Clifton Broumand figures his ninth World Cup is going to be the most difficult of them all: the sheer size of Brazil, the well-documented infrastructure issues, the massive expense.
“This is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s going to be a mess.”
But not messy enough to prevent the Hyattsville, Md., homeowner from continuing a streak that began in 1982 in Spain. He says he has attended 104 World Cup matches, including 22 in South Africa four years ago.
“I like to tell the joke that the only people who have been to more games are FIFA officials,” he said.
Broumand, 56, will be among thousands of U.S. citizens in Brazil for at least a portion of the four-week tournament. Aside from Brazilian residents, Americans have purchased the most tickets to the 64 games.
Broumand does not typically buy tickets in advance. He stands outside stadiums with a U.S. flag latched to a collapsible fishing pole and his index finger raised to indicate he needs one ticket. He always finds a seller, and closer to kickoff, the lower the price. In 2010, he got into the opener between South Africa and Mexico at one-third of face value and saw the Spain-Germany semifinal for $200 instead of $600.
This year Broumand burned frequent flyer miles, arranged a room in a private home in Natal for $74 per day over three weeks and reserved a Chevrolet Spark without air-conditioning to shuttle between the other northeast venues, Recife and Fortaleza. (Natal to Recife is 175 miles, to Fortaleza is 325.)
He is aiming to attend 11 matches over 18 days through the round of 16. He bought a ticket to the Ivory Coast-Japan match and, through friends, is set for United States vs. Ghana and Germany vs. Ghana. Access to others will depend on game-day purchases.
He will not step foot in the southern epicenters, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo; too much hassle. “It was either the South or Northeast, and the Northeast seemed easier,” said Broumand, who owns a Landover-based company, Man & Machine, which manufactures high-end computer hardware.
As in the previous eight tournaments, he will not attend the final. The price is high, even for an expert bargainer, and he has usually returned home by then anyway. Four years ago, he was on site for four weeks but watched the final at a Cape Town boutique hotel featuring an Airstream trailer park on the roof.
“The World Cup is a gift to myself but also an opportunity to meet people and see great places,” said Broumand, who plays for an over-45 team, Garrett Park FC, and officiates in an adult league. “Half the joy is not knowing what to expect. Some people want to plan everything. I like the adventure. My goal is to keep going until I croak.”