Monday, September 30, 2013

Kids and Soccer - São Paulo

Nigeria (green) waits to take the field against Tahiti (red)

I try not to write much about my kids as this is a public space and you never know what will come back and bite them (or me) in the butt. Also the NSA doesn't need to know about them. But once in a while, they have to come in from the periphery of this blog, as they are a big part of how I see Brazil. And of course, they are half-Brazilian so they add to my cultural learnings every day.

One of my sons (they are twins but not identical) is a born sports man. He is good at just about every sport he tries, but has an special love for soccer/futebol. He plays at least 2-3 times a week year-round. The other boy is a creative, shall I say; he likes non-competitive sports but doesn't love any. We finally found a soccer place that could handle a boy who, unlike most Brazilian boys, thinks it important to look for flowers on the soccer field and do dances  while waiting for the ball (no, he doesn't run after the ball but he will kick it if it comes within range). They are six years old. 

Yesterday we had one of the sports days of four hours of games that many of you parents can identify with. The soccer boy (I shall call him Blondie) had a game at the club for Panelinhas (hmmmm, how to translate? Technically a "clique" according to my translator, but really an internal club tournament for kids. Adults play in "Panelas", not to be confused with pans, which would be the literal translation). The club has a great soccer program--though one of the smallest clubs in the city, it gives great attention to the kids' program--this year there is even a sticker album with all the players. Love it.

Sticker album

Blondie plays for Nigeria. The other three teams in his age division (5-9 years) are Tahiti, Italy and Brasil. Blondie likes to win, but I have to say that he is a really good loser. Last year, his Panelinhas team, Manchester City, lost every single game. He did not cry, not even once. That being said, he prefers to win. 

Tied 0x0

Creative does not play at the club. The club is competitive and the parents can be tough. On a Sunday afternoon, they are likely as not to have had a couple of beers and feel that it is okay to yell "steal the ball from the little guy, he can't stop you." Yesterday, one of the fathers from Nigeria started yelling at the referee for a call against our team. Folks, this is a game and these are small kids influenced by their parents. Personally I hate going to the club games for the sole reason that I hate the parents. No, that is harsh. I dislike the attitude of anyone who cheers against another person--you may cheer for your own team but you may not do it to the harm of the other team. This is not only true of Brazil, by the way, because I have seen a lot of ugliness on Little League fields in the US. 

Anyway, it was a fun game and fairly evenly matched. With the range of 5 to 9 year olds there are some kids who tower over others, but they are very respectful of the little guys. Seriously. The kids are respectful. Not the parents. But I have covered that.  Blondie played well and ended up with the "Fair Play" award for the game. He was very happy. The game ended in a tie and we had to run out to get to his game at the soccer academy. 

As I said, our club is very small but well-kept and well-off. The soccer academy is located in a rougher area and attracts a range of kids. My kids don't usually play there at the academy but rather at a rented field at a house near ours. The academy consists of one concrete-walled, chain link fenced field, a small parking lot and an upstairs bar area which is tiny and hangs over one of the goals -- you have lean out into the chain link fence to see the goals.

Blondie is playing for Bayern Munchen. He was unhappy at first because he loves Barcelona, which is Creative's team. At first I was annoyed that my boys were placed on different teams because of different schedules, but I realize that it is for the best. 
Bayern Munchen vs Real Madrid

To cut a long story slightly shorter, Bayern took the field first against Real Madrid. Real Madrid is the team of Blondie's friend and archrival who I will call Irish. Blondie can handle any loss except when he is playing goalie and Irish scores a goal on him. They are great rivals and friends. It was 0x0 for a time until a penalty was called against Real Madrid. To my surprise, my son asked to shoot the penalty kick (is it a penalty kick when there is a "barreira"? The wall of kids? Hmm, out of my league). You see, a little known fact is that my little sports man is very shy.

And in one of those moments when mommy hearts burst with joy for our little ones, he scored an unbelievable goal. A ball that lifted and soared over the defense "wall", that curved right when the goalie went left. I will never in my life forget the look on his face--joy, disbelief, and happiness all rolled into one. He ran with arms out hugging the air...the bar area celebrated with him and the calls of "golaço" (huge goal!) rang out. 

The game continued and Blondie became goalie for a time, and of course Irish's team took this moment to score a well-deserved goal. Even that could not take down Blondie. The game ended 1x1.

Then came Creative's turn as Barcelona took the field. The team came out with hands held and Creative spent the entire walk to midfield blowing kisses and waving to me. Then he did a little dance while the teams were being presented. He wiggled his butt and jumped around doing gymnastics. Blondie just covered his eyes in the spectator area. The writing was on the wall.

See the one dancing on the left. yes. That one is mine.

Creative came in when the score was already 2x0 against Barcelona. He played defense. He did not leave the box. He stood on the line. If the ball came near him he would try to kick it. He did not run from the ball. He did not run to the ball. He stood on his corner. Then he sat down and tied his shoe. They paused the game. Then he did some spins and talked to the goalie. Then he sat down and tied his other shoe.

At this point, one of the neighboring fans, the mom of one of the stars of the game (and on Barcelona), said "what in the world is that kid doing?" She was not mean. Just wondering. And I suffered that dark suffering of moms as they hurt for their kids. By the way, Creative was not suffering. He was having a good time. He loved the game. He left the field believing that he had contributed. Final score: Man City 5 x 3 Barcelona. It could have been worse but there were several excellent players, including a little girl, on Barcelona.

As we left the academy, I noticed the mom of the little Barcelona star get into a small hatchback with 10 other people. I am not kidding--it was all full up. We got into our big imported car.  On the soccer field, it is all equal, or unequal, in terms of interest and skills. But I have to say that I much prefer the fan base and mix at the soccer academy to the attitude at the club. Let's see in a couple of weeks when Nigeria, Barcelona and Bayern Munchen again take the field.

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