« July 2008 | Main

August 14, 2008

Changing Men - Coach DeVries

It is Wednesday afternoon (August 13, 2008), and I decided to bring my computer the training session at ABC FC in order to write my thoughts of the last few days as Beto takes take the guys through their routine. As I sit here I am still amazed at the love for the sport that the Brazilians have. We started our session as the ABC FC senior team was going through a post game workout. While ABC FC was practicing the must have been 20-25 people that showed up just to watch the practice. The most fascinating thing about this was the fact that they stay long after ABC FC was done to watch the young Americans from Minnesota complete their practice. My time here with the team is more then I could ever expect as a coach. I have sat back and watched every single one of these young men be changed somehow. They are all leaving this incredible country better men – I feel it is best for you to read of their transformation then me to write of them – enjoy – Coach DeVries

Some much needed relaxation - Day 9 – Scott Turnbull

Some much needed relaxation - Day 9 – Scott Turnbull

Usually practice is not a day at the beach but today it was. We spent the morning with a light training session on the beach near our hotel since we had a long and hard day yesterday. The mood was light and fun and once training was finished we enjoyed the big waves and some beach soccer with some of the locals. The Brazilians love to show their individual skills and try to one-up each other while they juggle the ball and do tricks to fake each other out. It was a great way to spend the morning after our victory yesterday but the sun took its toll on many as there were several red faces and backs by this afternoon.

It was back to work as usual in the afternoon as we returned to ABC’s training field for a spirited workout with Coach Beto. We began practice as ABC was winding down their training and there were about twenty ABC supporters that came to watch their practice but stuck around to watch us as well. It still amazes me to see the kids climbing walls and perching atop them to catch a glimpse of the teams practicing. The metal gate at the west end of the field is open to a dirt road running past and always has someone stopping to watch as they make their way down the road. One such individual stopped and watched our entire practice today. Once again proof that everything in Brazil stops when there is soccer going on


It was back to work as usual in the afternoon as we returned to ABC’s training field for a spirited workout with Coach Beto. We began practice as ABC was winding down their training and there were about twenty ABC supporters that came to watch their practice but stuck around to watch us as well. It still amazes me to see the kids climbing walls and perching atop them to catch a glimpse of the teams practicing. The metal gate at the west end of the field is open to a dirt road running past and always has someone stopping to watch as they make their way down the road. One such individual stopped and watched our entire practice today. Once again proof that everything in Brazil stops when there is soccer going on

A day filled with emotion! - Day 8 – Scott Turnbull

We started the day like any other, with a great breakfast at the hotel. We then boarded the bus for a morning filled with culture and giving. We travelled to the north side of the city to see the original fort the Portuguese built when they founded Natal in the 1500’s. It is built where the mouth of the river empties into the ocean, a very strategic point for defense of the city. The view from the fort gave a great vantage point for viewing the city skyline.


Once back on the bus we toured the old part of the city and also through the poorest part of Natal. The people have very little but make the best of their situation. The original jail was one of our stops and was also one of the more interesting. They have turned it into a gigantic souvenir shop with each cell serving as a store with countless handmade crafts and beautiful linens that are well known to come from this area.

From the former prison we took a twenty minute drive through some very poor neighborhoods to Miguel’s home town of Macaiba. We first had to make a quick stop at city hall so the mayor of the city could join us on our tour. It is a smaller city that overall is very poor. As we drove through the narrow stone streets there were people everywhere. The little shops were abuzz with activity, chickens mulled around in their cages, and a huge line of people waiting to enter a restaurant called, ironically, “Restaurant Popular?. Our final destination was an orphanage that is home to around forty children from age two to seventeen. These children are found homeless and parentless around the city, some living under bridges, and are taken in by the wonderful people at the orphanage. The orphanage consists of separate boys and girls dormitories, the main classroom/cafeteria building and a few other small buildings that house the workers who live there also. The glassless windows of the dorms provided the only light as we entered them. A few pictures and decorations gave the drab building some color but it was unable to hide the hard facts that made up the building. The concrete bunk beds were only made softer with the thin mattress that covered the hard stone. The beds were decorated with a tattered stuffed animal that I am sure are the prized possession of each child. Their clothes were pilled together in extremely neat piles on shelves as there were no dressers to be found. The clothes I am sure were shared by all of the children that were the same size. There was also a very small playground set and of course a sand soccer field. That is where most of the children spend their leisure time, visioning themselves as the next great Brazilian soccer star. Their faces were beaming with smiles as we arrived in their classroom. Some were hamming it up for cameras that pointed in their direction as the workers stood quietly and watched from the periphery of the room. We unloaded suitcases full of clothes and toys that we had brought along on our journey just for this purpose. They kids were extremely excited to receive these gifts as well as the four soccer balls that we brought along for them. In fact before we had left the complex several of the boys had already started juggling the balls and displaying their talents for us. It was a heart touching scene as the children waved to our bus with huge smiles on their faces as we pulled away. Hopefully we helped brighten their day just a little with our gifts and our smiles. I know they brightened ours.

