Soccer….Family Style


Pregaming for Netherlands vs Argentina – Family Style
July 9, 2014, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My kids have been pretty low key after chasing around Brazil for three weeks. The three of us haven’t aspired to much other than unpacking, catching up with laundry and friends, and of course, watching soccer. My son, having found fame via his goal celebration, has been telling me he wants to become a YouTuber and make videos for the internet (yes, he’s still six). Well son, consider the gauntlet thrown. My friend, Elizabeth Vantre, posted this trailer for today’s semifinal that’s pretty freaking awesome. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10204110052052439



Brutal Loss and Soul Searching
July 8, 2014, 11:59 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer

I’m a well established fan of the German national team, and yes, I enjoyed the game today. I’m happy for my second team and can’t wait to watch them in the final. But tonight made me think about all the friends we made in Brazil. As a US Soccer fan, I can certainly empathize with brutal, heartbreaking losses.

I was chatting with my friend and Portuguese teacher Thiago tonight, as he suffered in Sergipe, Brazil. I remembered for him the times the United States came in dead last in the World Cup (1998) or the time we lost brutally to Mexico in the Gold Cup (2009). But then I pointed out that if the US were to win every World Cup from here on out, it wouldn’t be until 2038 that we surpassed the number of championship stars on the Brazilian jersey. My daughter would be 35. I would be almost eligible for retirement. It’s brutal for Brazil to go out like this, but as I told him, it’s tough to feel sorry for too long for a country with that kind of history.

I’ve been struggling with what to say about our travels in Brazil, because I do not want to sound ungrateful or imply we didn’t have fun. It was a wonderful trip and I got to know my children deeper than I ever imagined as I watched them embrace a foreign culture wholeheartedly. I loved cheering on my country and felt lucky to see Brazil from the air and from the road.

But Brazil disappointed me in a way I’ve never experienced at the World Cup. I’ve been looking forward to coming to Brazil for as long as I can remember. On page 26 of my book, Passionate Soccer Love, I wrote about watching Brazilians climb to Sacre Coure in Paris in 1998 celebration of their team. I came to Brazil for that…the fervent passion of a nation of people raised on the beautiful game. But that wasn’t there. Brazilians weren’t obsessed with soccer. They were not glued to every game. In fact, it was often difficult to find a place to watch the games, something that had never been a challenge in previous World Cups. We drew the conclusion that Brazilians were perhaps only in love with Brazilian soccer, and even that, they were not so sure about this year. They wanted to win but couldn’t seem to find that sparkling joy they had in Paris sixteen years ago.

I can understand why. I thought I understood the Brazilian protests from here in the States. We all know FIFA is corrupt, we all know governments don’t always support the neediest. Traveling to Brazil, I was forced to reconcile the abject poverty of pothole-wrecked cobblestone streets juxtaposed with freshly poured concrete reaching out just two or three km from sparkling new airports…fresh pavement that never reached city center. I went to games in a stadium that has no corporate caretaker to manage its $250,000 annual operating cost after the World Cup leaves, and then fell, injured in the streets of Manaus because even basic infrastructure was neglected. I was terrified my kids would get hurt and need medical attention because the hospitals I saw were decrepit and frightening. I have traveled all over the world for soccer, but I’ve never been more grateful for my American life as I was in Brazil.

Brazil must now search its soul as a nation, as we all must come July 14. We live in a world where Costa Rica outlasted all her CONCACAF neighbors. Where England, Italy, Spain, and Portugal were sent packing from the first round, but the United States captured the world’s attention not just for escaping the Group of Death, but also rallying a hardcore and diverse fanbase in Brazil. We had more fans in the opening round matches than I remember at home game friedlies in the 90s. Heck…in the early 2000s. It was glorious…but then awful as I watched Brazil, the country I used to worship for its passion, tell my countrymen and women they needed to sit down for the game against Belgium. The United States discovered its passion for soccer, now we must see if that passion can fuel the revolution that will launch us to the next level of competition. Brazil seems to have lost its futbol soul somewhere in the broken cobblestones. Hopefully they can reclaim it and mend their hearts, and restore their beautiful game as they rebuild their streets and systems. Sleep well, soccer fans. Tomorrow is another day.



The Transitive Property of World Cup Soccer
June 22, 2014, 9:13 am
Filed under: FIFA, US Soccer
Manaus

The soccer field across from our home stay in Manaus.

