Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Soccer Nation - São Paulo

Concrete soccer court at CEU Butantã (community center)

Everyone knows that Brazil is the country of football (soccer). Well, most people know--I admit that until I turned about 15,  I believed that Pele actually was American (well, he DID play for the New York Cosmos, my home team). But you really have no concept of what "soccer nation" means until you live here.

Here is what it means. People (mostly men and boys) play soccer here all the time. Any where. On the streets, on concrete courts at the pocket park, at the club, at academies, at rented fields, at hotel fields, on the beach. EVERYWHERE! My son is the perfect example of this. Though only seven, he plays at both the club and the soccer academy, as well as every spare moment at school, and every other spare moment at the nearby park. He kicks a ball against our house wall for an hour every afternoon if he does not find someone to play with him.

And he is not alone. On Saturday, he had the club championship--a hard-fought game that had him sitting only five minutes of the two 20-minute halves. After the game, he showered and then we went off to my other son's dance performance. While waiting for the doors to open, he and my husband disappeared. I finally found them across the community center on a concrete court playing soccer against three "moleques" (pre-teens), one with no shoes. The mom was the goalie of their team. The court was littered with graffiti, without nets for the goals, but my son played as hard as he did at the club. There was no quarter given for him being years younger than the others. It reminded me of the basketball courts that you see on the Upper (way upper) West Side in NYC. Down and dirty sports. My son entered the theatre seating completely soaked in sweat. 

I have to admit to looking forward now to the World Cup next year. Yes, I was against it so this may be hypocritical but there you have it. I think it's wonderful that the country that lives soccer gets to really live it and celebrate it for a month next year.  I wish that more infrastructure projects had actually come to life with the big useless stadiums but it didn't happen. But I can tell you that this place will fairly burst with pride (and boys kicking balls against walls) next June.

PS, after posting this early this morning, I happened to run across this Nike ad posted two days ago...weird coincidence...


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