The somber bus ride back through the streets of Macaiba and back into Natal lead to another tour and visit with more residents of Natal. Our bus pulled into a seniors home that housed 23 women and 17 men aged 60 to 102!! The residents sat outside their rooms quietly with the friendly workers interacting and caring for their needs. We met one man who told us stories about when the Americans first started coming to the area during World War II. Telling us how much he liked to spend time with them and drink beer with them. Another gentleman who was blind played and sang some samba music for us during our visit. The boys shared pictures of their families with the residents which I think they really appreciated. One gentleman actually asked to keep one of the photos and of course Jeff let him keep it.

After lunch we had some time to rest before we made our way to City Stadium for our game against the America Futbol Club’s U17 team. As our bus pulled up to the 60,000 seat concrete structure the quiet excitement felt by all was evident. We walked through the eight foot high metal gates and made our way inside the stadium. Walking down fifteen to twenty stairs under the waterless moat separating the stands from the field and then up the same fifteen to twenty stairs to field level. The perfectly groomed Bermuda grass looked like bright green carpet as the centerpiece of the huge stadium. The quick and highly skilled Brazilians provided a huge challenge for us and we rose to the occasion. With fans slowly filtering in for the later match featuring the top America FC team, we struck first, taking the lead 1-0. Feeling our confidence growing we surged forward again and scored a second time off of a corner kick. Feeling the pressure of losing in front of their home fans the AFC team turned up the intensity of their attack and managed to close our lead to one goal at 2-1. Our tough defense managed to hold off the Brazilians and we became the first American team to travel with Delima Soccer to Brazil and beat a Brazilian opponent. Quite an accomplishment for our kids and surely something none of us will soon forget.

After our game we got to stick around and take in the event that was the AFC match versus a team from Sao Paulo. The crowd of approximately 20,000 erupted as AFC emerged out of the tunnel and ran onto the pitch. Bright red road flares, matching the team’s colors were lit in the tightly packed supporters section to our right. A barrage of fireworks went off behind the home team’s goal as the fans began to sing and chant in order to urge their team on. The drums and horns began to sound before the action started and we would discover would last until we were on our way back to the hotel. The game began at a fast and feisty pace and the home team fell behind 1-0 midway through the first half. The fans were not happy but still honked horns, beat drums, sang and danced in the stands. Every call and every play brought out the passion of the Brazilian fans. They waved hands and screamed in Portuguese as the action unfolded. Inspired by the support AFC surged back for three unanswered goals, each followed by pandemonium in the stands with flares being lit and drums being pounded. When the final whistle sounded the stands erupted again as the home side had triumphed. As we exited the stadium the streets were alive with the AFC fans, honking horns, waving flags and celebrating the victory. It was truly something we could not experience in the US. It was amazing!!!

Chris Blahna

Today we visited a Brazilian orphanage. It was really nice that we were able to help them out by bringing them some toys and clothing for them to wear. The looks on their faces when they saw all the stuff we brought was amazing. There was the cutest 2 year old boy there and lots of people got the chance to hold him. I was the last of the line. When i had held him and gotten a pic with him i tried to set him down and he struggled and tried to stay in my arms. I didn't want him to cry to i passed him off to a lady that worked there much to his dismay. It was amazing how in such a short period of time of being shown love and care that he could pick up on it. It was probably one of the saddest things i have seen so far on this trip. The kids have almost nothing and we have so much back home. It really makes me thankful for what i have and the opportunities i have been given throughout my life.

Ryan Bender #4: Game at City Stadium

Today was our first preliminary game of our brazil trip. Our opponent was the America professional development team which we played at City Stadium in Natal. The stadium seats 66,000 people and is absolutely incredible.

We entered the field under some underground tunnels that emerged right next to the benches. The feeling of greatness that we all experienced was unimaginable, not only because we were walking through there but to think that some of the greatest players in the world have walked through those tunnels. Not very many people can say that they got to experience that. Our game ended 2-1 in favor of the Cougars! So on top of everything we walked into a professional stadium and beat some pretty amazing players. This is truly something that I will never forget.

The professional game after that followed our game was sweet. I have never seen so many crazy players all on the same field at the same time. Actually I take that back. I have never seen so many crazy fans in one place at one time. People were jumping and chanting and singing all at the same time trying anything that they could do to give their team any extra energy that they could to get them to win for their city. It was absolutely amazing. All in all I am just speechless at the commitment and the love for the game of soccer in this country. I wish that things were like that in America because it would change the entire meaning of the game.

Brendan Harper

Tonight we had the opportunity to play under the lights in professional stadium against America Football Club’s 17s team, we pulled off a 2-1 victory. It was a game that many of us will be able to play forward and backwards in our mind’s for many days to come as we were all taking in and cherishing every moment of this rare occasion.

