Chasing The World: One Man's Crazy World Cup Quest
Catherine Downes Mexico v Croatia, Ojos Locos
The roof of my car has sprung a leak in the middle of a tropical rainstorm, and the backseat is rapidly flooding. I'd pull over, but I've been stuck on an under-construction highway for the last half hour, and time is slipping away.
We're two weeks into the World Cup. At the behest of my editor, I have agreed to search Dallas for 32 people from the 32 countries competing in the tournament, in the spirit of North Texan multiculturalism. Moving here from Europe, I figured that right-wing, gun-toting Texas would be wall-to-wall with rich, angry white people. What I've found over the last two weeks is that it's far more diverse and interesting than England. I should have looked at Wikipedia.
Finding so many people of disparate locations and languages and persuading them to let me near them has been a pretty tall order of organization, confusion and misunderstanding. I've driven more than 1,000 miles, and I've got one trip left, from Dallas to Fort Worth in what may well be the apocalypse.
In the beginning I figured some simple social media appeals would wipe the whole thing out in days, and I could spend the rest of the tournament sending frantic texts to my editors, assuring them I was scouring Carrollton for Algerians when actually I was making great progress on FIFA 14's Career Mode. But right now the game is about to kick off, and I'm not actually near the house of the kindly Swiss man who has invited me to watch the game with him.
I've gotten through people bailing on me hours before games, people simply not turning up at all, cultural misunderstandings, nervous uncertainty about whether I work for a newspaper or am an extraordinarily cunning serial killer, and the amazing obscurity of some of the competing nations. I'm down to one team to go, I'm not actually at the game, and if Switzerland doesn't win they're eliminated, so the entire quest is wiped out on the jump over the final hurdle. I grip the steering wheel.
THURSDAY, JUNE 12
Croatia versus Brazil
Venue: Croatian Bosko Katic's humid garage in Rowlett
It's the first day of the World Cup and hope is fresh in the air, along with a torrential summer storm. Bosko Katic, a fair-haired 28-year-old native of Pozega, Croatia, used to play for Croatian mega-team Dinamo Zagreb and moved to Dallas eight years ago with his Bosnian-American wife, whom he proposed to three days after meeting her. He runs an Italian restaurant, because of course. He and his wife have two adorable kids, one of whom is old enough to tell her father she's supporting Brazil. She's immediately banished to the main house.
Nervously pacing the room, he explains he usually watches these games alone, and even curses in English occasionally for my benefit. Eventually, accompanied by a stream of invective I'm assured has no real English translation, Croatia succumbs to all manner of injustice. Katic's not out, though. I tell him we'll watch Croatia's second-round game together, and he smiles. "I would like that," he says, in his heavy Eastern European accent. I made a World Cup friend already.
Result: Brazil 3, Croatia 1
Countries remaining: 31
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