My soccer team, made up of twelve mostly 13-year olds, two coaches, and me, went to Brazil in the beginning of summer 1997. We thought after winning two big tournaments and coming in first place in our league, it was time that we should go where soccer rules.
Because it lies south of the equator, it was winter when we went. The weather was usually around 75° with a breeze. Pack a lot of shorts and t-shirts, one or two pairs of jeans, a rain jacket, and two long sleeve shirts and a sweat shirt. It can get rainy there. The Rio de Janeiro beach is nice because no one is there because it’s too cold for Brazilians but is perfect for Americans.
Soccer jerseys are a huge thing to buy in Brazil, like a Brazilian religion. You are either Vasco, Flamingo, Fluminese, or Botafogo. These are the four big professional teams in the capital, Rio de Janeiro. If you walk around town with a Vasco jersey on people will come up to you and say “Vasco’s Good!” or “Vasco sucks!” and then they will tell who they are for.
Speaking the language is important. There is a problem with learning just some words though. If you say something in Portuguese (Brazil was part of the kingdom of Portugal) to another person he/she will think that you speak the language and start talking to you very fast. You should learn Obrigada (Thank You); Bom Dia (Good morning); Boa Tarde (Good afternoon); Boa Noite (Good night); Como vai? (How are you?); Quanto? (How much?); and Eu falo Portuguese um pouco (I only speak a tiny bit of Portuguese). Try to communicate with people. They are willing, if you are.
The food was great there if you like meat. The best restaurants in Rio are the churrascarias. We went to one called PorcÃ£o de Ipanema, Rua BarÃ£o da Torre, 218. There is a big buffet with all kinds of salad and fixings. There are also prepared specialties. The highlight is all the waiters walk around with different cuts of meat which they slice off a skewer onto your plate. It’s called Rodizio, which means “rotation.” You have a chip that’s green on one side, red on the other. This tells the waiter to stop or go with what they have. Then you move on to dessert. The flan, a kind of egg custard, is good. The restaurant also concocted many different non-alcoholic drinks for us that were great. Watch out though, the parents said they were expensive.
The pizza was also really good at Caravella, Rua Domingo Ferreira at the corner of Rua Bolivar. Their pizza is white. Lots of cheese not tomato unless you ask for it. People in the restaurant were eating theirs with ketchup and mustard. You can also get normal things on it. The local soda is called Gaurana, it’s made from a seed found in the Amazon. You should drink a lot of it because it’s really healthy, gives you energy, and tastes good.
My favorite part of Brazil was definitely the beach soccer. It was so new to me to play barefoot in the sand, and you can build up sand castles to support the ball for free kicks. One night, after dinner, we were out until 1:00am playing soccer and we saw a lot of other people playing also, girls too. I was so amazed.
In Brazil, there aren’t that many other distractions. I think I have gotten to be a better soccer player. I learned that you can play with different kinds of balls, on different terrains, with different size teams. Soccer is a big part of Brazil so if you go, even if you don’t play, you should like it enough to see how it affects everything.
First published on kidtravels.com, 2002
Zach Wolf, aged 14, New York City
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