TWO Malaysians, Ameerul Affandy Aly and Muhammad Faris Muhammad Lokman were on cloud nine during the recent World Cup finals, having spent some time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The two won tickets for the once-in-a-lifetime experience through an online contest organised by YTL Communications in conjunction with the Brazilian World Cup finals, dubbed YesToRio.
The contest was run from March to June and culminated in a grand final which pit the top-30 online contestants against each otern in a series of challenges that tested their dexterity and ability to think quickly.
The young men who came out tops said their ability to remain calm and focused, strategise and think positively was what had them beat 28 other participants.
“I was browsing through Facebook when I noticed the Yes 4G contest ad. I thought, why not, let’s give this a shot and maybe I could win a trip to Brazil during the World Cup,” said Ameerul.
The 26-year-olds said they, as well as their friends and families, were both elated and surprised they won the all-expenses paid trips which were worth RM50,000 each.
“My family was really shocked and happy for me when I told them I was one of the winners of the contest,” said Ameerul.
“They thought I was joking until I showed them my air ticket. Only then did they believed me and started asking me to buy things for them in Brazil,” said Faris.
After landing in Rio de Janeiro, the duo spent time soaking up the sun on the world famous Copacabana beach, visited the Sugar Loaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, among other tourist sites.
“The Brazilians are super friendly. When I was trying to communicate with a cab driver, despite him being unable to converse in English, he was extremely patient and used hand gestures to communicate.
“In the end, we managed to get the message across,” said Ameerul.
“The people are warm and amazing. There was a local guy who was kind and helpful enough to show us the way by walking with us to the nearest money changer, which was more than 1km away.” Faris noted.
“While we were walking around the city we also saw Nicolas Bendtner (of Arsenal Football Club). He was hanging around and we managed to greet him very briefly,” they shared.
The duo also made sure they visited the Maracana Stadium where Germany played Argentina in the final, to soak up just a little bit more of that World Cup atmosphere.
“The atmosphere was just awesome. I was stunned to see how great the supporters were from both teams. There were so many fans from all over the world coming to Rio for the love of football,” Ameerul recalled.
During the finals, they spent time at the FIFA Fan Fest held on Copacabana beach where they witnessed the historic match between Germany and Argentina, which left them with an unforgettable experience.
“The ambience was at a whole new level. We were surrounded by Argentine and German fans, who were chanting non-stop,” exlaimed Ameerul.
“Unexplainable. It was easily one of the best moments of my life thus far. The fans were singing, taking photos, doing the Mexican wave – one of the greatest atmospheres ever.
“This is one memory I will definitely re-live for a long time,” added Faris.
“I supported Belgium and France, but unfortunately they were out early in the competition. With Germany winning the 2014 World Cup, it shows that the Europeans are still in control of football.
“Brazil has always been associated with football, samba music and beautiful people – and all very true. To be honest, the country exceeded my expectations. The people are so warm and nice.
“We also had the chance to play beach football with some Argentines on the Copacabana beach. That’s one item on my bucket list crossed.” he added.
“Brazil is a great country with friendly citizens. Although the country has a strong economic presence, their national development still has a long way to go.
“It makes me appreciate Malaysia a lot more, which is far more advanced as a developed country,” said Ameerul.
“It was my first time in South America and I still cannot believe I went to Rio during the World Cup,” he added.