You remember the transitive property? If a=b and b=c then a=c. Wouldn’t it be great if that worked in World Cup soccer? If Germany destroyed Portugal and we beat Ghana and Ghana tied Germany, the United States wins the group! WOOHOOO!! Ticket to second round please!

But the transitive property of World Cup is more like this: if a=b and b=c then the answer is yellow. I’ve said all along that I think we will go through, but it won’t happen the way we expect. With Germany and Ghana tying yesterday, it will be anything but what we expected. I’m so full of nervous energy and made the coffee WAY too strong this morning, but today we find out if we still got that 2002 swagger to take it to Portugal. I BELIEVE (we will be the second nation to kick Portugal out of Brazil!)



Day Off in Pipa
June 18, 2014, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

We had a day off of travel in Pipa after the US match, and decided to spend the day hanging out with friends. We slept in then walked into town for lunch, having already missed breakfast at our apartment. After sandwiches and coffee, we milled around as Doug and the kids went off in search of an ATM that worked and I wrote. We took a swim in the ocean before rejoining the gang at Tribus Cafe for Brazil vs Mexico.

The game ended in a frustrating tie, after so many scoring chances without result, but the crowd was anything but impartial. People were packed into every conceivable corner, standing or sitting on the floor to squish in. We drank Bohemia pilsners and enjoyed the atmosphere created by singing and cheering Brazilian fans combined with people jamming the streets outside, lighting off fireworks either in celebration or frustration. Brazilians are said to have the attitude that “everything will work out.” They certainly seemed calm after leaving what Americans considered important points on the table. It’s refreshing, after the incessant hand wringing of American soccer fans. Up next: Manaus!



Ghana – The Third Time’s the Charm – The End of Suffering for US Soccer vs Ghana
June 17, 2014, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,
world cup fever

We beat Ghana, my son’s goal celebration went worldwide.

Last night was the perfect end to an eight year suffering. Leading up to this game, I was remembering getting eliminated by Ghana in Germany and South Africa. In Germany, I remember our daughter happily dancing around Kaela, Monty, and the rest of my soccer family as we bitterly drank our beers at a biergarten overlooking a river in Nuremburg. I was so disappointed in South Africa, knowing that we could have gone so much further in the tournament if not for a few errors in coaching the Ghana game. Now we have the coach I want, the team I want, and yes, the group I want.

We got to the stadium and found our place in the stands, so happy to have my family and our best travel buddies with us. When we scored in the first minute, I looked at Doug and screamed “this is going to be the longest 89 minutes of my life” making reference to what he screamed to me in the US vs Portugal game in 2002. No one can say it was a beautiful game, but last night, my children became real soccer fans. They no longer distract themselves for 90 minutes. Aviva was glued to the action, screaming at the referee, directing the players, and around the 75th minute grabbing me, screamed, “This is SO intense!” Raphael is only six, and he was exhausted from traveling, but he perked up when Ghana scored, and was engaged enough by the time the US went up again he is now “that kid in the goal celebration being broadcast non-stop and world-wide.”

It was deeply emotional for many of us who’ve suffered though getting sent home by Ghana twice in a row. The vindication was palpable and to share it immediately with so many of our lifelong soccer friends was amazing. But even better was having my children with me. I talked to Doug on the way home about comparing last night’s match to the US vs Portugal game in 2002. It may not have been a “shock the world” win, but watching my children fall more deeply in love with the World Cup will make this game rank pretty high in my list of best games ever. They’ve enjoyed going to games in the States, but last night, they got to experience the World Cup in person for the first time as players. I will never forget watching their transition to ultra fans.

UPDATE: I had no idea what was happening back in the States as we celebrated in Brazil. This YouTube video has clips of the Brooks goal celebration from around the USA. At 2:19, you can see my son celebrating on the big screen in Rio. Many lifelong USMNT fans were minted on that day.



We Are Going to Brazil (Right NOW!)
June 17, 2014, 10:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I can believe I’m finally sitting on a plane on my way to Brazil. We’ve been planning this trip for so many years, but in the rush to finish “Passionate Soccer Love” and get it published and into the world, I lost track of time and suddenly, the World Cup is here with all the emotion it brings with it. This will be my sixth men’s World Cup traveling with my husband, the third with our daughter (if you count her “obstructed view” seat in Korea) and my son’s first World Cup.

