Surrounded by tens of thousands of screaming fans in many of the world’s most exciting cities has become a quadrennial pilgrimage for the Santamaria family. Sergio Santamaria (’18) and Catalina Santamaria (’21) travelled to their fourth World Cup with their family this summer.
They started their trip with a two-day stay in Moscow, Russia, before heading to watch superstars Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo square off with their respective national teams, Uruguay and Portugal, in Sochi. They then returned to Moscow where they witnessed the host nation, Russia, topple one of the tournament favorites, Spain. The next morning they flew to Samara to see Brazil beat Mexico, 2-0, before finishing their trip the next day in Saint Petersburg where they saw Sweden eliminate Switzerland.
Santamaria has enjoyed engaging with the cultural experience of World Cups in addition to the pure entertainment value. While he doesn’t remember their first tournament in Germany very well, the other three trips left a lasting impression on his view of the host nations and became insightful peaks into their respective cultures.
“The tournament in South Africa was probably the most exotic and exciting cultural experience,” Santamaria said. “Brazil was the most authentic World Cup because the home nation was a big footballing country and the home nation was one of the tournament favorites. The tournament in Russia was very well-presented but the opposite of Brazil, because there was a high priority on structure and organization which made it less organic. The tournament felt more conscious of image and conforming to Western culture.”
While Sergio enjoyed the entirety of the trip and the fast-paced daily transition from city to city, a few moments in particular stuck out to him as the most memorable of the trip.
“Seeing Red Square for the first time in person was stunning,” Santamaria said. "The Russian penalty shootout victory against Spain, where the host country upset one of the tournament favorites, was also a highlight. The best goal we saw was [Edinson] Cavani’s second goal against Portugal where he opened up on his right foot and put it in the back post.”
The Santamaria family also experienced the great value of generosity while in Samara. They had arrived in one of the host country’s smallest cities to see Brazil play Mexico and quickly found the community to be overwhelmed by the scale of the event. After spending hours hailing taxis they arrived at their hotel only to find that the hotel’s computer system had crashed. They were eventually able to confirm their reservation for two rooms but the Peruvian man and his son, who were next to them in line, was not. The Santamarias offered one of their two rooms to the couple and made it work in their newly more confined quarters. While heading to the stadium for the game their Uber took them in the wrong directions and the Santamaria family was stranded far away from the stadium without a bus stop or taxi in sight. However, a kind Samaran woman stopped and offered to drive them all the way to the stadium for no other reason that it seemed liked the right thing to do.
“Call it luck, call it karma, call it a blessing, but whatever you call it, we were able to make the game on time entirely because of Irina’s kindness and unselfishness,” Santamaria said. “I thank God for yet another example of His wisdom and the value in loving others as you would yourself, and I think Irina for the opportunity to witness the wonder of the World Cup. We’re undoubtedly unbelievably blessed; there is incredible goodness in this world and its people.”
Maurice Frediere, a senior from Fresno, California, is double-majoring in Economics and Political Science.