After our game was finished we then stayed after to view the senior side of AFC take on Sao Paulo Football Club, it was by far the best atmosphere for a soccer match I have ever been to. The enthusiasm and passion that all of the fans showed for the game was unlike anything any of us had ever seen before. AFC was able to pull off a 3-1 victory which made the atmosphere all the more enjoyable as the home fans showed their appreciation. We had an exceptional experience of a different kind in the morning as we took a city tour of Natal and then visited the local orphanage and nursing home. It was difficult to hold back the emotions at the orphanage as we see how little all of these children have, it helped us all realize how spoiled we are back home with all of the things we take for granted. Many of the children at the orphanage have never heard a parent say “I love you? as many of them don’t even know their parents. The nursing home, for me at least, just strengthened my viewpoint that we need to appreciate the time we have now because our health of both body and mind are very fragile and can be taken from us at any time. Overall the day gave great experiences to all of us and once again the trip has given us memories and life lessons to take back with us to the United States

Greg #18

Today was a day full of emotion. From the orphanage to the game in city stadium everything seemed to have more meaning and emphasis on it. No words can describe the emotion that was in the orphanage. From the tears running down Miguel’s face to the smiles upon the children it was hard not to feel a sense of compassion and appreciation for what we have. Though we were only there for a short period of time the affect on those kids hopefully is as long lasting for them as it will be on me. It puts things in perspective seeing how those kids lived and what they have gone through in their lives.

With that in mind it was a different game that I played at city stadium tonight. The ball and the field were the same but something was different. Stepping onto that field I felt a greater sense of appreciation for being able to play the game of soccer in a stadium against a Brazilian club but just being able to play. The victory only added to how great the day was as Miguel said that we were the first team that he’s seen come into Brazil and win which came as a shock to me but still I was flattered to be a part of it. But in retrospect a win didn’t necessarily mean everything to me at that point nor did the fact I didn’t play well. I stepped off that field thinking that life was more than soccer and more than a game but rather something entirely different. Something that I guess I still have to figure out and understand.

August 10, 2008

Dear Diary, (Kevin Daly)

Today was a very exciting day at the sand dunes. We were picked up by several different dune buggies which can be best described as a souped up go-kart.

Sitting in the back was relatively uncomfortable as we fit 3 people into a space which would normally only fit 2. Driving down the streets of Natal, the drivers pushed the limits of the cars and the law as we swerved recklessly in and out of traffic. Upon arriving to the dunes, the hills were much larger than I had anticipated. We drove from location to location where we were able to get out and look at the souvenir shops or partake in the rides that were available. I did a zip line into a lake, and a large slide which also lead to a lake. At our final stop we all played beach soccer for about 45 minutes with makeshift wooden goals. Seeing how this field was set up with barbed wired around the perimeter of the area showed how truly dedicated these people are to playing this game regardless of their social ranking or quality of facilities.

The Dunes - Jeff Lind

The team woke up just in time for the 9:30 breakfast and to jump into the dune buggies.

Racing each other and weaving the traffic, the drivers made incredible time with incredible speed to reach the sand dunes just outside Natal. We were able to see a large portion of Natal very quickly. Our first stop was for a photo opp when we reached the dunes, and thus started the caking on of the sun screen. All you could see was sand, sun, a small lake, and the ocean in the background. The dune buggies made various stops during our trip to ride the zip lines, to stop and eat, and to play a little beach soccer. The best part of the trip was just riding through the sand, wiping around turns, and flying up and down the giant sand dunes. Everyone got some sun today and some people got a little to much sun. When it was time to go back to the hotel, it turned into a dune buggy race through the streets and dirt roads of Natal. All the drivers were fighting for position choosing there own way to get back cutting everyone else off. That was the most aggressive driving I have ever seen, and it was pretty intense sitting in the back seat.

Mattson

Brazil is a beautiful country. The people are carefree and even though they don’t have money they make due with what they have. People in America might think that just because they don’t have nice cars and clean houses they would want to be more like us in the first world, they don’t need the material distractions of our culture that have numbed our souls, Brazilian ginga is all they need.

Amber O'Connor

The boys played futsal today! I thought they played really well together as a team, and their attack improved a lot! We all will be able to take home new attacks and formations that most Americans have never played against, which will make us even stronger.


By watching the men, I've learned a ton about the game. The way they play here in Brazil is so different, but I'm figuring out a way to translate their style into my game back home. The biggest thing for me is composure, which comes easy for Brazilians because they play pretty much all the time while they're awake. I couldn't walk 50 meters on the beach today without running into a soccer game or juggling circle. Every day I'm finding out more and more that soccer isn't just a game, it's a way of life for these people. At the malls, all they advertise and sell is soccer gear, no other sports balls, logos, or symbols can be found.

It's so cool that even though we're stoked to play Brazilian soccer, they're even more excited to get the opportunity to play against Americans.
I get a lot of stares when I'm juggling or training, because it isn't really quite accepted for women to be athletes. I think it just helps them understand our culture more, and maybe will even open their eyes to the possibility of women being as active in sports as they are back home.

I love the fact that in Brazil, soccer is a way of life, because that's how I was raised to play and love the game. Greg Wheaton came today and he'll be spending 5 days with us! He was one of the men responsible for turning me into the player I am today. He gave me a passion for the beautiful game that's hard to find in America, and I know that him being here with us will help that passion to grow.

