Friday, June 27th segment:
Former Juneau resident Jeremy Gleason says he didn’t necessarily accept a teaching position in Venezuela because the 2014 FIFA World Cup was in neighboring Brazil, but he admits that the possibility of watching the championship soccer tournament did cross his mind.
Since he was already living and working in South America, Gleason said it was easier to turn his dream of attending the event into reality.
“I’m used to watching it with friends at the Silverbow (Bakery),” Gleason said. “So, coming from a place like Juneau, something like this seems so unattainable and so distant.”
The former Juneau-Douglas High School soccer player, Juneau Soccer Club coach, and assistant high school coach is attending as many matches as he can. He’s sharing his experiences by texting and sending pictures to Juneau soccer players and friends.
“Traveling from venue to venue isn’t like hopping in a car and taking a short road trip,” Gleason said. Matches are being held in twelve venues around the country in cities like Recife, Salvador, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro.
“Most of the time you’re on a plane and the airport environment is very lively with just all kinds of fans going from this place and that place,” Gleason said.
That’s the big reason, he says, why it’s all been a positive, life changing experience for him.
I’m not going to miss another World Cup. I was a huge soccer fan before, but I’m even more so obsessed with the sport, and just the culture behind it. You get to meet all these people from all over the world and they are a huge part of what makes this experience special. It changes from a sport to just a world gathering, and it just happens that soccer brings everyone together.”
Gleason said he’s met up with a few Juneau friends and there’s no shortage of Americans in the stands whenever the United States plays.
And what did Gleason think of Thursday’s match when Germany won over United States 1-0? He said the U.S. team did a good job of counterattacking when they had an opportunity to possess the ball, and they comfortably passed and moved it around.
The thing that I could sense and could see more than anything is that we’re a confident team even if we’re playing a world power like Germany. We weren’t afraid of their skills and their strength. I think it takes a very disciplined team to absorb a lot of pressure and then, finally, when you get the ball, not to panic and then give it right back.”
Gleason earlier planned to spend a few weeks watching the World Cup group stage before flying off for a two week visit in Juneau. But he said that he changed his mind after arriving in Brazil.
Tuesday, July 1st segment:
Just by chance, Gleason said he had already purchased tickets for Tuesday’s game in Salvador featuring the United States and Belgium. That was before the United States lost to Germany 1-0 and before it was determined which teams would be playing in Tuesday’s Round of 16 knockout match.
“They’re not checking names on tickets,” Gleason said. “They scan the bar code, but — logistically — I think it’s unrealistic for the workers at the stadium to check for ID.”
Gleason said he purchased two tickets legitimately through a World Cup website. Other tickets he received or purchased from friends and others who had extras.
Tickets are being sold at the various stadiums, but Gleason said some can fetch as much as $1500 each.
“If it’s not the final (match), I’m not considering anything close to that,” Gleason said.
Gleason made plans for the World Cup only in February. He’s been able to defray costs in various cities by staying with Juneau friends or a former student’s family.
Even if you cannot get a ticket, there are plenty of other opportunities to watch the games and tap into the World Cup atmosphere.
“If you can’t go to the stadium, just being in a café, being in a bar, in a restaurant, games are on (television) everywhere,” Gleason said. He remembers as many as 100,000 people at the Rio de Janeiro Copacabana fanzone during the U.S.-Portugal game.
Everything has been spectacular and the Brazilian people have been extremely hospitable and generous.”
Gleason said he’s just a soccer fan at heart while watching the World Cup. Like other fans, home country team preference or national pride may take a back seat to passion for the game.
“I have eight different country jerseys,” Gleason said. For example, he’ll put on his France or Brazil jersey depending on which team is playing that day. “Everyone accepts you as part of their country until you open your mouth and they realize that you not French or not Brazilian,” Gleason said.
Although, he discovered that others are often intrigued about coming from Alaska and that usually negates any confusion from others about his sartorial choices.
I can be a fan of everyone.”
Gleason said it’s like a huge country wide party whenever the Brazilian team plays a game.
“As long as the Brazilian team is advancing,” Gleason said, “the energy in this country is going to grow and grow.”