Before I continue my trip down memory lane in the second of my three-part series on the World Cup, I must mention the success of Asmir’s first gala evening for his foundation. The inaugural Asmir Begovic Foundation gala evening was held, appropriately, at the Britannia Stadium on the 14th of September. It was a hugely successful and well-attended evening and the generosity of the guests was outstanding. With exciting auction prizes up for grabs, the bidding wars began. It was great to see Edin Dzeko, Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan, amongst others, all get involved with the bidding! All in all with the auction bids and raffle ticket sales alone, the gala evening raised £25,000, which was then generously doubled to £50,000 by the Chairman of Stoke City, Mr Coates and his wife, Mrs Coates. Asmir and all those involved with the Asmir Begovic Foundation are still truly overwhelmed and cannot begin to express their heartfelt thanks to all those that have supported the charity’s cause, which is so close to Asmir’s heart.
Bosnia’s Brazilian Adventure- Part Two
Let the games begin!
The big day had finally arrived. We woke to feelings of excitement, anticipation coupled with a little anxiety, emotions that are usually associated with that of an impending wedding. As we grazed through breakfast and sat amongst all the friends and families of the Bosnian contingent, everyone talked excitedly of what awaited the players with the three upcoming group stage games that were now upon us. It was lovely and reassuring to see how relaxed the players were that morning. With most opting to enjoy the peace and quiet of their rooms, a few players were spotted strolling around the hotel taking in the atmosphere that was building up outside the hotel. The Bosnian fans arrived in their droves along with the press and their multitude of cameras and long-range lenses. With Argentina being Bosnia’s first opponent, the country’s legendary football status attracted quite a lot of attention from the national and international press. It was astounding how many Argentinian fans, donning their Messi shirts, were outside of the Bosnia team hotel.
With kick-off not till later on in the evening, we had some free time in the day to explore more of the buzzing and colourful city of Rio De Janeiro. We had an excursion to the famous statue of Jesus Christ, known as Christ the Redeemer. We boarded an official mini-bus at a specified location where we were all whisked off up the windy narrow roads to the statue. We had no idea what to expect when we arrived, but it simply took our breath away when we reached the summit. The view was incredible and we felt as though we could see every inch of the city from up there. The expanse of the Favelas, the heavily populated slums in urban areas of Brazil, was really remarkable from our aerial position overlooking the city. Seeing the Maracana in the distance gave us all goose bumps as we anticipated our arrival there later in the day to watch that historic first game.
Whilst climbing what felt like an endless amount of stairs, we must have passed football fans from all corners of the globe. Everyone was swathed and covered in their beloved country’s football jersey, flag or any memento to their team and its players. Everyone along the way would stop to take pictures and wish each other good luck for their journey in the World Cup. It was incredibly exciting and we could all really feel the party atmosphere that the city of Rio is so famous for. After purchasing a few obligatory souvenirs and a quick coffee, we began the very speedy decent down the mountain again. These drivers do this journey all day everyday so are a dab hand at getting up and down the packed narrow roads as fast as the vans allow (not great for sufferers of motion sickness such as myself)!
After a short respite back at the hotel, we all gathered in the reception a few hours before kick-off to see the team leave for their first game in a World Cup tournament. The scene inside and out was awash with Bosnia’s national flag colours of blue, yellow and white. As the players boarded the team bus and departed to the Maracana Stadium, they were immediately flanked by swarms of armed military personnel, outriders, police cars and a police helicopter escort that flew low and directly over the team bus whilst they travelled through the city. There was no doubt that FIFA took security very seriously when it came to the transportation of the teams and its staff. Although initially it was a somewhat intimidating scene, it did become a very reassuring and typical part of the trip.
Shortly after, the Bosnian contingent travelled to the Maracana and in the warm, dark evening, the stadium was lit up beautifully as we had seen the night before, however this time, there were thousands of cheering fans crowding the streets and at every entrance to the Maracana.
After the long awaited kick-off and with the game being beamed around the world, sadly Bosnia slipped an own goal from Kolašinac after only three minutes, but the team were not deterred and their fighting spirit prevailed with Ibišević scoring Bosnia’s first ever goal in a major tournament in the second half. Sadly though this was not enough to bring in a point to counter Messi’s winning goal and the game finished 2-1 to Argentina.
Once back at the hotel, it was all action stations as the team and the travelling party prepared to depart early the following morning for the remaining ten-day tour of Brazil with two games to go- Nigeria and Iran. Boarding passes at the ready, we left the hotel shortly after the team convoy, both destined for the same chartered flight to Sao Paulo, however without all the security and its trimmings the team were benefiting from, the family bus was at the mercy of the famous Rio traffic. Two hours into what should have been a twenty-minute trip, having also unknowingly been heading to the wrong airport at some point, we finally reunited with the team plane on the tarmac, with a surprisingly patient onboard crowd.
This was where the real adventure began as we hopped from city-to-city, hotel-to-hotel and stadium-to-stadium to follow Bosnia on their Brazilian adventure. Until the next time where Part Three of the series will conclude with the final two games and all that happened in between.
Till next time………