What soccer means to Brazil - Detti

Soccer is everything to this country. In America most college athletes, after graduation, go on to pursue a career in something other than sports. In Brazil, the ultimate goal is to play professional soccer in Europe. That is not only most everyone’s dream but for some it is also their way out of poverty.


We have already played against guys twice our age and not only that, they came out in top. We played against a guy today who was around 40 and is currently playing in his sixth year as a professional futsal player in Europe. We also played beach soccer against guys that were also at least 40 who worked at a fish factory and only scored one goal on them. We learned today that the players of the ABC football club that is hosting us get bus fare to the training field and get bus fare home but they have two practices a day so between practices they have to sit around and watch the other teams practice. All because they are pursuing the ultimate goal.
We also learned that some professional soccer players here in Brazil earn 8000 dollars a month to play soccer. To us that is great but to them it’s still not good enough.

Waking up with the Surf - Day 5 – Scott Turnbull

For the second time on this trip I was awoken by someone banging on my door.

Fortunately this morning it was Coach DeVries and his daughter Mikeala picking me up to join them for an early morning dip in the ocean. So after quickly changing into my swim shorts and putting on my flip flops we made the short walk downhill to the beach. The day was perfect with the bright shinning sun and a cool southeast breeze off of the ocean. Standing in the surf is a very relaxing way to wake up and soak in a little sun all at once. The gentle pounding of the waves beat any whirlpool. Afterwards we headed back up the hill to the hotel for another great meal at Laina’s. I can’t say enough about how great the food has been here, we are truly lucky to have such a great cook and good service!

Boarding a bus in late morning we headed to the FaceX Athletic Complex to play Futsol against a Brazilian team. We split our squad into two and each played a forty minute game against some very skilled Brazilians, including three professional players who make their trade in Europe. Two of these players also earned Gold Medals in Futsol at the World University Games. So needless to say our boys had their hands full all game long. It was a great experience to play against such skilled players who make their living playing this technically challenging game. I am sure it will be one of the most memorable soccer highlights for many of our players, as is the rest of this trip! No need to mention scores but we lost both games by less than ten goals. In this high scoring sport that’s pretty good.

After lunch we gave the boys the rest of the day to relax and enjoy the weather at the beach. After days of rain and a very quiet beach, it came to life with a sea of umbrellas lining the shore and a sea of vendors lining the boardwalk. The vendors were selling almost anything. You could find sunglasses, hammocks, snake-skin belts, paintings, bikinis, t-shirts and a huge variety of soccer jerseys. Not to mention the endless amount of food that vendors that pushed up and down the beach in their carts, offering their treats to all beachgoers. As much as the Brazilian people like to relax on the beach, they also love to play there as well. There were several games of paddleball and beach soccer games going on as we passed by. They makeshift metal goals stuck into the sand were the only markings on the field with only the water as a sideline. A primitive “weight room? was also found on the beach with a chin up bar and dip bench made of wooden boards and the plywood weight bench holding a bar with two concrete disks on either end of the bar. You would think it was only there for show until you saw two guys working out with the equipment. The beach was alive with the sights and sounds of Brazil and I was soaking in all of it!!

Later in the afternoon Miguel invited Beto, Coach DeVries, Richard Veth and myself to watch the ABC U20 team play in game one of their League Championship. They played the other Natal professional club, America FC. The large stadium was quite empty but the passionate ABC faithful that were there were not afraid to show their allegiances. Every time America’s number ten touched the ball he was pelted with insults and was referred to as “Dancer? for his lack of productivity with the ball and unwillingness to pass. “Dancer? did however get a little revenge as he scored the lone goal for America to tie the game early in the second half. He celebrated enthusiastically and pounded his chest to the home side fans that were, luckily for him, separated from him by both the riot police and a twenty foot high chain link fence. He then pointed to the number on the back of his jersey as if the entire fan base did not realize it was he that had just found the goal. Let’s just say this did not win over any of the fans. In fact a few of the words they started calling him after that cannot be repeated in this blog and I didn’t really need a translator to recognize them. That goal didn’t help his team either as ABC found the back of the net for three more beautiful goals and won the match 4-1. They play the return match the day we leave and ABC can claim the title with a win or a tie. The passion of the fans was incredible with some almost in tears as they stood and cheered, thrusting their fists in the air with pride. I can not wait until we see the top ABC club in action with the stadium full of supporters all displaying the same emotion at once. I am sure it will send chills up my spine.

Tomorrow is another great day as we hop in dune buggies to visit the largest sand dunes in Brazil. It is a day long trip and is sure to be quite the ride! Until tomorrow, chow!!

Tody Glaser

We have now been in Brazil for three amazing days and my outlook on how soccer impacts this society is way bigger than I would have thought.

Just seeing how everyone loves the game and plays is just beyond me. Even when we were just running practice drills, there would be construction workers and other random people would just stop what they were doing and watch. We also have played some beach soccer with some of the locals and the thrill of playing against "The Americans" was very evident on their expressions. I absolutely envy the love for the game that this country has. A love of the game that lacks in the United States. I have also seen the quality and creativity of their style of play here in Brazil first hand. And all I have to say is "WOW". There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best country to experience soccer. No wonder they've won five World Cups. I'm very optimistic about the next few days here and I am hoping to play some more pickup games against the local talent.

