Wandering fans taking each game wherever it comes

CURITIBA Brazil Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:04pm EDT

Fans of Russia pose during the 2014 World Cup Group H soccer match against South Korea at the Pantanal arena in Cuiaba June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

Fans of Russia pose during the 2014 World Cup Group H soccer match against South Korea at the Pantanal arena in Cuiaba June 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Hanna

CURITIBA Brazil (Reuters) - Not every foreign football fan at the World Cup is set on following their national team around Brazil, from the depths of the Amazon rainforest to the concrete jungle of Sao Paulo and beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Some, having made the long trip, are quite happy to watch in bars or on big screens miles from the action or turn up at stadiums where completely different teams are playing.

Just being in the spiritual home of soccer during the tournament is sufficient.

"Each game is in a different city so its sometimes very hard to catch matches," Australian-based Iran supporter Farshid Hadifar told Reuters before his side played Nigeria in Curitiba on Monday.

He will watch Iran against Argentina in Belo Horizonte but not against Bosnia in Salvador.

"I'm planning to attend Spain-Chile in Rio. I will be waving the Australian flag," smiled the Kermanshah-born chicken farm manager from Adelaide. Australia are in the same Group as champions Spain.

The World Cup has always been as much about a sense of adventure, fans having a good time abroad and making new friends in unfamiliar lands as it has been about the serious sporting element.

Brazil, with vast distances between some of the venues and airports creaking with the strain of fans criss-crossing the country, offers something for everyone.

A week in Rio, taking in the sights from Corcovado Hill and mixing the sands of Copacabana with a match at the Maracana, may be more attractive than flying to remote Cuiaba or quiet Curitiba even if your team is playing there.

Guido Wigert, an inspector for the federal office of civil aviation in Zurich, was looking slightly lost last Sunday as he wandered around the Curitiba stadium with a small group of friends wearing Swiss soccer shirts.

They were looking for the official FIFA fan zone, in a park several kilometers away from the stadium, in the hope of seeing Switzerland play Ecuador in the capital Brasilia, more than 1,000km away.

"We won't see Switzerland play live. For me, that's not very important. It's the atmosphere," he said.

Wigert explained that he, like a good many foreign fans, had decided the details of their trip back in September before the finals draw took place.

"We have friends in Sao Paulo and we said we want not to fly too long distance and we rather prefer the south than the north because the distances are too long," he explained.

The draw in November also handed Switzerland games in Salvador in the north-east and steamy Manaus on the banks of the Amazon, but not in Curitiba - one of Brazil's more European cities with large Polish and Ukrainian communities.

"We will see Spain v Chile, Holland v Chile (in Sao Paulo) and South Korea v Algeria (in Porto Alegre)," said Wigert, who also followed Switzerland to South Africa for the previous World Cup in 2010.

At least he was in Curitiba by design rather than by accident.

Globo TV last week reported the tale of the Chilean fan who arrived in Curitiba ahead of Chile's opening match against Australia in Cuiaba - a difference of just a few letters but 1,700km by car.

He may have made a mistake. But then again, he may just have been enjoying the trip.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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