FRAMINGHAM — If you want to know how Brazilian immigrants in Framingham feel about the opening of soccer’s World Cup in their home country on Thursday, just ask the Rev. Volmar Scaravelli, who ministers to them at St. Tarcisius Church.
“People understand that for Brazilians — and really, many other people from South America — World Cup football is like your American-football Super Bowl,” said Scaravelli. “It is our game. The way it is played today originated in Brazil.”
So it’s not surprising that, with one of the highest concentrations of Brazilian immigrants in Massachusetts, Framingham is gripped with World Cup fever as the tournament kicks off and Brazil faces Croatia in a first-round game.
The fervor has one former downtown business owner thinking about reopening in town.
“Here’s what is crazy,” said Robson Ramos, whose store, Brazil Legal World Soccer on Concord Street, closed its doors in 2010. “I had to close this location a few years ago, because business was slow. I kept my Everett location open, but here? No. But when we got closer to World Cup, I start getting phone calls from people looking for Brazil soccer jerseys. They are authentic and $100. But they are selling fast, and the funny thing is many buyers are from Framingham, so I deliver the jerseys here. I am happy, but I laugh to myself, because I wish the World Cup in Brazil had happened sooner. My business could have used it before.”
Ricardo Gomes, executive director of the Good Samaritan Center, a small, nonprofit social services agency that helps recent immigrants settle and acclimate more quickly to life in the United States, said the excitement he’s seen leading up to Thursday’s opening match is palpable.
“Wherever you go in Framingham where there are Brazilians gathered, there is talk,” Gomes said. “It is the number one topic of conversation. I have people come to my workplace asking for information on getting English lessons or Portuguese lessons for their children, or help with government paperwork. And then they ask about a good place to watch World Cup. You can definitely feel the excitement in the air, and almost taste it.”
Elias Fernandez says Gomes can drop the “almost,” because patrons of Fernandez’s Padaria Brasil Bakery downtown can definitely taste the excitement for the game.
“We’ve been baking with the Brazil flag on top,” said a chuckling Fernandez. “People can eat their support. The real celebration, though, will come after Brazil wins a match. The thing is we Brazilians don’t plan parties for things like this.
“Americans do viewing parties. We don’t plan celebrations for these events in advance. We wait to see what happens and then react. And let me tell you, if Brazil wins Thursday, even though it is just the beginning, you will see all of downtown full of people waving the flag, flying it from their car, honking their horns, running down the sidewalk. It will be exciting!”
And while town officials say they support that excitement, police, who’ve studied video and international police reports of soccer celebrations that have gotten out of hand, have asked Brazilian community leaders in recent days to caution revelers to party in moderation, not drive under the influence, and not drive aimlessly back and forth on already congested downtown streets.
Lieutenant Stephen Cronin, Framingham Police spokesman, said downtown streets are already clogged because automobile traffic comes to a stop during each of about 60 daily train crossings on nearby railroad tracks. Add to that slow-driving or erratically driving revelers, and downtown traffic could get out of control.
Bresley Pascoal, a painter by day and youth soccer teacher and coach by night, joked that police won’t have to worry about extra traffic on Thursday.
“I think that everybody —at least the Brazilians here — probably has the same thing in mind,” Pascoal said. “That is, go to work early on Thursday, so you can get home from work early and get to wherever you are going to watch the match. So the roads will probably be empty, empty of Brazilians. How do you say it — ‘ghost town’?”
Pascoal, who says he gives lessons to about 100 children in Framingham, also said their parents have been attending practice lately, decked out in Brazil soccer jerseys and talking about the possibilities for their families.
“These are people who often come here tired after work, talking about their long day,” Pascoal said. “But today they talk soccer. Why? It’s more than a game to them. Back in Brazil they have family — I have family too! — who are earning more money now than they ever have because World Cup tourists are going to their businesses and using their services. This could change their lives. So we all want Brazil to win everything, but the regular people in Brazil — unlike the news reports that say they’re unhappy — they are already winning.”