David Reich

Four days in Brazil, and all have been fun. What you have heard about Brazil, that soccer is life, is absolutely true.

Here, where two or three come together, soccer is played. And another five are watching. Our second day here, we played against the ABC FC U17s. The field we were on is surrounded by high rises, some of them under construction. If you would look up (while on the bench of course) you could usually see two or three construction workers on break watching the game out of a window. I'm assuming they were on break, but in Brazil the foreman might make an exception for a game. Yesterday we went to a beach towards the edge of town. Besides getting to see the world's largest cashew tree on the drive there, we played on the beach. Occasionally, someone would walk by and just stop and watch. Then a couple of fishermen who lived there (this was not a tourist beach) brought out a couple of mini goals and joined in the fun. Since we had split into three teams, the third team would play the locals until we rotated. The fishermen were similar to us, playing just to play. I noticed that this afternoon also. While walking the beach trying to catch a tan/burn, the group I was with saw three little games with makeshift goals going on, and we saw nowhere near the entire beach. Another proof that soccer consumes the nation is that while we were playing futsal (the indoorversion) this morning against a local team, the local channel shot footage and interviewed coach for their news. Down here, a small American university team visits to play the game, it gets noticed. If this were WCCO, the reaction would probably be "Where is Morris?" The fact that we are Americans seems to enhance that. Everyone has been really friendly. They, and us, realize that even though we don't speak the same language, we still understand each other. We all know the beautiful game.

Diggy - Brent Diggs #19

Brazil is a crazy place! A lot different then anywhere I’ve ever been.

Well, I guess I haven’t been many places around the world, but this is definitely an experience. It is somewhat what I expected in ways, and in other ways a little different. The people here seem to understand what we as Americans are saying even though we don’t speak the same language. I have talked to a few Brazilians and we are both speaking different languages, but still there is somewhat of an understanding there. I know there are some rough parts of the country, but Natal seems to be pretty tame compared to some of the stories that I have heard. The people are very nice in this city. Yesterday we played beach soccer with some of the locals and they were very polite and took pictures with us. After we were done they gave us the thumbs up and seemed very excited to just have had the experience to play “futbol,? with the Americans. Futbol is the top sport here and it shows everywhere because it is the only sport advertised anywhere. They live and die by the sport. They are very good at it and it is obviously the most skilled nation in the world in the sport. I’m very excited to play in the preliminary games against the pro teams. They will probably dominate us, but I can’t wait. I have only been here for a few days now and I feel like I have experienced a lot, but yet I still have so much more to experience.

Matt Johnson

Soccer in Brazil is bigger than I could have ever imaged.

Today we played futsal against a local team. They were very good. All the players were very quick and skillful. Soccer is everywhere and soccer is on everyone’s mind. The commercials, television, and advertisements are always about soccer. Soccer has a huge affect on the Brazilian culture. In the mall all stores sell soccer jerseys and soccer balls. No other sport is advertised here. In America baseball, basketball, and football are all part of the culture. Here in Brazil soccer is the only sport that the people really care about. Today as I walked along the beach we had about 5 groups of people ask if we would like to play soccer with them. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming. We pulled out a soccer ball and right away 10 or 15 people came and wanted to play. This trip has really showed me how important soccer is to the people of Brazil.

Chris Blahna

So far it has been a great experience so far. Everywhere we go we are seeing how much the people of Brazil love soccer. Whether it is construction guys watching our games through windows instead of working or people stopping on the beach and asking if they can join in our games.

Every where we go we see advertisements for soccer or tagging on buildings of famous players names. Half of the people have on jerseys of teams and almost every store we enter has almost exclusively soccer jerseys. When i have talked with people when I say that i am here to play soccer they instantly open up and want to know more about our trip and want to know where we are playing so they can come watch us. I wish that people loved the game this much back in the United States but after seeing how much everyone here love soccer I don't think it will ever happen in the Unites States. But it is really nice to see a people have one common passion instead of all being divided amongst several sports.

Harper - 22

My first two entries of my journal - Soccer in Brazil

Journal 1

It is a strange feeling to actually be in Brazil now; I remember 9 months ago when preparations were being made and it felt like the trip would never come. The time has flown by and I find myself on foreign soil and as far from home as I have ever been. To this point my experience has been over 30 hours of travel time, loss of sleep and jet leg. However, it has already been worth all the above. My expectations for what this so called “beauty of Brazil? would really be like were met and then exceeded upon arrival at our hotel. Natal offers a different type of tourism then say the Bahamian or Mexican attractions because it has yet to be “Americanized? in order to attract more business. The Brazilians have kept Natal as a city that represents solely their culture, which I feel will only make this experience that much more beneficial for all of us. I am looking forward to the practices and games we will have over the next 2 weeks, they will bring about different and new challenges for all of us individually and as a team. These new and demanding challenges will most definitely bring us closer together as a team, strengthen our individual game and make us one tough team to compete with when we return back to the United States.

