WORLD CUP USA ’94 / THE FINAL : The Big Party’s Only Beginning in Brazil : Reaction: Embattled citizens see victory as a sign of better things to come. Drinking, dancing and fireworks are order of the day.


In what was probably the world’s biggest one-day party, millions of Brazilians, starved for 24 years since last winning the World Cup, poured into the nation’s streets Sunday night, singing, dancing and most of all drinking in celebration of their country’s victory over Italy.

In a nation where football is more religion than sport and heroes take on mythic proportions, the win takes on a significance much larger than a mere sports victory. For people who have suffered through one political scandal after another, battled inflation that last year was nearly 3,000% and earn a median income of only $300 a month, it is a temporary salve for the ills of a nation.

“The victory is an omen of the good things that are going to come,” teacher Margarite Studart shouted between leaping up and down at a local restaurant where throngs had gathered to watch the game. “I know it. I know it.”


“It restores our spirit,” said physician Atila Machado, 54. “Our spirit has been down--the economy, politics and the death of (race car driver) Ayrton Senna. You lose someone like Senna and it brings down the country.”

President Itamar Franco has already declared today a holiday for federal workers, and in true Brazilian fashion, other workers are expected to piggyback on the federal decree and stay home, still basking in the glow of victory.

So, for one night, the young and old, the rich and poor put aside concerns over the stumbling economy and a divisive upcoming presidential election to embrace each other over the one thing that brings this often fractious nation together--soccer.

Excited fans, most who had been holed up in their homes nervously watching the game on television, poured into near-empty streets, jamming the famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro and clogging the avenues of the country’s other urban centers.

“My heart is beating so fast,” said Carlos Olivera, a security guard standing outside the city’s posh beachfront apartment buildings. “I was so nervous during the game, I was shaking. I drank 20 cups of beer to calm down. But now, let’s drink! Let’s drink!”

In the Girl From Ipanema restaurant, the birthplace of the famous song of the same name, Gloria Regina was in tears, kissing a piece of green-and-gold ribbon she had pulled down from the rafters.


“The only thing that comes close to this is the birth of my daughter,” she said as the crowd yelled “Champion! Champion!”

On Rio’s famous Ipanema, Copacabana and Flamengo beaches, singing and chanting men, women and children danced in glee to the sounds of samba emanating from bands atop huge sound trucks.

In the city’s Tijuca neighborhood, throngs gathered under a huge canopy of streamers, singing samba songs along with the national anthem.

In Sao Paulo, a city of 17 million, more than 200,000 celebrated on Avenida Paulista under skies filled with brilliant fireworks. In Belo Horizonte, thousands clogged the city square, dancing beneath a 20-foot-tall stage to a large, colorful samba band.

In the northeastern resort city of Fortaleza, more than 20,000 people gathered along the shore, dancing into the night. Throughout the nation, cars raced up and down city arteries, drivers honking their horns while their passengers waved large Brazilian flags from the windows.

And everywhere, huge fireworks explosions punctuated the night air.

The celebration actually began hours before the game began. Fireworks began early in the afternoon, and an hour before the game, many Brazilians donned green and gold, the country’s national colors, and headed for restaurants and bars throughout the country.


In Rio, on nearly every corner, the salute was “ Brasil ! Brasil !” Some became so excited that they became sick, most due to high blood pressure. Hospitals in Rio reported a 30% jump in the number of patients coming to their emergency room, almost all related to the World Cup.