                Many people have asked how we can take kids to the World Cup either because of the expense, safety concerns, or just the hassle of traveling with children multiplied by the World Cup. The thing is, having a three and a half year old with us in Germany made that trip so much more than if we’d gone by ourselves. Seeing her wonderment at a foreign country was an experience I’ll never forget, even if she’s forgotten many of the trip details.

                So here we go…with our 11 year old and 6 year old to the world’s greatest sporting event. Wish us luck. 



Last Minute Travel Tips for Brazil
I’m still working on my rewards and thank yous for all the love and support I got for my book on Kickstarter, but in short, I was amazed at the generosity people showed, not just funding my project, but making it happen on May 28th was especially wonderful. My book is now for sale in the real world, on Goodreads, Amazon, and a hundred other wonderful places. Please go ask for “Passionate Soccer Love” at your local bookstore, or at Beaverdale Books if you’re in central Iowa, or you can order paperback, hardcover, or e-book direct from the publisher at this link.
I wanted to post my travel group’s tips for Brazil to share as another thank you for all the book love. Thanks to Kaela of Local Kitchen for compiling most of this list.
COMMUNICATION
Download Viber and/or WhatsApp. If you rent a phone or get a new SIM card down there, make sure to announce yourself by text before you call someone: I, for one, don’t pick up unrecognized numbers, especially if doing so is going to cost me a fortune.
LANGUAGE
In my dealings with the locals over the past couple of months, I’ve found that very few people speak any English. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a Portuguese phrase book, or spend an hour or two on Babbel or Duolingo, just to get a few basics. If you have any kind of complicated situation – like say, you need to go from the airport to Pipa with a stop at a random shopping mall for FIFA tickets in between – I recommend that you type clear and simple directions into Google Translate, then print out the instructions in Portuguese and simply hand them over to your driver, hotel clerk, tour operator, etc.
HEALTH
For any prescription meds, it’s a good idea to snap a picture of your prescription details in case of lost/stolen bags (email to yourself to a web-based email). For OTC stuff, I recommend bringing [I, Tanya, second this recommendation...having pantomimed symptoms in several countries]:
-ibuprofen (not only for the standard reasons, but it can also stop a sunburn in its tracks)
-Benadryl and/or Claritin (if you are subject to seasonal allergies)
-band-aids & travel Neosporin (everything grows in the jungle: infection is a serious concern)
-moleskin or similar if you are prone to blisters (we’ll be doing a lot of walking)
-cough drops (singing, people. singing. I always forget them and wish that I hadn’t.)
-Immodium
-Tums
-Breathe Right strips (for snorers) + earplugs (for the rest of us)
-sunblock + bug spray (I’m bringing tiny bottles of each and will replenish down there)
-Yellow Fever vaccination card (you don’t need it, unle.ss things change…so bring it).
Don’t underestimate equatorial sun. Even the natives stay out of the sun mid-day. For Northern moles like ourselves, it’s going to take some adjustment. No heat stroke or 3rd-degree sunburns, please. [Also beware foreign drinking. Don't assume drinks have the same alcohol content you're used to, and know you'll get drunk faster in the heat.]
PACKING
Two words: carry. on.
You don’t need half of the stuff you toss into a bag. You probably don’t need a third of it. Pack light: no one is going to want to wait for your giant suitcase to come through baggage claim, especially after we’ve been living out of a tiny 20-inch suitcase for a week or two. But seriously: do you actually trust the brand-spanking-new Natal airport not to lose your luggage? That the 4-times-normal flight volume in Brazil is not going to result in a high proportion of screw-ups? That you’ll ever see that luggage again once it disappears? Pack light. You’ll thank me later. Whatever you may wish you had brought can be bought there. Souvenirs! [I talked with my contact in Brazil tonight, you can pick up a duffel bag in Brazil for less than $50, so if you buy stuff down there, you can pick up an extra bag to bring it home.]
Essentials: other than game-day attire and the hot weather basics, I consider a long-sleeve shirt (lightweight UPF 30 is ideal) for sun + bug protection, a single pair of long pants (same reasons), and a shade/rain hat to be the only real “essentials.” It’s probably going to rain every day  –  for maybe an hour every afternoon – probably more in Manaus. So a light raincoat is a good idea. Comfortable shoes: you never remember how much walking, standing, jumping, running, and all around foot abuse happens on one of these trips until you’re in the middle of it, wishing you had brought your favorite sneakers. Bring them. And a pair of sandals/flip flops. And that’s it.
