SAO PAULO (AP) — Spidey Bear sat intently and quietly (as usual) on a table some 8 feet from the TV as Brazil went into a shootout and salvaged its World Cup with a win over Chile.
It has been quite an adventure for the stuffed black bear from Iowa City, who belongs to 6-year-old Graeme Thomas and his 3-year-old brother, Miles, the nephews of U.S. Soccer Federation director of communications Neil Buethe.
The bear in a Spider-Man suit and an occasional mask has accompanied Buethe with the American team before and during the World Cup. The furry friend even met actor Will Farrell this past week in Recife.
"I mentioned maybe I would take a favorite stuffed animal with me across all my travels and take pictures and send them back," Buethe said. "My sister said, 'Why don't you post them on Facebook?' So that's what we decided to do. From what I was told there was a big discussion about what stuffed animal was going to make the trip, and Spidey Bear won out. I will say I thought the stuffed animal was going to be much smaller."
Before the World Cup started, Spidey Bear traveled from Chicago to San Francisco to New York and back to Chicago, then on to Jacksonville, Florida, and Miami before heading to Sao Paulo. All that after he briefly got lost in the mail inside his cardboard box en route from Iowa City to Chicago.
He will reach 21,039 air miles with the upcoming round trip to Salvador for Tuesday's second-round game against Belgium.
Spidey Bear regularly declines interview requests by staying silent.
"We all know what Spidey says without him having to say it," Buethe said, laughing.
— By Janie McCauley — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP
FORT IN FORTALEZA
FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Ask anyone in Fortaleza for directions to the Dutch fort in the center of their city, and you'll most likely receive a blank stare.
As the Netherlands prepares to play Mexico on Sunday in northeast Brazil, residents appear entirely unaware of the small piece of history they share with the visiting European team.
The Dutch invaded this area nearly 400 years ago and built the fort that eventually gave the city its name. It was later passed to the Portuguese and today serves as a sleepy administrative building for the army, with only the outside grounds open to visitors.
Maicia Morais, a 19-year-old student hired by the city to work as a guide during the World Cup, takes a trickle of visitors around the site, many wandering over from the busy nearby central market and Catholic Cathedral.
"Yes, some Dutch visit here, but just a few. Most of the people who come here are from Uruguay or Colombia," she said.
"People here aren't very curious. Most think that the fort is Portuguese and very few know the city is named after it."
— By Derek Gatopoulos and Santiago Torrado — www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos — www.twitter.com/santorrado
ANOTHER ONE BITES
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — British police say an England fan had part of his ear bitten off by a compatriot during a World Cup match in Brazil.
Officers have been unable to find the perpetrator of the attack during the June 19 game against Uruguay in Sao Paolo.
Chief superintendent Rachel Barber, who led the British operation in Brazil, says "during the course of our pursuit of the assailant, we located and interviewed several witnesses ... but unfortunately they were unable to give us a name for the alleged attacker."
Barber says "efforts are ongoing to identify the suspect and bring him to justice either in the U.K. or, if possible, back in Brazil where the offense occurred."
The England team was eliminated at the group stage, leaving after Tuesday's match against Costa Rica.
SHHH... NO CHEERING
BERLIN (AP) — A Berlin court has upheld a woman's right to peace and quiet after 10 p.m. and ordered her neighbors to keep their doors and windows closed when they watch late Germany matches.
The court in the German capital's Neukoelln district ruled this week that there must be no "noise, particularly in the form of collective singing, bawling and loud shouting" from the neighbors or visitors on their balcony after 10 p.m. when Germany plays. A repeat offense could incur a fine of up to 250,000 euros ($340,000).
Berliners, like other Germans, are supposed at least in theory to keep the noise down between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Because of the time difference with Brazil, many of this year's World Cup matches have kicked off at 9 p.m. or later in Germany. Organizers of outdoor viewing events were allowed to apply for exemptions from the noise rules.
RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — World Cup tourists using public buses in Recife are in for the ride of their lives.
The No. 503 bus driven by Uiraquitan Batista is completely covered in Brazilian flags and yellow and green paraphernalia. It also blasts the forro music popular at the festivities going on during the month of June in Northeast Brazil.
Wearing a top hat with the Brazil flag, Batista drives around the city hopping up and down in his seat as he dances to the upbeat music he plays and welcomes passengers with an ear-to-ear smile.
Soon passengers are chanting along with the forro music and dancing together inside the bus, sometimes with Batista's colleague, bus fare collector Eduardo Martins, who wear a green and yellow wig.
Though the World Cup inspired Batista to decorate his bus in support of the Brazil national team, this 44-year-old bus driver always had a taste for festive decorations.
"It's a way of identifying yourself with the passengers and saying I'm doing what I like," said Batista, who has been a bus driver for 20 years and has been decorating his workspace for 12.
"I show it at every party: Saint John, Christmas, New Year's and Carnival," he added.
For commuters used to moody drivers and endless traffic, the atmosphere Batista created makes the ride a pleasure rather than a daily nightmare.
"This way we go to work lively," said Maria Antonia Chaves, who occasionally is lucky enough to hop onto Batista's bus.
"I love it. I love forro, and I love his good mood," she added.
Batista and Martins took an entire day to decorate the bus with flags, banners and other objects, which were paid for by their bus company. In fact, the company liked Batista's idea so much that it asked him to alternate routes every weekday from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. to benefit passengers in all parts of Recife.
"It's a therapy for passengers. It brings them happiness, joy. Everyone who gets on likes it, takes pictures, films it and shares it on social media," Martins said proudly.
— By Renata Brito — www.twitter.com/RenataBrito91
BERLIN (AP) — For Cologne's Gaffel brewery, it seemed like a good idea — incorporating the flags of the 32 nations participating in the World Cup onto the label of its Koelsch beer.
But the promotion got it into trouble with Iran, whose embassy objected to a beer bottle carrying the flag of the Muslim nation, where the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in line with Islam's teachings.
Gaffel spokesman Michael Busemann said Friday that the brewery hadn't considered it might be a problem and removed the Iran-flagged beer about three weeks ago from its production line after it received a letter from the embassy.
He says it was a simple decision: "We didn't want to offend any religious feelings."
Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP—Sports/world-cup-2014