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World Cup: Iverson travels to Rio to experience World Cup

Andy Iverson (right) and his friend Dan Cannon attended a first round World Cup game between Russia and Belgium in Rio De Janiero. Iverson, a former goalie for the Bemidji Lumberjacks, said the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

RIO DE JANEIRO — When former Bemidji resident and BHS soccer goalie Andy Iverson learned that the 2014 World Cup was going to be hosted by Brazil, the 24-year-old envisioned being at a stadium and watching the best players in the world in action.

“I’m a big soccer fan and the World Cup in Brazil sounded like the place to go,” Iverson said. “We started planning the trip last year and we actually booked our flights and hotel last September.”

On June 13 Iverson and a friend headed to International Airport in Minneapolis and boarded a plane bound for Rio De Janeiro. They stayed in Rio for 10 nights and returned to Minnesota on June 23.

The opted for Rio because the city was the hub for soccer fans traveling to the different World Cup venues and because Rio is a destination all to itself.

“Rio is a fun, vibrant city with giant beaches everywhere,” Iverson said. “It was just crazy with people.”

Watching soccer was the main reason for heading to Brazil but Iverson discovered that wanting to attend a World Cup game and actually being in the stands were two different things.

“We applied for all the tickets that we could while we were in Rio but we couldn’t find any,” Iverson admitted. “Finally, on the day before we left, we were able to to on Craigslist and buy tickets for the game between Russia and Belgium.”

The game was played at Maracana Stadium in Rio and Belgium defeated Russia 1-0. Despite the huge crowd, Iverson and his friend, Dan Cannon, were able to enjoy the action.

“The way Maracana is designed, there really are no bad seats,” Iverson said. “It is one large bowl rather than multiple decks with luxury boxes in the middle like American football stadiums are designed.

“We were up high, even with the goal line, but could still see the game and follow the action very clearly.”

The Belgium and Russian teams both were supported by strong fan bases although the Russian fans had little to cheer about.

“The game was very memorable but not very exciting,” Iverson said. “It remained scoreless until Divock Origi scored for Belgium in the 88th minute and when he did the Belgium fans went wild.”

With the exception of the Belgium-Russian game, Iverson watched the World Cup on television screens set up at the beaches and the local watering holes.

“When Brazil played there were 180,000 people on the beach watching the game,” he said. “Most businesses were just shut down so everybody could watch soccer.”

Iverson was hoping to see the USA team live but the opportunity never arose.

“I was disappointed about that, but the USA was always playing far away from Rio,” Iverson said. “Still, I was happy just to be in Rio. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me and I knew it would be amazing. But it was even better than I thought.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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