Journal 2

You can read all the books and articles you want about how soccer has in-gulped the culture of Brazil but they all fail to do that fact true justice. The passion this country shows for their beloved game is unexplainable in words, it is an experience that can only be explained through seeing and feeling it for one’s self. Although I am greatly looking forward to playing in the professional stadiums, I don’t think either of those games will be able to top the occurrence on the beach of the fishing village in Natal. We took a bus out to a small fishing village to play some inner-squad beach soccer scrimmages. After about 30 minutes we found ourselves inner mixing and playing with local Brazilians. It was quite the surreal experience, it will be something that all of us will carry with us for quite some time. The intensity and passion that these men showed for a simple game of beach soccer showed some insight to all of us just how much this game means to everyone in this country. They gave everything they had for the complete time they played with us, they basically played like it was a World Cup final because each game really does mean that much. Playing with 2 old, worn down nets and just an open patch of sand we all saw something that we may never see again. They showed us soccer in its purest form, an unfaltering love and appreciation for a simple game, it was truly a wonderful sight. All of the passion we are seeing for the first time here is something that books, articles and television fall very short of showing the world.

Jeff Lind

After playing soccer in Brazil for three days, I have started to see a little bit of what Brazilian soccer is all about.

They play soccer fast. They run, dribble, and pass fast. There style is to move the ball quickly in order to find an opening to the goal. If one opening closes they move the ball around to find a new one keeping position of the ball. The Brazilian style of playing soccer is also about having fun playing a game they all love. When we played the abc soccer club, all the other teams from the club were there to watch and also practice. Kids cheered from a nearby parking ramp and construction workers stopped to watch. Soccer is the only sport in Brazil, everything else is a game. When you go to the mall soccer stores replace sports stores. Because soccer is the only sport, then soccer is the only way for some kids to find a way out of poverty. The children in Brazil play soccer for fun, but also with a purpose.

August 8, 2008

Day 4 – Scott Turnbull

At last the rain has stopped in Natal! Miguel told us this morning that although he has no control he wished the sun would come out for our visit and said that he was praying for it. This afternoon his prayers were answered! We awoke to overcast skies and a slight drizzle accompanied the beginning of our morning training session at ABC’s training facility.

Coach Beto once again put the guys through their paces while many interested onlookers scaled walls and peered though the fence surrounding the complex. There is something about Futbol that draws everyone’s interest here. It is truly fascinating.

After practice we had another fantastic meal at Laina’s Place (our hotel) and we boarded the bus to head to train on the beach at a fishing village to the south of Natal. The village was one of the more poor areas around here with very modest homes, fields of cattle intermixed with the houses and the odd empty lot with a makeshift set of soccer goals at either end. It seems every open space is a soccer field, no matter how beaten up the ground may be. Once at the beach we saw many things that I am sure none of us had seen before. There were two stray horses that seemed to have no interest in anything but grazing on the few blades of grass near the beach, their owners must have been around somewhere but were never seen by us. Of course at the fishing village we saw fishermen in all kinds of boats. Some with no boats at all that just wadded out in the water with their net strung between two of them trying to snag fish. Our training on the beach was well under way with our team split into three groups, two playing and one waiting to play the winner. After a few rotations through, a group of locals asked to play the odd team out. It was a great experience for our guys and I think the locals enjoyed showing off their skills also! I know Coach DeVries did as he lived out a dream playing with the Brazilians on the beach against our guys.

On the way back from the beach we stopped by the largest cashew tree in the world that filled an entire block of the street, it was quite a sight. After a quick dip in the ocean at the beach near our hotel we once again enjoyed some home-made pizza at Laina’s. We were treated to some new dishes including a pineapple pizza that several people have never before tried and a delicious banana cinnamon pizza that was absolutely amazing. It is now my new favorite kind of pizza. I will have to figure out a way to make it when I return.

This evening we ventured off on a city bus to a mall a ways from our hotel. Due to the price of gas here (R$2.70/L or $1.71/L or $6.80/Gal) most people choose to ride the bus. So needless to say the buses are packed, especially when the mall was closing and we were trying to hop on board. It was a good experience to intermingle with the local people and experience how they get around the city.

Tomorrow should be another great day as we play futsol (a game similar to indoor soccer) against a local team. It’s supposed to be sunny all day, kind of ironic when we are playing indoors but it will be nice all the same!!

August 7, 2008

Day 3 - Soccer in the Shower - Scott Turnbull

My second day in paradise started with a kick to the door of our room as Tyler and I were late for the loading time on the bus. It seems our host decided to let the team sleep and cancelled our wake-up calls. So we were slightly. Luckily the bus was late and it turned out ok for us. Tomorrow will be better for sure!

Once on the bus we travelled to ABC Futbol Club’s stadium for a morning practice session on their training field. The concrete stadium was silent and empty but still had an energy within it that was amazing. The top ABC team was training immediately prior to our team taking the field to train with Beto. Coach Beto worked the guys hard throughout the session mainly concentrating on individual ball skills and counting to ten in Portuguese. Both skills showed improvement by the end of the session. There was a light rain coming from the overcast skies through the session but once again it was pleasant and not uncomfortable at any time.