SAFETY
For those of you who didn’t see it on Facebook, I have a friend who is married to a Brazilian and they head back at least once a year to visit family. I asked her about the safety situation – this is what she had to say.
“Rio and Sao Paulo can be pretty dangerous. We stay on the beaten path and don’t wander too far off. I’ve been there 7 times and have never had any problems. I have seen people get jumped for their bikes in Belo Horizante. Normal precautions. Do not show your wealth. I have been told keep some “mugger’s” money in your pocket. So if you get mugged they don’t get mad. Do not carry a lot of cash. The ATMs close normally around 10 pm. for safety. There are some 24 hour ATMs but they come with a big charge. If you go to a bank do not take the candy because the candy wrappers tell people that you were just at the bank. Do not walk around by yourself late at night. During the day you should be ok and in the tourist areas you should be ok. It’s really only when you go away from them you have problems. Stay away from favelas (ghettos). Ignore people when they ask for change. Even the young kids – they can be setting you up. There will be a heavy police presence and the national army! I think just being a smart traveler is the most important thing.
The more serious crimes happen in the big cities. There have been hold ups at stop lights but this is not the norm. Again, don’t play the wealthy tourist!
The driving in Brazil is CRAZY! Between cars, overloaded trucks, motorcycles, bikes, horse and carts, and people walking on the same highways it can be an interesting excursion. It really is pretty funny! Brazilians are extremely aggressive drivers. They pass going up and down the sides of mountains crossing into the opposite lanes and will not move over to avoid a crash. You have to be a defensive but yet aggressive driver always looking for your escape path. But that being said it really is fun to drive in Brazil because of the mountains and the curves. That’s why they are always amongst the world leaders for formula 1 racing!
I have found that most Brazilians are extremely welcoming and gracious. They try to speak English. They like americans. I have not been to Natal, Recife, or Manaus. I’ve heard that Natal and Recife are beautiful.
Alex says be more concerned with the mosquitos since they carry dengue, malaria. Mosquito spray is more important (especially closer to the amazon) than a gun!”
So don’t be foolish. Leave the bling at home. Try not to carry too much cash at once, and carry it in separate bundles – in a pocket, in your wallet, tucked into your bag, etc. Don’t park a car with any visible stuff in it that might tempt a thief. Look grubby & poor: that shouldn’t be tough for us. :)
One thing I always do is photocopy my passport (+ visa page) and the front & back of credit cards, driver’s license, health insurance card, etc. Make two copies and stash them in two different spots that are not my wallet. My wallet was stolen in France ’98: trust me, the photocopying is a very minor pain in the ass compared to trying to cancel all of your credit cards on the fly without having any of the phone or account numbers. You could also simply snap pictures with your phone and email the files to a web-based email that you can access anywhere.
[Tanya: I also recommend taking photos of your World Cup tickets as soon as they are in your hands. Our tickets were stolen in '98, and the first thing the police wanted to know was our section, row, and seat number.]
Emergency Numbers in Brazil
National Emergency Services Telephone
Medical Emergency (ambulância) Tel: 192
Fire Service (Corpo de Bombeiros) Tel: 193
Federal Police (Polícia Federal) Tel: 194
Website
Federal Highway Police (Polícia Rodoviária Federal) Tel: 191
State Highway Police (Polícia Rodoviária do Estado) Tel: 198
São Paulo Civil Police (Polícia Civil do Estado de São Paulo) Tel: 197
Website
São Paulo Military Police (Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo) Tel: 190
Website
Rio de Janeiro Civil Police (Polícia Civil do Estado de Rio de Janiero) Tel: 197
Website
Rio de Janeiro Military Police (Polícia Militar do Estado de Rio de Janiero) Tel: 190
Website
Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo) Tel: (21) 2104 6119
email
Website

 

You can add your travel tips in the comments. Please go buy my book and enjoy reading it between matches, and thanks for all the support bringing it to fruition! Safe travels to everyone following their teams in Brazil this Summer, especially all you Yanks!




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