping alleys, barely taking in the view of the chic neighborhoods below as they rushed to bars or houses where families were gathering around the TV with abundant amounts of barbecue and beer.
"Come on up! The view's beautiful. I'll take you to watch the game up there!" a moto-taxi driver -- one of an incessant stream criss-crossing the neighborhood -- shouted to a foreign tourist at the base of the hill upon which the favela is perched.
Under the watchful gaze of police posted at the entry to Vidigal, dozens of foreign fans headed into the neighborhood, by motorcycle or on foot, to watch the match in spots such as the recently opened Mirante do Avrao Hotel.
Just four years ago, such a sight would have been unthinkable.
Police wrested control of Vidigal from drug traffickers in November 2011, as part of their strategy of "pacifying" dozens of favelas.
Since then, the area's stunning views have made it a tourist attraction and bars, hotels and restaurants have sprouted.
"Five years ago, we wouldn't have been here talking like this. We'd have been afraid of the drug traffickers and their guns," said Luiz Alberto Correia, an 80-year-old retired furniture-maker who moved to Vidigal before police reclaimed it.
Correia is wearing a Manchester United jersey, but said he did not know if local press reports that David Beckham has bought a house in the favela were true.
"Yeah, there's a pricey mansion up there," said Nelson Bad, 70, who was planning a large party for the match for around 50 guests.
Bad however said the foreigners' arrival had a downside.
"It's brought real-estate speculation and prices that we sometimes can't pay with our blue-collar wages," he said.
In between comments on the neighborhood's gentrification, he watched the Netherlands beat Chile 2-0, making the Latin American team Brazil's likely opponent in the round of 16.
That of course depended on how well the "selecao" performed against Cameroon.