Once practice had finished we returned to the hotel for lunch and a short rest before boarding the bus to head to the ABC youth team training facility to play our first match of the trip. The rain poured down as we stepped off the bus to play ABC’s Under 17 team. A tremendously skilled group of kids that definitely displayed a high level of skill and pace. The atmosphere at the facility was incredible, players from all of the ABC youth teams were training around us, watching the game and delving out comments that we could not understand. A high rise apartment under construction next to the field gave a great view to several construction workers who watched the majority of the game from various windowless openings in the structure. Another apartment building’s parking garage had kids yelling and honking horns as the game went on. It was definitely the most interesting atmosphere I have ever been a part of during a soccer game. Oh and did I mention that the rain did not stop during the entire game. At some points it was more powerful than any shower I have ever set foot in. The sandy soil luckily soaked in all the moisture and the vast amounts of rain didn’t affect the surface. Everyone watching and playing was completely soaked by the end of the match except the construction workers. The final score of the match was 4-1 but was a good first effort for a slightly nervous group of UMM players.

After another great meal at the hotel we headed to an open air mall for some souvenir shopping. As many trinkets as you could imagine and everything Brazilian was available. Our tired group finally arrived back at the hotel and will sleep well. However we are setting an alarm tonight….we don’t want to miss breakfast again!

Starting the Experience - Coach DeVries

The experience of Brazilian Soccer started today. Natal is considered the "Sun City" for Brazil; unfortunately for the guys they have not seen the sun yet. For a day and half we have had rain, mixed in with some rain, followed by more rain. The nice thing about the rain in Natal is there is no thunder or lightning and the it fairly warm, thus we can practice.

Despite all the rain we had our first training session today followed by our first game in the afternoon. The training session was an introduction to many of the ball skills that are used by Brazilian players. Most of the guys have seen these exercises in our own training sessions back in Morris but the presentation was different and effective.

Our first game of the tour was against a mix of players in the ABC FC developmental program. Every player got a chance to be on the field today and it gave Coach Turnbull and I a chance to evaluate the players and found out what positions they will best be suited for at UMM this fall. We played a close first half conceding one goal in the 35th minute and we have a few quality shots on goal. The second half our tired legs began to effect us and we let in 3 more goals but were able to put one away in the final minute. Despite the 4-1 loss I was happy with the effort I saw.

My observations off the field the field are note worthy. First, as we were playing our game just about every player in the youth program came out in the rain to watch the game, it was a pleasant surprise to see the interest in a friendly competition. Secondly, there was a new high rise apartment complete being built right next to the field. Ever time you looked up you saw different groups of construction workers peering out of their work places and watching the game below. Finally after the game we had t-shirts to exchange with our competitors. Once we brought the shirts out I think every player, whether he played in the game or not, wanted a shirt. There must have been 30 guys asking for a shirt. Many of the players also gained a better appreciation for the things they have; at least 5 UMM players commented to me about how their competitors wanted to exchange shoes (or be given free shoes), GK gloves, travel tops and game uniforms. I was later informed on Alina, (one of our hostesses) that the Brazilian players want anything from America and especially anything that has the US Flag.

Even with all the rain it was was a great day to be playing soccer. I will post more entries from the players tomorrow evening.

Coach DeVries

FINAL NOTE: We just found out that we will be playing a second preliminary game against the other professional club in Natal, America FC. That game will be played on Saturday afternoon.

August 6, 2008

We have arrived in paradise! Coach Turnbull

It felt like Christmas Eve Monday night as I tried to squeeze in a few hours sleep prior to our early morning bus ride to the airport.

Four lengthy flights and 34 hours later we arrived in Natal and we greeted by our enthusiastic host Miguel. A former professional goalkeeper and college coach, Miguel now facilitates trips such as these for American clubs and other teams. I personally hope to learn from his knowledge of the game and the goalkeeping position to help advance my abilities as a coach. I know he will be eager to help me also.

The ten minute bus ride from the airport to our hotel seemed like thirty seconds due to the length of the rest of our trip. The city of 700,000 is filled with small European cars jammed throughout the streets, with particularly impatient drivers behind the wheel. As we unloaded the bus at our hotel I discovered my personal paradise. Although the skies were overcast and the mist was gently falling, the air temperature made the mist a blessing. The hotel’s open air lobby leads to an outdoor pool area where we will eat all of our meals during the trip. The pool also happens to overlook the ocean and a beautiful stretch of beach that ends with Ponta Negra or “Bald Man’s Hill?, a steep sand dune with the finest sand I have ever set foot on. The view from my second floor room’s balcony is breathtaking, overlooking all of the above. I can’t imagine a more glorious sight to wake up to every morning. The next two weeks should be amazing.

The rest of our day consisted of a twenty minute run the on beach as directed by our guest coach Betto from Sao Paulo. I joined the run to try and make my legs not feel like they had been on stagnant for as long as they had. Let’s just say I survived it, and after some down time lounging in the ocean surf I can honestly say I feel fantastic, despite the taste of salt water still lingering in my mouth.

