Here I am, freshly roused from an overnight flight out of London, en route to Rio, stopping at a cramped São Paulo airport whose faded-futurist decor looks like something out of Flash Gordon; and here they are.
A Mexico fan coming through Customs with a sombrero of comical width. An Algerian taking a nearby seat, having fashioned a sarong from his national flag. Iran fans bellowing as they unfurl their own colours in the departure lounge, whilst two smiling Nigerians accost a similarly joyful Colombian and get him to pose for a photo between them. Three middle-aged Belgium fans drifting by in their team’s training tops, as several benches of South Korea fans look on, quietly amused by it all. All of a sudden, an ailing late-Seventies airport terminal has taken on the soul of a summer afternoon backyard barbecue – and all of a sudden it’s gone again, as these supporters merrily disperse, to different flights and to different dreams. And this – many miles from any stadium, and without a ball in sight – is the true, eternal magic of the World Cup.