A security official stands guard during a FIFA World Cup match.
Fortaleza, Brazil: At first blush, it probably sounded like the best job in Brazil.
The duties require you to attend World Cup matches and stand within shouting distance of the action that has captivated tens of millions across the globe and sent Brazil into a state of nonstop celebration. Let others check the score on their phones and sneak glances at grainy webcasts; you will be present for sports history.
There is one catch, however: You are not allowed to watch the game. Not even for a minute. And, actually, hmm, the fine print here says you cannot even look at the field.
Pity the World Cup's security guards, the poor souls who are assigned to maintain order inside the throbbing stadiums by keeping their eyes firmly locked on the stands, not the soccer.
If Brazil wins its sixth World Cup next month, those guards may be the only two dozen people in the country not watching. (Forgive them if they sneak a glimpse, even if their boss will not.)
"If I catch them watching the game, I will have to remind them," said Karlo Saltoris, the security coordinator at Arena das Dunas, the stadium in Natal. "Their job is to keep the stairs and emergency exits clear."
Clad in neon orange vests, the guards stand sentry by the field, arms clasped behind their backs, eyes locked 180 degrees away from the grounds where the likes of Messi, Xavi and Neymar are capturing the world's attention.
Some of the security guards acknowledged, on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, that they managed to steal glimpses of the games from time to time. One guard was spotted with his head turned, a half-grin on his face, when the Brazilian hero Neymar scored the winning goal against Croatia last week.
"You do get to see a little bit," a security guard in Natal said before the game. "Once in a while you need to turn slightly, just in case the ball is coming on your direction."
But for Saltoris, a man with a military bearing and a permanently squawking walkie-talkie, a flying World Cup ball is no excuse for his guards to neglect their posts.
"If the ball comes their way, they are going to get hit," he said. "If they get hurt, we have paramedics who will take care of them."
Call Saltoris a stickler, but the FIFA Stadium Safety and Security Regulations handbook makes his case in plain and merciless language. The Stewards Code of Conduct, outlined on Page 31, makes no exception for "o jogo bonito," or the beautiful game. "Stewards are not employed, hired or contracted to watch the event," the handbook states. "They should concentrate on their duties and responsibilities at all times."
Mauricio Vargas, a 26-year-old volunteer who coordinates shuttle buses outside the stadium in Fortaleza, said no amount of money could make him work with his back to the field. He knows that would mean missing out on history.
"The coordinator is watching all of us, like a hunter," he said, lifting an imaginary rifle up to his eyes.
Before Tuesday's game, Vargas said he would neglect his duties if necessary, never mind the consequences.
"Today, I will tell the coordinators, 'I must watch this game,'" Vargas said. "If they say no, it doesn't matter. I'm going to watch, no matter what."
The security guards posted to the upper bleachers have it easy. From their positions, the players may look like colorful squiggles flickering across a vast, green ocean, but at least the guards can face the game. Rarely has the simple freedom to turn around been worth quite so much.
"It's a good gig because you can watch the game and be paid," said a security guard on the upper level.
© 2014 New York Times News Service