It is 6:30 p.m. local time at Msherieb metro station in Doha.
What is normally a steady trickle of locals returning from work is now a stream of yellow that seems to float down the escalator. Yellow, green and blue flags, painted faces, absurd hats, the color is something to behold.
Then the noise hits you. Aided by the acoustics of the metro station, you feel like a fly on the wall of a crowded Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The incredibly catchy songs and chants become earworms you’ll be humming for days to come – even if you have no idea what’s being sung and what it means. Locals watch this carnival experience in awe.
It’s Brazil on a match day.
There are still three and a half hours before the start of their group final against Cameroon and only eight metro stations to travel the red line. But Le Selecao fans are ready. The party has started.
“It’s normal,” shouted Brazilian fan Geraldo as the crowd waited for the subway. “We are never silent. We go to football because we love it, but we love everything, not just the game. We want to party.”
You can feel the anticipation on the crowded cars. No quiet conversation because, packed like sardines, the Brazilians continue the show. It doesn’t take long before Neymar’s name is chanted long and loud.
Nobody cares though. The few Cameroonian fans are all smiles as they dance and cheer. For now, the football to come is forgotten as everyone is swept away by the cacophony of noise and the sheer shine of canary yellow.
Rewind 48 hours and it’s like an action replay for their South American rivals. Only then was it an Argentine blue and white ocean. Number 10 shirts with Messi and Maradona on almost every back. Different colors but the same noise.
Messi & co were in scintillating form against Poland, but it was the fans who were lucky enough to be at Stadium 974 who spoke.
It was Brazil’s turn again.
As you approach the stadium, it looks like a Brazil home game. Everywhere you look screams Brazil. Cameroonian fans are trying to make themselves heard, but it will always be difficult.
How many Brazilian supporters have actually made the trip to Qatar? “50,000” a particularly vocal supporter tells me before dancing, blowing on his yellow and green horn. It’s actually a little under that number – although official figures have proven impossible to find – but it doesn’t seem that big.
Since arriving in Qatar 14 days ago, Argentina and Brazil shirts have dominated the streets of Doha.
“Of course,” said Brazilian fan Dulce, who has lived in Doha with her husband and two children for five years.
“We have Brazilians living in Doha, as well as Argentina. We also see almost everyone wearing Brazil and Argentina shirts. All the children, all the adults. These are the teams that they want to see since they got the World Cup.
“I’m told that there are also around 30,000 Brazilian fans from South America and 38,000 from Argentina. It’s usual.
“It doesn’t matter how many people here are from Brazil anyway because it’s Selecao fever. You see it in every game we play, everyone wants to wear our yellow shirts and be Brazilian for the night.”
The game itself? Even Brazil couldn’t completely fill the 88,000 capacity Lusail Stadium, but they gave it a shot.
From the moment they unfurled a ‘Get Well soon Pele’ flag at kick-off to the roars every time their heavily modified team attacked, the Brazilian fans were in the mood to be entertained.
They ended up slightly disappointed – despite a number of chances – but even a late 1-0 defeat did not dampen their spirits as they moved top of Group G and a valiant Cameroon emerged .
As seemingly endless lines and lines of yellow snaked their way toward the subway station, they knew bigger nights were coming.
Indeed, in another vocal and manic comeback, the distant prospect of an Argentina vs. Brazil semi-final becomes quite a tantalizing prospect to debate.
Lots of games to win until then, but the next time someone says ‘it’s like watching Brazil’, I can tell them that really it’s not much.