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Have Brazilians Lost Their Love of Soccer?

A young soccer fan in Salvador, Brazil
A young soccer fan in Salvador, BrazilPhotograph by Mario Tama/Getty Images

There are two motels along the highway that runs between Paulinia and Campinas, two small cities about an hour west of São Paulo. The word “motel,” Wesley tells me, does not mean what I think it does. In Brazilian Portuguese, things happen in a motel, but sleeping is not among those things. Both motels are massive and shielded from curious eyes on the highway by high walls.

Wesley is a family friend, taking care of me while I’m in São Paulo for a two-day layover before heading north to Fortaleza to watch some soccer. In Paulinia, where he lives, I ask where the Brazilian flags are. He points down his street and says that in any other World Cup year, you’d see flags on every house. You see them this year, but isolated: two or three per apartment tower. This doesn’t mean that Brazilians don’t care about the cup. It does mean that the way they care about the cup is complicated.