Tomorrow should be exciting as we face our first competition in the form of ABC’s U17 team. Now it’s off to bed to try and catch up on some of the sleep lost due to the travel. Tomorrow is another day in Paradise!!

"Ombragado Mosa" - Kevin Daly

The last couple of days have been a combination of new emotions and experiences. After a night of very little sleep, our physical journey to Brazil began as we departed our beloved Morris for the MSP airport.

The flights were long, but the layovers were agonizing. For the first time in my life I was able to experience something that I seen many times before in movies and documentaries: A team of athletes traveling together through the sleepless nights and never-ending days to do that which they love and had brought them together in the first place. This truly hit me before leaving Miami for Sao Paulo. Looking around the terminal and seeing people all doing their own thing, yet maintaining a sense of comradery. Some chose to catch up on sleep sprawled across the floor, others sat quietly listening to their ipod’s, and others were playing cards in a circle. In the movies, you always see the individuals and the team overcome the obstacles set before them to succeed. I became concerned that I had not done all that I was able to in order to gain the most from this trip. Whether my personal performance contributed to a win, or was the reason for a loss, I doubted if I was going to benefit as much as I could have had I prepared differently. After boarding the plane, this thought was pushed to the back of my mind when I found my seat and had my first experience with Brazilian culture as I sat next to a 7-year old named Lucas who was traveling to Brasilia to visit his grandparents. He was able to teach me to say ‘Thank-you ma’am’ (Ombragado Mosa) in Portuguese so that I was able to thank the stewardess’ when she brought around scrumptious servings of chicken, breakfast sandwiches, and orange juice. This flight was the worst as it was the longest we took, but was also a night flight. I had a hard time falling asleep, and found my thoughts wandering to a variety of things ranging from the Brazilian women, to whether or not I should sleep or go to the beach when we arrive in Natal. Through the difficult times navigating through the Sao Paulo airport, we were finally on our way to Natal. Actually, not really, we stopped at some other place first which as a teaser, showed me how much I was really anticipating the good time I was going to have. When we finally got to Natal, we went onto the beach to go for a run. As we passed the Brazilians, some were yelling support to us, whereas others criticized our speed, and probably some other things I couldn’t understand but were less than friendly. We concluded our beach trip with some swimming in the ocean and frolicking in the salty waves before heading to dinner and our first meeting with Miguel.

Kevin Daly

Here at Last - "Jonesy"

Today after what seemed like an indefinite flight, we finally arrived at our destination, Natal Brazil. We left the airport happy just to be off the airplane and took a bus to our hotel. Here we met Miguel Delima and the rest of the Delima soccer staff. Expecting to simply carry our luggage to our rooms and crash, we were a bit surprised when Miguel told us to meet on the beach in shorts.

At the beach, we found out that we were expected to go for a twenty minute run/jog, which was the last thing any of us wanted to do. About halfway through our run most of us realized that the run wasn’t so bad. I actually enjoyed getting out and moving my legs a bit. After our run we had some free time which all of us used swimming in the ocean.

Overall this first day was pretty good despite the long flight. I am very excited to spend the next two weeks in this interesting and amazing country.

Jones

First Inpressions - Donnie Hicks

It only took about 30 seconds off the plane to realize we were in another country: the long line to cross through customs had a abundance of large televisions playing something you don’t see all too often on American televisions: soccer.

The evidence continued to accrue on the ride to the hotel in the form of billboards people of all ages wearing jerseys, and the hotel’s ‘Pièce de résistance: a poster signed by Pelé. All it took was a 5000 mile traverse of the US, the Atlantic Ocean, and part of South America.

The ocean is amazing, just warm enough to make me ignore the burning that the saltiness causes in my eyes and nose. Oh, and did I mention that the ocean is a five minute walk from the hotel? We went for a 20 minute jog down the beach and were nearly constantly cheered/jeered at by beachgoers. I’m taking that as a good sign rather than assuming they were mocking us.

Nothing much more to write about tonight, as not much has happened. Just want to emphasize how glad I am to be here with the team.

Donnie

Culture Shock Brazil - Tyler Simpson

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I have flown on many airplanes since I was little and have never once thought I would get sick of them. Today however, I think it's safe to say that I got sick of airplanes. You know its been a long trip when you can't even remember the day of the week or when you last slept in a bed. When we got to Brazil customs took longer than I expected and I was in for a major culture shock. The airport in Sao Paulo was totally different than any in the United States. Instead of the organized lines, and signs pointing every which way, people were sparatically walking and traffic was very unorganized and hectic. I did like however how the luggage carts were free, instead of the $3.00 that most airports in the United States charge.

Once we finally were done in the airport, we loaded the bus and started towards our hotel by the beach. The bus ride was very refreshing as we were able to look out the windows and get our first glimpse of the Brazilian culture. The culture here is so different compared to that in the United States; everything here is so much more simple compared to the complex technology we are used to at home. The beach was amazing and even though the weather wasn't the best and we had sat on an airplane for close to 36 hours it was still refreshing to go for a run along the beach. I am very blessed to have this opportunity and can't wait for tomorrow!!!

Tyler